Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bizarro World

Issandr el-Amrani is taking issue with my demolishing his first reaction to the Hariri assassination, where he hinted that the "Maronites" might have done it. He's currently engaged in a splendidly acrobatic attempt at backtracking. The show's playing in the comments section of my "Idiotarians and Lebanon" post below.

Amrani's comments are so smarmy, he'd give Juan Cole a run for his money. Speaking of which, reader Geoff turned my attention to Juan's latest post on Hariri's assassination. As much as this might sound weird, Cole's post isn't half as bad as I thought it would be after reading Geoff's comment. In fact, compared to Amrani, it's actually ok, the usual JuanColeogical spasms aside. So Geoff, it must mean that not all is right with world, given that I'm actually giving Cole the time of day on this one! But this should show you that I am not some unreasonable dogmatic nut who needs a vacation, a chill pill, and some humility, as reader praktike remarked (btw. calling Amrani's crappy post for the garbage that it was has nothing to do with humility or pride.)

Let me quote what Juan said:

    [T]he Maronite, Druze and Sunni Muslim leadership has largely decided to blame President Lahoud and his Syrian backers for the assassination. In a sense, it does not any longer matter who precisely was behind the blast. The political opposition in Lebanon has made up its mind whom to blame. It is not that they are necessarily wrong. On any list of suspects in the killing of Hariri, the Syrians would have to rank high. They had means, motive and opportunity-- which does not, however, establish that they murdered Hariri.

Fair enough. He doesn't dismiss Syrian involvement this time around, but he remains cautious, throwing it all on the opposition, but not calling that conclusion irrational. I can live with that.

But he can't let go of the other theories (although he does somewhat rule out his mafia theory!) like the al-Qaeda suicide bomber theory. Of course, this being Juan Cole, he simply must turn this into something about Bush. I've become immune to this tendency of his, so I don't even notice it much anymore. That's the first JuanColeogy. Some more will follow, and that shouldn't be a surprise! Sure enough here they come, building up in crescendo!

    The US and Israel would like to see Syria withdraw its remaining troops from Lebanon. Especially the Maronite Christians (who are a kind of Catholic) largely want the Syrians out (they are probably now only about 20 percent of the population). Ironically, the Syrians came in to Lebanon with a US green light to stop the Palestinians and their allies from taking over Lebanon. At first, the Syrians actually protected the Maronites. But now that the Palestinians have long since been militarily defeated, the same groups and countries that were happy to see a Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976 are now the most ardent advocates of Syrian withdrawal.

Of course, the history as quasi-apologetics and polemics routine! But this is fine too, even if completely inconsequential (and if Cole was hinting at something or making some stealth innuendo, and one can argue that a bit, I don't know, it must have fallen flat.)

But Juan then makes a somewhat decent and a more or less honest point:

    The joining together of the Druze, Sunni Arabs (Hariri's group) and the Maronites in opposition to the government and in blaming it for Hariri's death, marks a new phase of Lebanese nationalism in modern history.

Indeed, it is an important moment in Lebanese nationalism. But they're not just blaming the government. They're blaming Syria, as Cole himself noted earlier. Why he downgraded it here, I'm not sure. Also, he never took the time to tell us what that would mean for Syria and if it should be considered when talking about Hariri's murder. Instead he settles for what he wrote earlier on in the post that the Syrians had "means, motive and opportunity" but doesn't elaborate, which is unfortunate considering how much more effort he puts into his posts when they concern conspiracy theories, anti-Bush rants, or, my favorite "Israelikudnecon" bashing (that is the conglomerate Israel, Likudniks, and Neocons!). Speaking of which, here they come. Juan simply cannot help himself, even as he really is not convinced of Israeli involvement (which is fascinating to watch. Well, not really!)!

    The big question, of course, is whether the crisis will draw in the United States and (less likely) Israel. Many in the Arab world are blaming Israel for the blast. While this possibility cannot be simply dismissed, since the Israeli Mossad has played dirty tricks in the past, it seems to me highly unlikely. But then, I personally doubt that Bashar al-Asad ordered the hit, either. The Neoconservatives in the Bush administration, like David Wurmser, have been trying to get up a US war against Syria for some time, and the death of Hariri may offer them an opening.

So he's not convinced at Israel's involvment but he can't bring himself to toss it out, and he simply itched too much and threw something at the Mossad! Then he went to the convenient, but most likely delusional, "it's not bashar, it's the mukhabarat" (or the Old Guard, or the power centers, or whatever other variation on the same theme). Finally, when the itch became too great, he jabbed at the neocons! I mean, he's not going to basically deny Israeli involvement, almost admit that the Syrians are most likely the ones to blame, give the Lebanese credit for an emerging cross-sectarian nationalist opposition, dismiss his own mafia theory, and not have something to say about the neocons! That would be tantamount to conceding that what they might be convinced of is true! Egad! This is the same reason why Leila Abu-Saba cannot bring herself to explicitly finger the Syrians. This is also what's behind Amrani's jab at Michael Young, and his calling him a Neocon!

So there you have it, a mixture of JuanColeogy and some intellectual integrity! Considering who it is, it's a solid improvement! Much more than what Amrani can claim in this instance.

For another analysis, not too different from what you've been hearing here, check out Amir Taheri's op-ed in today's NY Post (also accessible here).

Update: Check out this latest post by Michael at Reason's Hit and Run.