Across the Bay

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Addendum to Part II

Joshua Landis has turned our attention to "The Critic" (An-Naqed), an online magazine that publishes liberal Syrian authors. One of the more interesting authors is Nabil Fayad, a Sunni pharmacologist who has also studied Maronite Christian theology in Lebanon.

Reading through some of his pieces, I found that a lot of his views parallel those of Landis (esp. on reform in Syria. Fayad is also against regime change, for pretty much the same reasons as Landis.) But this one piece on what Fayad dubs "cultural Maronitism" is particularly interesting. It could be argued that his praise of Maronite ingenuity and liberalism is due to his own personal experience, but there is obviously more to it than that. Fayad's piece(s) serve as an important accompaniment to Landis' pieces. I did however notice one other similarity in their approach. Both are operating on a local level. What I mean by that is that Landis' occupation is Syria alone, as I have argued in Part II, with little expansion beyond that. Fayad treads that same path but with a twist. He calls on "cultural Maronitism" to be the pioneering force and agent of liberalization in Syria and Lebanon:

"At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th c., the Maronites carried the banners of modernization for the region through the Arab nationalism project, to face the Turkish occupation; Now that nationalist project has expired and outlived its usefulness, however the dangers of dragging the region to the abyss still stand. Despite the overwhelming presence of fundamentalist currents, the liberal current is in its best shape today. Hence, thanks to unorthodox communications media, it seems that the Maronites are once more required before anyone to carry the banner of a project of enlightenment, only not a Pan-Arab one this time for that is sure to fail. Rather, a project that is limited to Lebanon and Syria first and foremost. After that? Well, we can discuss that later." (My translation)

It is arguable that the Iraq war in fact falls within that specialized framework. It is a particular case like no other, where a war provided the space needed for reform, where that space under Saddam was far worse than that under Bashar. So, perhaps we should qualify talk of a domino effect as a case by case assessment of the best way to move forward. If Iraq necessitated war, perhaps other elements can be used elsewhere to achieve the sought-after reform and change. The question remains however, how far can we go without regime change, and to what end?