Posted by: sean | February 23, 2008

A monopoly on violence

Hassan Nasrallah spoke this week, making this disconcerting remark:

I tell the shallow minds in Lebanon, who speak about war and peace decisions, that Israel is the only side that has been taking the decision of war or peace. The decision that we take is our legitimate, moral, humane and natural right in order to defend our people, land and country at a time of negligence by the government and the world.

While this is true to a limited extent, there are times when it takes two to tango, and now is one of those times. We know that the assassination of Mughniyeh was an escalation in the region, but we also know that there’s a very high chance that if/when Hezbollah retaliates against Israel, Israel will attack Lebanon again.

Many Hezbollah partisans argue that it’s their “right” to retaliate and generally agree that Israel would react to an assassinated ambassador, for example, with an attack on Lebanon. They have a tougher time, however, answering my question as to whether or not exercising their “right” to retaliate is worth plunging the country into another war.

Likewise, when I ask whether the rest of the country (as opposed to just the cadres of Hezbollah) ought not have a say in such a decision, these partisans generally insist (with an obstinate attitude that certainly is representative of Lebanese politics) that they do represent the whole country.

During the July war, one could still plausibly say that the brutal Israeli reaction was unexpected. In 2008, however, almost no one seems to doubt what the consequences of retaliation against Israel would mean for Lebanon. Regardless of whether or not another Israeli war would be legitimate, it certainly won’t be unexpected. And I haven’t been able to find anyone who’s willing to come out and say that avenging the assassination of Mughniyeh is worth the lives of another thousand Lebanese people.


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