The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Hidden Army: Hezbollah Teaches the World How to Fight

Surveillance State notes something very, very important:

Hezbollah and Israel have been at war for some time. In an effort to stop Hezbollah’s guerrilla fighters from communicating, Israel has in the past jammed the cell phone towers in the Hezbollah-controlled areas in southern Lebanon. Eager to make sure that didn’t happen again, Hezbollah has covertly built out a fiber-optic network throughout the areas it controls.

He then goes on to note that the last crisis between Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah was over the government trying to shut down that fiber-optic network. Hezbollah regarded that as an act of war:

(Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah) said the government’s decision to shut down Hezbollah’s fiber-optic communications network was tantamount to a declaration of war. For the (central) government, the network represented an intolerable example of Hezbollah’s efforts to set up an Iranian- and Syrian-backed state within Lebanon. Hezbollah justifies the network, which carried its communications during a 2006 war with Israel, as a vital security asset.

The interesting thing is that during the 2006 war, Hezbollah won the information war. Their communications remained secure, but Israeli soldiers carrying cell phones made calls which Hezbollah tracked. Even if they couldn’t listen in, being able to triangulate where some Israeli soldier is making a call from gives some very interesting, and useful, information.

Americans, Israelis and the West in general are used to assuming they’ll win the surveillance, electronic and information war. But Hezbollah defeated or drew Israel in all three. A network of tunnels, pre-prepared camouflage positions for missile launchers and the use of civilian clothes when troops were traveling made aerial surveillance and satellites virtually useless. The Israelis were never able to shut down the majority of Hezbollah’s missile launchers, any more than they’ve been able to find those of the Palestinians.

Hezbollah’s army is a secret one. It’s like an old fashioned spy agency.

It doesn’t exist.

If you’re enrolled in it, you don’t tell anyone. The war was rife with stories of soldiers being killed, and their families finding out for the first time that they were even in Hezbollah’s army. This, of course, is to make it impossible to use assassination, mostly aerial assassination, to take out key leaders.

Hezbollah is an almost perfect Darwinian organization. Israel uses informants and assassination? Great – we’ll keep even our membership secret. Israel uses air power? We’ll dig tunnels and set up aeriel blinds for our missile launchers. Israel doesn’t like taking heavy infantry casualties – fine then, we’ll set up overlapping bunkers which simply cannot be cleared without taking losses.

Hezbollah has created the new model army, and a new model state. Call it the Hidden Army. An army that blends in with the population, that moves only when it cannot be seen, that sets up in the expectation of surveillance. An army that knows all the high tech games, and spent the time to figure out how to nullify them. It sounds like a guerilla army, and it is, but it’s also much more: it’s an army capable of engaging in strategic warfare and an army capable of engaging in full on attrition defense warfare against Israeli main battle forces. It’s hard to overstate how impressive this is.

It’s an unrecognized State with a hidden army. Oh, the UN says there’s a Lebanese government with authority over Hezbollah. But everyone knows that the real government in southern Lebanon is Hezbollah. They pick up the garbage, they give out the pensions, heck, they have their own phone network. Crazy. When the Lebanese “government” picks a fight with Hezbollah, Hezbollah wins.

We are going to see many more of these unrecognized governments, with their hidden armies. Why? Because they work, and they work very well, both at providing government services to a population, and at frustrating much larger, more powerful and expensive conventional armies. As official governments fail, less recognized ones will pick up the pieces. And they will look to Lebanon to see how to do it, survive, and even win.

(Kicking this one to the front again – Feb 25, 2013 – originally reposted in 2009.)

(Another reprint.  This one got some hostile reaction from people who missed the point.  Hezbollah might be the most interesting and successful neo-state in the world.  Anyone who isn’t studying it is a fool. )


On Economic Justice


The Sequester is a Good Thing


  1. It would seem this is the model being put together in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Though they do lack the sophisticated weapons and communication at this juncture.

  2. This is definitely going to alter the terrain of warfare, not in a good way. The history of warfare is a dialectic of upping the ante. As a successful new strategy, tactic, or weapon is introduced, another is deployed to counter it, in an increasing crescendo. As warfare evolves LOTS of civilians suffer as a result.

    The medieval rules of warfare were designed to isolate military targets from the civilian population and to distinguish combatants from non-combatants. Over time those rules have been increasingly abandoned. If non-state combatants blur those distinctions, the defending powers will ignore them also. Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza are a taste of this, as well as collateral damage inflicted by the the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan. Wherever an advanced military goes, there is devastation.

    While there has been some domestic push back against US actions, there is little in Israel about Gaza. If the US is more seriously threatened, there won’t be here either. For example, were there to be another 9/11, there would be a massive retaliation against some state, since states can really only engage in warfare with other states, and there are no non-state outlaw areas left. Some sovereign government is responsible for controlling the territory used by non-state combatants. If they can’t, they will bear the responsibility and seeing their country destroyed.

    That will result in huge civilian casualties once the gloves come off. For example, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have established large safe havens in Pakistani cities. Nixon was actually planning to nuke Hanoi when Watergate intervened. Maybe that was his “secret plan.” Bush gave Mush the choice to oppose the Taliban, or Pakistan would suffer their fate along with Afghanistan. Mush decided to cooperate and told the Pakistanis why he did. Anyone can see that Pakistan is developing into the next front. If the government can’t control, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, they will become the enemy to the US military, especially since the US and India cannot let Pakistani nukes go missing. This does not bode well.

    And if its should ever look like this turning into a fight to the death, well, go figure.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Actually, Hezbollah deliberately removed its bunker system from civilian areas. Why? Well, I can’t ask them, but the assumption is actually for secrecy reasons. If too many civilians are around, some of them may find out they’re there, making it possible for Israel to also find out. The idea that Hezbollah doesn’t care about civilian casualties is less backed up by the facts than that Israel doesn’t, that’s for sure.

    As what amounts to a special forces army (special forces are regular light infantry soldiers who also know how to do insurgency and anti-insurgency work) Hezbollah can fight straight up. If it loses, it then retreats into the population for completely classic guerilla warfare, which is thousands of years old.

    As for Israel and Gaza, I would believe the civilian casualties were caused by Hamas hiding in the population if it weren’t for the actual facts, which indicate they were mostly caused by deliberate policy of killing civilians as punishment. And they certainly didn’t bomb UN schools more than once by “mistake”. The point of Israel’s attack was collective punishment. In fact they deliberately targeted paramilitary forces (cops) and administrative targets, the end result of which was to degrade Hamas’s ability to control missile launches. Their strategy, as it has for years, appeared deliberately intended to weaken Hamas to make them unable to enforce a peace. To then blame Hamas for missile attacks is ludicrous.

    If Pakistan were ever nuked by the US or India for something as essentially petty as 9/11 (sorry, 2,000 deaths is not reason to nuke a country) the odds of India or the US finding a nuke in its backyard would skyrocket through the roof. All it takes is one and a ship, and NY goes away. The reason it hasn’t happened already is that nukes can be traced home, but if home has already been nuked…

    My guess, actually, is that in the long run the secret state will get nukes + missiles, and at that point nuking them will be out of the question. (Besides, if you nuke Lebanon, given the geography, even if the nukes don’t hit Israel, the damage to Israel will be immense from fallout.)

    Frankly I see the secret state as a necessary development. If States like Israel and the US think they can occupy foreign states at will, there will be backlash and adaptation. Such states need to be taught that they can’t, because such occupations kill far more people than 9/11 and are a huge affront to self-determination. Hezbollah and Hamas wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Israel’s meddling. (Hamas is not much of a secret state, btw.)

  4. The secret/distributed state has been a popular topic in science fiction for some time. Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age has an interesting take on it, as has some of the work by Charles Stross.

  5. Katherine Calkin

    The reprints (reposts?) are fascinating. I doubt that many see Hezbollah as it really is. Please continue to post any of your past essays that you believe are still relevant today.

  6. Suspenders

    It is quite interesting how new forms of organization can arise to meet new challenges. It’s always fascinating to see how ingenious people can be when they need to be. Thanks for sharing the article.

    Now, the one weakness I see in this sort of neo-state is that it really needs the backing of 3rd parties in order to flourish. They could probably survive on their own, but to really be the sort of credible presence that Hezbollah is seems to me to require strong foreign backing.

    And that’s the real lesson; the way to defeat an organization like Hezbollah is really to kill off their backing. Getting Syria onside (say, by returning the Golan) would do a lot to hurt their capabilities. Then again, you’d lose the Golan to do it, which in itself says a lot about who you’re dealing with isn’t just some nobody…

    Of course, the other “traditional” way of dealing with them would be what I like to call “the Stalin option”, which is basically kill/deport everybody. Works best if you have a Siberia to send everyone to.

  7. Ian, I don’t disagree with your analysis, but I think that the situation is taking a dark turn. My point arises from a longtime concern that this is going to end very, very badly for the world, and that a LOT of people are going to be seriously impacted. The US and West may be hit, but the harder they are hit the more severe the reaction will be. Gen. Franks opined that if there is another 9/11, marital law will be implemented. I have no doubt about it, and it’s not difficult to imagine with the next steps are. The cry is going to be to kill them all and sort out the bodies later, if there are any.

    There is a psychological reason that Americans have so many weapons per capita, and when provoked, they will lash out. Most of the country backed invading Afghanistan on tenuous evidence, and a great many were for going into Iraq on bogus evidence. Americans won’t distinguish between state and non-state parties, because we aren’t a people that is terribly interested in details like that. It will be: Where are these folks? Go get ’em.

    For example, the US links Hezbollah and Hamas to Iran and Syria. The US will hold these states reasonable in the event that either of their “proxies” create serious problems on which the US feels compelled to act. Public opinion in the US is already somewhat in favor of attacking Iran, for example.

    My concern arose long before the economic situation in the US went south. Now this financial unwinding and real breakdown is complicating things. Social unrest is brewing domestically, and a whole lot of anger is rising, some directed and some free-floating. This is not a business cycle, it is a credit cycle and the effects are just beginning, so it will get worse for a whole lot of people before it gets better. And that’s just the US. Incendiary situations are multiplying across the globe as trade contracts, and countries are pressed to seek their own interest.

    Unless the world is extremely fortunate, a global depression is looming as the credit cycle unwinds, and we all know how the last one ended. The more pessimistic commentators are foreseeing a big war in the not too distant future, although they think it may not involve the US directly or initially. However, there seems little chance that the US won’t be drawn in.

  8. Ian Welsh

    Oh, I expect a war. The US had just better not use nukes, or all bets are off. If the US uses nukes unless someone else used nukes on the US first, the US will become a pariah nation and will deserve to be nuked in return. I don’t think Americans understand how much of a taboo using nukes has become to the rest of the world.

    Iraq and 9/11 proved that too many Americans are hysterical bed-wetting children. The very first thing I said on 9/11 when I heard about it was “God, I hope they don’t attack the wrong people”. And, of course, Iraq was sold based on 9/11.

    Hezbollah hasn’t attacked Americans since the 1980s and when they did so then it was in retaliation for the US shelling Shia. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah is going to go after large numbers of Americans unless America directly attacks them first. So I simply don’t see either of them giving the US anything approaching causus belli to use nukes.

    Hamas, in particular, is quite weak. OTOH, Hezbollah is very sophisticated. Use nukes on southern Lebanon or Iran, and the remnants of Hezbollah and Iran have very good odds of placing a dirty nuke in a US port. It’s really not that hard.

    The sort of thing you write is what sometimes makes me think that saving the US economically is immoral, that people like me should stop trying to save the US and let it go down in the whelter of ignorance and stupidity it so desperately deserves to end in. The sooner the US has its USSR style collapse, the safer for everyone in the world.

  9. “The sooner the US has its USSR style collapse, the safer for everyone in the world.”

    I love the physical U.S. but hate what the government has become. Looking from the outside in; I find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between the U.S. and the countries it calls the axis of evil or the other hyperbolic language it uses describing countries that defy the U.S. I do not follow one MSM news source, but the reportage I see regarding; public demonstrations (and the militarized police response), targeted executions, drone attacks, torture, rendition, etc., etc. about the U.S. doesn’t look different than Iran, Honduras, or China when dealing with civil unrest.
    I think the time has come for U.S. citizens to face the real world; not the delusional American dream. That idea was destroyed and replaced with the opiate of ever appreciating home values so everybody had there own ATM. We all know the story; so, your quote above seems very apropos. We’ll even cut our carbon footprint as a bonus for living a real existence.

  10. “The sort of thing you write is what sometimes makes me think that saving the US economically is immoral, that people like me should stop trying to save the US and let it go down in the whelter of ignorance and stupidity it so desperately deserves to end in. The sooner the US has its USSR style collapse, the safer for everyone in the world.”

    I agree. I doubt that the US is salvageable economically, largely because of the politics. The system’s momentum, coupled with the level of ignorance and smugness, make change difficult, as Obama is discovering. The present system is too deeply entrenched, and there is no chance of meaningful change without ending legalized bribery. That’s just not going to happen. The only people who are opposing the present system are the wingnuts, who don’t have a clue economically or policy-wise. If they were ever to come to power, the situation would quickly deteriorate to anarchy if the libertarians were to prevail, or authoritarianism if conservatives.

    Some time ago, James Lovelock said that in his estimate the turning point regarding climate change had already been passed and the end was now running down for humanity. Then he said, that since he could be wrong, he still had the moral obligation to fight for change in the hope that disaster can be avoided. Otherwise, expect a relatively small number of breeding couples to survive in the arctic.

    This reflects my sentiments on the economic and political future of the US. Yet, there is still a moral necessity to press on on for change. After all, who thought that a black person could be elected POTUS in 2008?

  11. Ian Welsh

    “The system’s momentum, coupled with the level of ignorance and smugness, make change difficult, as Obama is discovering.”

    I just don’t think he’s making an honest effort. Otherwise, agreed. We may be screwed, blued and tatooed, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a moral obligation to go down swinging.

  12. I just don’t think he’s making an honest effort

    I think it is likely more complex than that and involves his overall strategy, which has to balance governing with keeping Democrats in power in the coming elections in 201o and 2012. A recent Gallup poll on ideological preference has 40% of Americans identifying as conservative, 20% as liberal, and 36% as moderate. Based on these numbers Obama cannot govern in such a way as to be perceived as decidedly a liberal/progressive. Given the fracturing the GOP, Dem strategists also see the possibility of capturing the center and making the GOP a permanent minority until it can reinvent itself as more moderate.

    Add to this the likelihood that Obama is essentially progressive with respect to values but intellectually he is more moderate and is even somewhat conservative in some areas. Moreover, he is a quintessential pragmatist, which allows him to abandon principle when he perceives it to advantage in accomplishing objectives.

    Finally, he is constrained by the realities of campaign finance. If he doesn’t throw some juicy bones to the people that fund campaigns, as well as protect them from regulation to a great degree, they will take their money elsewhere. They know that it is impossible to win elections in the US without them, and the Dems do too.

    So, on one hand, you see Obama making deals with Big Pharma and the health insurers, and, on the other, espousing the “fiscal responsibility,” “strong defense,” and “bipartisanship” memes to which moderates respond. He even includes some things to bring conservatives aboard. If the much smaller progressive wing expects to get more for itself, it will have to fight tooth and nail in this environment.

  13. Ian Welsh

    We’ve discussed this before, but it keeps coming up. I’m surprised to hear this from you, tjxfh, of all people. If you’re right (I don’t think you are) then you really should get out of the US, because what you’ve just said is that the US cannot be governed succesfully. Cannot. Reality has a liberal bias, I’m afraid, and Obama’s policies simply will not work. Even his own policy people know this.

    I also see no evidence that Obama is essentially progressive with respect to values. If he was, he would not be engaging in his wholesale violation of civil rights, for example.

    More on this tomorrow, I think it needs a post.

  14. tjfxh and Ian;

    You both have your points and my question is; how does one define; “governed successfully”. If the U.S. is no longer a true democracy (probably isn’t) and elections are mere theater; then by some definitions; the U.S. can and is being successfully governed. Even if the majority are unhappy, will those in power care? By all appearances that seems to be exactly what is happening now. It appears the U.S. has discovered an analog of, or a new form of, fascism. The naming in and of itself isn’t what’s important; but the actions of a government towards it’s citizens certainly are. I present this as a POV as I struggle to understand the drastic changes I have witnessed in my lifetime combined with an increasing sense of disenfranchisement.

  15. Back in the late Sixties-early Seventies (Nixon years) I seriously considered moving to Canada. I drove from Quebec to Victoria Island one summer to check out the possibilities. But then I decided to stay and fight, while living in alternative networks instead of the mainstream. It’s been a slog, but a good time was had by all.

    You are right, the country cannot be governed successfully at this point. Politically, this is owing to the money in politics. Change is virtually impossible without campaign finance reform. But even more fundamental in the prevailing cultural mindset, which is still in the grip of Reaganism. That has to be changed if progress is to be made and disaster avoided. A lot of small voice saying the same thing at the same time become a single loud voice.

    Regarding Obama. Values determine principles, and the principles he enunciated made a lot of progressives think he was one of them. I don’t think he was being disingenuous about this. However, being essentially a pragmatist, he is willing to sacrifice principle on the altar of expediency. One thing is said was predictive, “Perfection is the enemy of the good.”

    So he could rationalize not holding perps accountable for torture, even though he is a constitutional lawyer and knows that this is required by treaty and law in addition to principle. But he calculated that it wasn’t worth the political capital it would burn through. Obama sees politics as juggling knives and he’s gotten good at it.

    When he was just starting to emerge from the field, I said he was a Chicago pol and would do what it takes. In fact, the term I used was “snake in the grass.” His selection of Rahm certainly confirmed that, much to progressive dismay.

  16. Ian Welsh

    I don’t know, when I listened to him during the primaries and election campaign I didn’t hear a progressive, let alone a liberal. I thought then and think now that people were hearing what they wanted to hear.

    I don’t think Canada is far enough away. It’s one reason I write for the US, actually. You go down, we go down. Heck, I had a local retail store owner, out of the blue, start lecturing me on this (she’s Korean, and Korea’s coming out of the doldrums, but she told me Canada wasn’t because we’re too reliant on the US. I listened politely and laughed myself sick later.)

  17. Formerly T-Bear

    Robert Harris has a new book out, a companion to his “Imperium”, titled “Lustrum” focused (fictionally) on the end days of the Roman Republic. The parallels are breathtaking if not illuminating. Although written as fiction, the characters are based upon historically accurate protagonists and the effects they had upon the fatal outcome of the Republican tradition.

    Another “narrative history” of the period was written by Tom Holland, titled “Rubicon, The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic” that illuminates the same historical period even better.

    An abbreviated and simplified summation, the traditional political edifice failed, malefactors of great wealth (Crassus, Pompey, J. Caesar) usurped political power of the Republic, end of story, beginning of Roman Empire.

    The parallel, failure of traditional political edifice to address public administration, malefactors of great wealth (Wall St., Banksters, Financial barons) usurping political power from Congress/Washington DC, story ending, …(results to be seen).

    Life expectancy of Republics (average) 200 years. The present Republic 235 years. Requiem Required, an Irish wake would be nice as well.

  18. scruff

    Ian: “[…]people like me should stop trying to save the US and let it go down in the whelter of ignorance and stupidity it so desperately deserves to end in. The sooner the US has its USSR style collapse, the safer for everyone in the world.”

    Every day I see more and more evidence that America, as a whole, is completely unwilling to grow up and start taking responsibility for… well, pretty much anything. I don’t think the US is at all capable of dealing (emotionally) with the kinds of economic “corrections” I’m hearing are coming in the near future. If the US as a political and military unit still exists in the future*, I fully expect it to initiate the feared resource wars of the dystopian futurists.

    But ultimately, Ian, if your work here does anything, it serves to fracture the US populace idealogically, thus strengthening the potential for collapse rather than unifying the country into a force that could start such wars. If you could singlehandedly rewrite economic policy, then you might have somthing to worry about.

    *=I was going to pick a number of years here, but I really don’t know timing at all

  19. David

    Excellent post and interesting discussion. Regarding a USSR-type of collapse for the USA, Dmitry Orlov has for some years predicted the very thing. He makes the point that in many ways, the US is probably less prepared for a collapse than the old USSR. Ian what do you make of his work ?

    Formerly T-Bear, Agree that Tom Holland’s book is a great read. I found it fascinating the way he pointed out that the fall of the Roman Republic was connected to elite Romans having more opportunity to become super-wealthy than when Rome was a city-state. That is once Rome started to conquer some territories the potential to make fortunes greatly increased so the thinking became something like “old Roman virtues are all well and nice, but making money from say capturing the grain market in Egypt is more important”. Similarly for some of the American elite, “old Yankee frugal values are all well and nice, but making money from say, capturing the oil market in Iraq is more important”.

  20. Formerly T-Bear

    Thanks David

    Out of the three, Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar, the last two owed their wealth to the Roman military pillage and tax extortion complex. Crassus had built a business and financial monopoly over the city of Rome. Between them, they ended the Roman Republic, neutered the effectual power of the Roman Senate, and subjugated the people to the Roman Empire.

    Today read corporate Banks, Insurance, Finance in lieu of individual names, the military/industrial/governmental complex and the extension of hegemonic political/military empire worldwide. Again the combination of (private) wealth, military hegemon/power and closely controlled government power. All that is missing is the public demagogue to put it together and become emperor … oh wait … could it be …?

    The intention was to leave a lot of the details for those who would read the books to discover for themselves, thanks for your revelations and assessments. LOL

  21. Ian Welsh

    My favorite detail of Crassus’s wealth is his fire fighting team. When there was a fire, Crassus’s team would rush to the fire, fight off other fire fighters, then when the owners showed up, Crasus would buy the burning property from him at “fire sale prices” and his firefighting team would then jump into action and save as much as they could.

    Repubican Rome was an amazingly interesting city.

  22. Celsius 233

    Great post Ian. It squares with my own inquiries into Hezbollah’s tactics.

  23. Greetings Ian,

    Saw this – serendipitous timing as I’m off on my travels again starting tomorrow:

    South Lebanon ➞ Syria ➞ Irak

    People don’t get it about the Hizb they’re an integral part of Lebanon it always amazes me how many Americans flat out lie to me about the Hizb these fools witter on about how sectarian the Hizb are and when I point out that the Hizb armed wing (that’s that “secret” army) have Christian and Sunni Muslim commanders and fighters along with the Shi’i fighters and commanders they flat out lie againand deny it.

    On a well-known “liberal/progressive” American site recently I wrote a posting about drones. To howls of disbelief from denizens of the place who simply could and would not believe that the Hizb could have had these highly useful little doodads for oh round about thirty years …

    I’ve given up on America and Americans and have come to conclusion that so-called “progressive” Americans are even more insidious than the blatantly imperialistic ones – hurry the fall, that way the rest of us at least have a chance of surviving.

    On a related topic – the general consensus I got my last trip (same itinerary) is that Canada’s stock is well and truly down in that part of the world. The antics of the Harper Government have a lot to do with BUT so does the passport scandals. “Of the course the Israelis used these Canadian passports with the consent or at least the acquiescence of the Canadians”was how one normally very well informed and reliable commentator put it.

    Keep well


  24. Ian Welsh

    Thanks Mark, very interesting.

    The hidden army works into the other things I’ve been writing, of course, about the future of war, the surveillance state, and so on. The smartest most adaptive stuff mostly isn’t being done in the first world. I reposted because some people were saying some very stupid things about Hezbollah.

    I read your article at the time. I keep pointing out to people that drones are remote controlled airplanes. They are not f-35s.

    As for America, it is hard to hope sometimes, yes. The Obama era, in particular, has lead to great cynicism with regards to liberals and progressives, too many of whom seem willing to forgive anything if it is done by a (D).

  25. Celsius 233

    @ markfromireland
    I’ve given up on America and Americans and have come to conclusion that so-called “progressive” Americans are even more insidious than the blatantly imperialistic ones – hurry the fall, that way the rest of us at least have a chance of surviving.
    As an expat American I have as well.
    There was an interesting saying back in the day; “There is another super power besides the U.S. It’s the rest of the world.”
    Where, oh where, are they? I’m at my wit’s end and way too cynical; but where’s the other 6,692,000,000 people?
    I’m afraid numbers no longer count except in the ecological sense.
    Anyway, you not being an American means I pay attention when you speak about America; I never quite trust I’ve shed my ethnocentrism.

  26. Jeff Wegerson

    I am watching with interest the interaction with Hizbullah at the Syrian border. I’m of the impression that Hizbullah supports the Syrian Baathists but not to any point of going down with them. On the other side of Syria I have been watching the relationship between the Syrian opposition and the Kurds. I have no idea of the feasibility of the Kurds breaking off a peice of Syria and annexing it into the Kurdish pseudo-secret state. But since we are dealing with “secret states” I guess we can begin to ignore various artificial borders. So I wonder if much of the same population(s) that the Hizbullah draw from exists as an absorb able opportunity in Syria.

  27. @ Jeff Wegerson I wonder if much of the same population(s) that the Hizbullah draw from exists as an absorb able opportunity in Syria.

    With very minor exceptions no. However you should note that what is now Lebanon was carved out from Syria by the French in a classic example of divide et impera if Syria comes apart at the seams it would be entirely possible for parts of the country to reunite with Lebanon. I’d be very worried about that if I were Israeli as it pretty much guarantees grief for them.


  28. You might want to read Adam Roberts, _New Model Army_. It’s SF.

  29. Inakatta Roboto

    I’m at my wit’s end and way too cynical; but where’s the other 6,692,000,000 people?

    Divide 20,000 megatonnes by 6,692,000,000. Get the picture?

  30. Alcuin

    How anyone who frequents this blog can put “Obama” and “progressive” in the same sentence, unless the word “not” is also in there, is beyond me. Oh, wait! Yes, Obama is a progressive, just like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Yep, that’s the ticket! Both of them were outstanding exemplars of the principles of the Enlightenment, you betcha!

  31. Celsius 233

    Divide 20,000 megatonnes by 6,692,000,000. Get the picture?
    Actually no. That’s absurd on its face. That is definitely NOT what’s going on…

  32. David Kowalski

    What is striking here is that the US has spent trillions preparing for old-style threats and out-dated problems. Since W took over, W and Obama have pushed the military budget up from $300 billion a year to $700 billion a year. Two major military programs are the Osprey Helicopter and the new class of aircraft carrier. The Osprey is specifically designed to forestall the problems that occurred in Jimmy carter’s failed Iran rescue attempt. The aircraft carriers seem more designed to handle the problems from WW II.

    Weapons design and production routinely stretch out 30 to 50 years (not a misprint). We are “fighting the last war” but in some cases we are fighting wars and opponents that are even older than that.

    Wars have a tendency to create new weapons and tactics. The US Civil War created the repeating rifle and machine gun and utilized the railroad, the observation balloon, and rifles (instead of muskets). WW I eventually introduced the widespread use of the airplane and the invention of the tank. Chemical war was also introduced but, like nuclear war, became largely unacceptable. WW II involved airplane bombing, the nuclear bomb, the aircraft carrier. napalm. And on.

    New forms are more efficient and more effective. Old forms tend to become the Maginot lines of a new generation.

  33. Inakatta Roboto

    So he could rationalize not holding perps accountable for torture, even though he is a constitutional lawyer and knows that this is required by treaty and law in addition to principle. But he calculated that it wasn’t worth the political capital it would burn through.

    And steamrollering Spain into dropping its own torture investigations? That only came out because of WikiLeaks, so there would have been no political capital in play at the time. And then prosecuting the man who revealed the torture programme to the media…?

    Frankly the “Embattled Progressive Obama” narrative is indefensible at this point, unless you can somehow stretch it to accomodate a policy of droning rescue workers, barring film crews from oil-polluted shoreline, quashing state investigations of bank fraud, coordinating with the banks to quash demonstrations, prosecuting twice as many whistleblowers as all previous presidents combined, extralegally shutting down WikiLeaks, ramming through neoliberal “trade agreements”, etc. At that point you’ve entered the realm of complete and utter absurdity.

  34. Inakatta Roboto


    Divide 20,000 megatonnes by 6,692,000,000. Get the picture?

    Actually no. That’s absurd on its face.


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