Across the Bay

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Thanks So Much but It's Time to Leave

Syria Out Check out Michael Young's op-ed in today's DS. It's a good discussion of all the errors that are perplexing Josh Landis (see my previous post right below):

In this piece Michael reads like Machiavelli in Il Principe! Commenting on how poorly the post-Hafez regime has performed, Michael writes:

    After having long ago alienated the Christians, more recently the Druze, and now, by action or omission, the Sunnis, Syria should perhaps be thanked for having finally ceded Lebanon a measure of national unity.
    ...
    It is astonishing how splendidly the Syrians have made a hash of things in Lebanon. It's almost as if the regime were reading the lessons taught by Hafez Assad backward. Where the late president always understood that Syrian power needed some component of compromise and mutuality, albeit largely fictitious, today Syria offers Lebanon only disdainful unilateralism. Where Assad always ensured Syria's adversaries remained divided, today Damascus has unified the bitterest of old foes. Where Assad realized that his army's presence in Lebanon consistently needed regional and international endorsement, the present regime has squandered both in the space of only a few months.

I don't know why but this reminded me of Machiavelli's criticism of King Louis:

    Consider how easy it would have been for the king to maintain his position in Italy if had observed the rules laid down above, and become the protector and defender of his new friends. They were many, they were weak, some of them were afraid ... hence they were bound to stick by him; and with their help, he could easily have protected himself against the remaining great powers.
    ...
    He put down the weaker powers; he increased the strength of a major power; he introduced a very powerful foreigner in the midst of his new subjects.

Indeed, everyone seems to be calling in the "very powerful foreigner":

    There has been much talk of how the United States and France might react to the Hariri killing. One of the positive results is that we may be permanently rid of that idiotic phobia that foreign, particularly Western, pressure somehow soils any national Arab endeavor for emancipation. Already, Jumblatt has spoken in favor of international protection for Lebanon. At this stage, the Lebanese will take all the assistance they can get in regaining their national sovereignty, and the symbolic recall of the American ambassador to Syria was a start.

Michael, like the rest of us, is waiting to see how the opposition will move ahead from here, but he recognizes that this is "the second republic" so to speak, the national accord of 1943 being the first. Ironically, in both instances the agreement entailed an understanding that Lebanon is not to be run like the neighboring authoritarian Arab order. That it had its own unique socio-political culture. At the time, that was mainly the Christian wish. This time around, as Michael noted, it comes from the mouth of Sunnis, Druze, and not just the traditional foes of Syria.

As the symbolic sight of Jumblat, Nayla Mouawad (wife of assassinated President Rene Mouawad), and former President Amin Gemayel (brother of assassinated president-elect Bashir Gemayel), and Hariri's children, showed, all sectors of Lebanese society got a taste of the ways of authoritarianism, and understood that this will never work in Lebanon where consensus is the key.

As such, Michael is right that Syria, and indeed all that its regime represents, has long overstayed its Lebanese welcome.