Lebanon is a country of about 3,000,000 people. It is religiously diverse. About 60% are Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri) and most of the other 40% follow a form of Christianity. 17 religious sects are recognized.
As one would expect, there has been quite a lot of problems over the years. Lebanon's civil war from about 1975 to 1989 was one of the most confusing civil wars of all time. A web of alliances and betrayals eventually left 100,000 dead.
A large part of the problem are the Palestinian refugees (and their decendents) who fled northern Israel in 1982. Palestinian agression on Israel throughout that period is well documented. Lebanon was used as a base for attacks on Israel.
However, let us not forget that the Syrians originally dispached the Palestinians from Beirut in 1976, saving the Catholics in the process. Only one problem, the Syrians never left.
In fact, Lebanon had other company during the civil war. Israel occupied the south of the country from 1979 until 2000 when they finally complied with the UN resolution demanding their withdrawl from southern Lebanon. Since that time, Palestinian forces in the area have been in violation of UN Resolutions, it should be noted.
In the case of Lebanon, it is a country that has been torn apart not only by civil war, but occupation by two other countries. Despite this disadvantage, they have a unity government that shares power between Shi'a Sunni and Christian. It has problems, and was five years in the making, but anti-Syrian sentiment has solidified a strong coalition, and progress was starting to be made. It was about a year old, this government.
There was a long way to go, but it was a start. Christians and Muslims were living in peace. A democratic government was in place and free enterprise was flourishing. A post-war construction boom had just kept on going like a Marshall plan prodigy.
There was still the problem of Hezbollah in direct violation of UN resolutions calling for their disarming.
(Weren't there a bunch of scare rumors going on that the UN wanted to come and disarm Americans?)
Everyone has been dragging their feet on this one. The world community has ordered Lebanon to disarm palestinian forces in the south. This would be hard for anyone, but especially for a weak, nascent government such as the one in Lebanon.
Perhaps the Syrians could help?
No, it seems that Syria is helping this faction in the south (largely the Hezbollah militia). Of course the alliance has changed to one against Israel as result of the Israeli occupation. Some believe that although Syria helps the Hezbollah militia and others, their presence kept Hezbollah under control. (A dog on a leash?)
So the Syrians are helping Palestinian forces including Hezbollah. The Lebanese rejected the Syrian government (marginally) and after the Hariri assasination Syria left.
A little clunkly, but hey, progress.
Relative calm had pervailed, all things considered. The new anti-Syrian government, elected one year, is now in violation of a UN Resolution. Let us remember that Israel occupied the south of the country in violation of a UN Resolution for 11 years. I'm not saying it is okay, but not everyone just lock-snaps into compliance after all. The task of disarming Hezbollah is like the chore that no one wants to do.
So essentially, what Israel must have planned was to destroy the entire country at the next provacation by Hezbollah. They planned to punish the entire population of Lebanon for failing to disarm Hezbollah within one year.
Well, I think this is slightly unfair. I don't condone what Hezbollah did. (They probably wanted this to happen.) But I can assure you that a majority of the 3,000,000 people in that country do not condone these actions.
The Hezbollah problem is not only complex in that they are a fairly powerful faction in politics, but that many Lebanese believe that without the Hezbollah militia, Israel would still occupy southern Lebanon. For a party who plays on fear of Israel, the current action is only helping them.
I have no problem with Israel defending herself. But this action went well beyond defense from the beginning. The first attack was on a civilian facility. It could have been on Hezbollah headquarters but it was on Beirut International. It was a signal. Indeed, it was clear from the beginning that Hezbollah was a secondary target. It was the bridges, airports, seaports, roads, and general infrastructure that would be targeted. These are civilian targets irrespective if any civilians are killed in the process of them being bombed.
So forget about body counts for a second, and let us focus on one thing:
3,000,000 people, who democratically elected an anti-Syrian government, are now being punished for not disarming a powerful militia that was supported by Syria and possibly Iran. Both are countries which are much more powerful than Lebanon. They had roughly a year to complete this task from time that anything looking like an effective government could be formed.
Think about 3,000,000 people who have had roughly the same experience as the lady in the link below. Dead or alive, every single person who calls Lebanon their home has had their life as they know it destroyed.
Yea, that seems like a good way to combat the forces of extremism.