In 1981 I had the educative experience of spending a few days in a Police State. The glory of medieval Prague couldn't be held back even by the oppression of the Soviet stars and uniformed men, by the grime and rotten infrastructures, by the single-channel radio we couldn't turn off, nor by the apparatchik who didn't even pretend he wasn't spying on us at the restaurant table. A few years later I was in Budapest, which was vastly better, but that merely emphasized how truly depressing Prague had been; and eerie; and a bit frightening in spite of our American passports. What a relief it was to cross the border after a few days... to Germany.
So I can emphasize with Jonathan Spyer and Michael Totten when they swap stories about the oppressive all pervading fear that lies over the Hezbollah-controlled areas of southern Lebanon. (Actually, Michael has written about this repeatedly; it clearly made an impression.) And for the life of me I cannot explain how a New York Times reporter can travel to the same areas and quite totally not see any of it, as demonstrated in today's report. Is he a fool? Blind? Impervious to whatever he's not conditioned to see, or conditioned not to see? A crass propagandist? What's going on?
It's an important question, since vastly more people are informed by the NYT than by Michael Totten, more's the pity.
And then of course there's the small matter that the story demonstrates - but never mentions: the total failure of the UN and the so-called international community in enforcing conditions they felt important as recently as August 2006, when Security Council decision 1401 laid down rules ensuring Hezbullah wouldn't be able to re-arm. In Hebrew UN is pronounced Oom, and David Ben Gurion famously remarked once "Oom Shmoom", which doesn't need much translation does it.