Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lebanese Neocon?

No, that's neither me nor Michael Young! According to this piece by David Ignatius (hat tip, Martin Kramer), it's Druze leader Walid Jumblat!!

Here's what Ignatius wrote:

    The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth
    Over the years, I've often heard [Jumblat] denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

What was the turning point? (Skeptics get ready!)

    "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

I already hinted at this in my last post (see right below), but I restrained myself from using the label Neocon, and I opted to use Michael's line instead.

Of course, the label doesn't really apply to the fullest extent (not to Jumblat nor to Michael or me), but the basic idea, brought forth by neoconservaties after 9/11 and fought by realists, old conservatives and Leftists alike, applies beyond the shadow of a doubt: US power (military or other) can, and in fact needs to be used to help in the democratization of ME countries to the benefit of both the US and the ME. That's why Jumblat was asking for the US and France to bring on more tangible pressure, because, as he put it, "we can't obtain it on our own." Every single Iraqi agrees with that statement. As Amir Taheri put it in a very nice NY Post op-ed: "Any failure to seize the moment would amount to a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people."

Jumblat seemed to echo the sentiments of that other "neocon" (!) Ammar Abdulhamid: "The ripple effect that the White House wanted in the Middle East is actually starting to happen."

Who knew that the US "neo-imperialist" enterprise in Iraq will have found a convert in Walid Jumblat!?

Addendum: Speaking of converts and changes of heart, Juan Cole, who earlier had called the Iraqi elections "a joke" and sarcastically referred to them as "so-called 'elections'" and held them as a vote for a US withdrawal, sang a different tune on Lehrer yesterday:

    JIM LEHRER: Professor Cole, what about the presence of the U.S. Military and the coalition in Iraq? What is [candidate for the PM office, Jaafari's] attitude likely to be about that? Are we going to hear calls for the occupation to end or what?

    JUAN COLE: No, Jaafari has come out and said that it would be a mistake to establish a strict timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq or for the U.S. to withdraw in a precipitated fashion. He's a pragmatist on this issue.
    JIM LEHRER: So it would be a mistake, Professor Cole, for the United States to assume they've got somebody there who is in our camp or in their camp? It's going to be an issue by issue situation?

    JUAN COLE: It's an issue by issue situation, but it should be remembered that Jaafari has been elected. His party has 51 percent of the seats in parliament, was put there by an open election, and he has all of the legitimacy and authority that drives for that. He can claim to speak for a majority of the Iraqi people.

    So that, the United States just as it cannot expect the prime minister of a European country or the president of a European country that's an ally of the United States necessarily to agree with it on all issue; likewise, it can expect Jaafari to have an independent policy as well.

Good for you Juan.

Update: Walid Jumblat's comments to David Ignatius have just hit the air on Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume!