Gulliver in Beirut

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After Tim Cavanaugh, it was the New York Times' turn yesterday to make a case for Lebanese democracy under the Syrian protectorate. It's perhaps a trifle late (the Syrians have been in Lebanon for 28 years), but certainly not too late. The Times piece also went further and mentioned Lebanon's importance as a relatively democratic outpost (when the Syrians leave us be, and our politicians check their ambitions) in a mostly dictatorial Middle East. Many of us here in Beirut have been making that case for some time, and with the UN Security Council passing a historic resolution yesterday calling for all "foreign forces" (hear Syria) to leave Lebanon, we might finally have gotten a hearing.

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad has blundered splendidly. He may have studied ophthalmology, but he was blind as a rock on this one. He succeeded, by insisting on extending Emile Lahoud's mandate (Lahoud is Lebanon's remarkably shameless president) despite warnings not to do so from the U.S. and France, in internationalizing the Syrian-Lebanese relationship. Bashar's father always made sure that was one mistake he didn't make. Thank heavens, the son is cut from different cloth.

And what's going on here? Across the square from my house, workers have erected a four-story-high portrait of Lahoud, momentarily allowing us to observe, like Gulliver in Brobdingnag (with some poetic license): "His skin appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously colored, when I saw him near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher. And hairs hanging from it thicker than pack-threads?" Banners have been put up (apparently on the initiative of the intelligence services, but also probably the Interior Ministry, controlled by Lahoud's son-in-law) hailing the great man, and speakers have been blaring patriotic songs from the square. Even as I'm typing a fireworks display has started. The feigned joy touches no one, but is typical of regimes that must manufacture support for fear of seeing the vast emptiness of the real thing.

I can hear a baby crying?

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  1. Yes, of course, because as we know only the US and/or France are allowed to pick the leaders of Lebanon…

  2. SR – maybe I missed something, but has the US and/or France been trying to take over Lebanon?

    Oh, and calling the Syrian presence there a “protectorate” is truly priceless. I bet W is kicking himself for not using that term in Iraq (with far more justification – Iraq actually needs protecting from its neighbors, whereas the country Lebanon most need to be protected from is Syria).

  3. RC, no they haven’t been trying to do that *lately*. But they both have a history of doing so and a number of the Bush administration’s supporters openly talk about reinstalling a Christian-dominated government in Lebanon even though, to the best of my knowledge, Christians are now less than 20% of the Lebanese population. And my sneer was primarily directed at Young, who you, as a regular reader, are probably well aware supports the installation of American puppet regimes throughout the Middle East. If the US is entitled to go halfway around the world and install governments that serve its interests, then surely Syria is entitled to do so right next door.

  4. Lebanon also needs protection from Israel, but the Syrians have shown repeatedly that their cowardly, untrained, ill-equipped army is incapable of providing it.

  5. Tim – what have the Israelis done to Lebanon since it stopped being a launching pad for terrorist attacks?

    Remember, you only have sovereignty so long as you are sovereign, that is, demonstrate control over your own territory. Lebanon’s refusal/inability to stop the terrorist attacks on Israel a number of years ago meant that it was no longer sovereign territory, and that Israel therefore did not violate its sovereignty by going in and blowing stuff up.

    The Israeli tactics were not the most delicate, of course, but their legal right and strategic imperative are pretty undeniable.

  6. Jesus, R.C., I could hear your knee jerking from here. Read a book before you spout off.

  7. Tim
    I wasn’t aware unless you believe the ravings of Juan Cole, that Israel wanted to invade Lebanon or occupy it?
    And wasn’t Hezballah supposedly supposed to ‘disband’ once Israel left? lol!!
    Yeah, we know they got all those missiles there and keep firing shells into Israeli towns and shooting Israelis who got 2 ft over the boundary to pick something up bcs they “need to protect” a pile of rocks known as Sheba Farms.
    If Syria left, Hezballah would lose its arm muscle behind it and wouldn’t have the power to keep picking fights with Israel, but nevermind the facts…..

    SR
    Gee, I wonder how it became that Christians are now supposedly only 20% of Lebanon? How did all those Persians get there as well?
    Its a cannundrum worthy of “Greatest Mysteries” tv show…. and then let’s figure out where all the Christians over the past 40 years throughout the entire Middle East went as well?

    It truly is a cannundrum eh?

    Mike

  8. Without exagerrating Syria needing troops in Lebanon to “protect” Lebanon is right out of George Orwell’s talking points.
    Then again, the Soviets (after the Nazis) did highly train and support the Baathists.

    Mike

  9. R.C., sorry for my curt tone. Mike, spare me the cliches.

    Both: If you believe Israel never had any larger designs on Lebanon than simply stopping terrorism, you believe in Santa Claus. One criticism of a sacred cow doesn’t mean I want to slaughter the cow. Read George Schultz’s Turmoil and Triumph, Deborah Eisenberg’s My Enemy’s Enemy (for some really ancient history), Thomas Friedman’s book, etc. These people are not exactly enemies of Israel.

    Anyway, my curt tone stems from my lack of enthusiasm for getting into this always-mouth-foaming argument.

  10. In regards to Mike’s question, “Gee, I wonder how it became that Christians are now supposedly only 20% of Lebanon,” yes, many of them were displaced by the civil war and they should be allowed to return home safely if they wish. However, Christians would still be a minority in Lebanon based on birthrate alone. That’s why the US/French-backed Phalangist government refused for decades to conduct a census: it would’ve forced them to reapportion the government in a manner that would’ve favored Muslims (particularly the Shi’a). While Amal, Hezbollah, etc. aren’t classical liberals, the Phalange had no interest in democracy either if it meant a loss of power. (As an aside, I like the “supposedly” in there. Do you think Christians are secretly the majority in Lebanon, Mike, and they’re just hiding?)

  11. R.C. Dean,

    Using a term like “protectorate” in the middle east would have some nasty symbolic consequences I suspect given that several of the European middle-eastern colonies were called “protectorates.”

  12. Tim, 2 points:
    1) to avoid mouth-foaming arguments, the first rule is DON’T ENTER INTO MOUTH-FOAMING ARGUMENTS. If you had kept your key board in check, you wouldn’t be here, but you didn’t and you are. I believe Libertarians say that is the consequence of your choice.
    2) Care to enlighten me as to Eretz Ysrael’s designs on Lebanon? I know they wanted a “puppet” state or client state in Lebanon and hence the Gemayel family’s elevation to leadership in ’82. However, I think that is about the extent of “design”. Now Syria has had dreams of “Greater Syria” for decades, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. All they managed is Lebanon, but they have attempted to destabilize Jordan and invaded it once, 1970.

  13. And my sneer was primarily directed at Young, who you, as a regular reader, are probably well aware supports the installation of American puppet regimes throughout the Middle East.

    What’s funny is that you think there’s something sneer-worthy about supporting US-installed regimes and opposing Syrian-installed ones.

    If the US is entitled to go halfway around the world and install governments that serve its interests, then surely Syria is entitled to do so right next door.

    The United States is under no legal or moral obligation to be fair to Syria.

    a number of the Bush administration’s supporters openly talk about reinstalling a Christian-dominated government in Lebanon

    Good heavens! People — talking openly? Can’t have that!

    Who cares if some of Bush’s supporters want that? It’s not the Bush administration’s policy. When the unnamed “supporters” run for office, then you can complain.

  14. The term “protectorate” is less benign than it sounds. It’s somewhat less than being a part of an empire, but hardly a country “protected,” let alone independent. It means a relationship between a dominator and dominated, where they can be tied together by various agreements, but where the hierarchical relationship, and everything issuing from that, is very clear.

    For example, you may pay protection money to avoid finding a dead horse in your bed; but that’s hardly “protection.”

  15. Tim,

    The protection from Israel comment looks a bit over the top standing alone.

    Regarding: ?One criticism of a sacred cow doesn’t mean I want to slaughter the cow.?

    No kidding. The ?Israel: Right Or Wrong? thing is tiresome.

    RC Dean,

    Israel certainly did the right thing by invading Lebanon to clear out the brutal terrorist pseudo-state the PLO was operating as a staging area in south Lebanon. The Palestinians were intensely hated by the Lebanese (Christians, Sunnis and Shiites alike) who initially welcomed the Israelis with open arms, flowers, cheers, etc.

    Things started blowing up in Israel?s face when it overstepped this goal by pursuing a hidden agenda championed by Ariel Sharon and Raphael Aitan (sp?) of playing kingmaker and trying to install a pro-Israeli government. They overstayed their welcome. Lebanese that had greeted warmly at first started shooting at them. As things got worse, Israeli soldiers serving in Lebanon started spending their R&R participating in anti-war demonstrations. It was gut-wrenching for Israel and, if I recall, it eventually brought down Begin?s government. The Syrians and Iranians especially took advantage of the situation and Hizbollah became a force it never was before the invasion.

    Israel pulled back and tried to maintain a buffer zone to protect northern Israel from attack. Over time, Israel increasingly found itself maintaining a situation that put it at a military and economic disadvantage in order to not look like it was appeasing Hizbollah?s demand they leave. Eventually they left anyway.

    It seems the results in southern Lebanon and northern Israel are a net improvement. Israel got a new enemy in Hizbollah but they don?t seem to be attacking Israel as much as the Palestinians were. For the Lebanese, the current situation probably beats being abused by the PLO.

    Bigger picture, Israel could be worse off. Many people argue that the appearance of appeasing Hizbollah?s suicide tactics encouraged Palestinian groups to use the same. I think there is a lot of validity to that.

    Overall, Israel probably would have gotten a better result with less loss of blood and treasure if they stuck with the original, agreed upon mission.

    Mike,

    ??then let’s figure out where all the Christians over the past 40 years throughout the entire Middle East went as well?? Glad to see ?entire? here. Israel?s Christians have felt the urge to seek more welcoming environments as well.

  16. Dan, did I say that people should be *prohibited* from talking about installing what would effectively be an apartheid regime in Lebanon? What’s that? No? Hmm, anyway, my concern is that many of those same people were, a few years ago, advocating the cold-blooded murder of thousands of Iraqis (a.k.a. “deposing Saddam Hussein via invasion”). And guess what? The Bush administration granted them their wish. Given that it’s happened once, it’s not totally unreasonable to be afraid that it might happen again.

  17. Patrick D

    Israel certainly did the right thing by invading Lebanon to clear out the brutal terrorist pseudo-state the PLO was operating as a staging area in south Lebanon.

    A Lebanese friend of mine tells me that the Israelis were aiding the Christians far before that with food, arms and advice… as well as doctors and hospital care. She said the PLO had overtaken just about every Lebanese city/town fort etc… before the Israelis invaded. She was in 1 of the lone remaining hold outs as a kid.

    The Palestinians were intensely hated by the Lebanese (Christians, Sunnis and Shiites alike) who initially welcomed the Israelis with open arms, flowers, cheers, etc.

    Then who was the PLO working with? They had to be working with some groups during the Civil War and Sabra and Shatillah were the staging planning points were they not?

    Things started blowing up in Israel?s face when it overstepped this goal by pursuing a hidden agenda championed by Ariel Sharon and Raphael Aitan (sp?) of playing kingmaker and trying to install a pro-Israeli government.

    Wasn’t the Christian PM elected? Please expand here fmyi.

    They overstayed their welcome. Lebanese that had greeted warmly at first started shooting at them. As things got worse, Israeli soldiers serving in Lebanon started spending their R&R participating in anti-war demonstrations.

    I’ve never heard this ever once before. There weren’t even that many Israeli soldiers there I thought… a low number occupying force. And I thought the Israelis only occupied Southern Lebanon? Are you saying for a while they occupied the entire country?

    The Syrians and Iranians especially took advantage of the situation and Hizbollah became a force it never was before the invasion.

    Would it not dissipate if for the Syrian and Iranian backing now? How truly popular is it in Lebanon right now?

    It seems the results in southern Lebanon and northern Israel are a net improvement. Israel got a new enemy in Hizbollah but they don?t seem to be attacking Israel as much as the Palestinians were.

    Hezballah is considered the A Team of modern terrorist groups and many believe that there whole operation from media, intelligence, planning etc… is as if not more dangerous than Al Queda.

    For the Lebanese, the current situation probably beats being abused by the PLO.

    Not quite as you note below.

    Bigger picture, Israel could be worse off. Many people argue that the appearance of appeasing Hizbollah?s suicide tactics encouraged Palestinian groups to use the same. I think there is a lot of validity to that.

    The Lebanon pull back WITHOUT A DOUBT sealed the fate of the Intifadah that Arafat and the Arab world wanted anyway… especially Saudi Arabia.
    That is what is going on in Gaza right now… Hamas wants anything to appear as if they’re driving Israel out and they’ll arm up Normy Finkelstein and the PLO friendly academics (Khalidi etc…) to start saying this was the case after the fact… as “proof” that as horrible as violence is its Israel’s fault bcs they are “unwilling” to truly “negotiate” (give up) a ‘fair’ ending unless violence is used.

    Overall, Israel probably would have gotten a better result with less loss of blood and treasure if they stuck with the original, agreed upon mission.

    Can you explain the ‘original’ and ‘new’ plan please…. Not following you here.

    Glad to see ?entire? here. Israel?s Christians have felt the urge to seek more welcoming environments as well.

    You’re saying that Israel’s Christian community is not one of the most well off, best educated and freest Arab Christian community in the Middle East?
    Is it possible that many Israeli Arabs (not in the West Bank since 1994) have left due to the violence and the wealth to move elsewhere?
    I realize there are some conflicts which involve property etc… so please explain further.

    Mike

  18. Last paragraph I meant Israeli Arab ‘Christians’.

  19. “…advocating the cold-blooded murder of thousands of Iraqis…”
    Yeah SR, and everyone knows the only person who should be allowed to cold-bloodedly murder thousands of Iraqis was Saddam, Uday, Qusai, and the Ba’ath Party!

  20. Actually Joe L., yes, that’s correct. I know most Americans these days are so drunk on power, rage, and the cheap blood of foreigners that they’ve completely lost sight of the idea of national sovereignty, but some of us still understand that just as it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to send one innocent man to prison, it is also better to let a government commit whatever horrors it wishes within its own borders than to promote the idea that any nation can intervene in the internal affairs of another at its whim.

    This will, of course, now lead to a series of hoots and cries about what a fool I am for still thinking that the concept of national sovereignty has value, but I wonder how many of those detractors will be whining and crying 75 years down the road when Sino-Indian “peacekeepers” are blowing away American families for driving too fast towards checkpoints on I-405…

  21. “Actually Joe L., yes, that’s correct. I know most Americans these days are so drunk on power, rage, and the cheap blood of foreigners that they’ve completely lost sight of the idea of national sovereignty…”-ONE MORE REASON I AM NOT A LIBERTARIAN/ANARCHO-CAPITALIST.
    I’m glad that you weren’t around in the US in 1860 or hanging out in Delhi in 1970.
    “but I wonder how many of those detractors will be whining and crying 75 years down the road when Sino-Indian “peacekeepers” are blowing away American families for driving too fast towards checkpoints on I-405…’ Hyperbole, meet the slippery slope. Yes sirree, that’s what I expect my grandchildren to face, Sino-Indian Peacekeepers. Probably delivered by black helicopters.
    All derision aside, if the US President has invaded Canada once to the tune of several million casualties so as to possess Canada’s Oil Shale and Hydropower assets, then invaded Mexico to cancel out the US’ War Debt from the disastrous war with Canada, shot most of Congress once or twice, decided that the Catholics need to be gassed, that the Hispanics need to be gassed, and generally runs things for the benefit of his/her hometown, Yeah I’ll welcome the Sino-Indian Peacekeepers AND I’ll bet you that your grand kids will to. Now good ole SR may be standing on the side of the road spitting at them, but I’m betting most folks won’t be.
    So yes, SR you’re foolish and legalistic… the reason I can not be a Libertarian/libertarian/anarcho-capitalist because outside of the 12 mile limit or if it involves anything more than contyractual International Law you guys or you all if you prefer are pretty much clueless.

  22. it is also better to let a government commit whatever horrors it wishes within its own borders than to promote the idea that any nation can intervene in the internal affairs of another at its whim.

    Eh, go that nonsense in a country where those horrors actually take place. All you’re saying is that you don’t care how many foreigners die, so long as none of them get killed by us.

    but I wonder how many of those detractors will be whining and crying 75 years down the road when Sino-Indian “peacekeepers” are blowing away American families for driving too fast towards checkpoints on I-405

    Whereas if we “respected” other nations’ “sovreignity”, the nice, peaceful Chinese would never dream of messing with us. Those mean, expansionist, interventionist Tibetans had it coming, I guess.

  23. Why would even bather with SR he’s just an angry leftist who’s looking to find things to carp about. That’s not hard bcs the world isn’t a Utopian place and his tripe has some truth to it. But after you’ve been around the block a few times you understand the gredations better you see people like him for what they really are.
    I could name a few ‘academics’ of the same s tripe
    that I went to listen to and went round with.
    You start to see all the contradictions and hypocrisy and the tripe for what it is….
    Noone owns the truth nor the right to act like they do while demonizing other’s points of view.
    If you visit Cal Berkeley though you’ll find that all over the place….

    A Russian friend of mine, said he left the Communist ‘think tank’ and came here and loved it. Then he sent his kid to school at a liberal Ivy League and found his kid was being subjected to the same oppressive ‘group think’….

    Mike

  24. The flaw in that example, crimethink, is the intervening step: Nazi Germany’s conquest of Europe. Given that countries that were under attack (e.g., the UK) or the exiled governments of countries that had already been occupied by Germany (e.g., France, Poland, etc.) were begging the US to aid them and Germany had already violated their national sovereignties, there was no complication in the US engaging Germany (especially given that Germany had *declared war* on the US). A better example is what if Germany, instead of invading Poland in 1939, directed its genocidal impulses inwards? Then I would say that the US should not have invaded Germany, just as the US did not invade the Soviet Union during the Ukranian Genocide of 1931-33 or the mass purges of 1936-38, both of which vastly exceeded Saddam Hussein’s crimes in terms of both absolute numbers and per capita deaths.

    But while we’re playing counterfactual history, here is a question for you:

    Would Britain and France have been entitled to invade the US in 1850? After all, the US had been engaged in a campaign of deportation and genocide against the Native Americans for over 20 years at that point, slavery was legal in much of the country, the US knowingly harbored anti-British terrorists (the Fenians, who assassinated multiple British and Canadian politicians, carried out bombings of government buildings, etc.), and the US had waged an unprovoked war of territorial expansion against Mexico.

  25. Tim,

    It’s Laura Eisenberg. And I would hardly call the stories in that book, which I really liked, “designs”. This was before the birth of either country (Israel and Lebanon), and the ideas were mainly those of peaceful cooperation (entrepeneurship, academic and medical exchange, manufacturin, etc.) i.e. pragmatic business transactions. If it were up to me, I’d take that over the prevailing rhetoric any day!

    Secondly, these “designs” did not just involve Jews and the “20%” Christians (my God I love those numbers and the people who flash them…), it involved members of the Druze, Sunni (none other than Solh), and Shiite communities. Many were amenable to the idea of patriating thousands of German Jews. The Lebanese (overall) were very eager to host them for their entrepeneurship. This all started going to hell when the seeds of the current deadly and bankrupt rhetoric started taking over, which led to Quwwatli’s disastrous war drumming, and the rest is history.

    So, from my part, I really wouldn’t have minded any of those “designs”!

  26. By the way, those who talk about “muslim majority” in Lebanon really have no clue as to the dynamics of the country and its sects. You talk as if it’s a homogenous block. It isn’t, not by a long shot.

    By most reasonable accounts (Hanf, Lijphart, et al.), the numbers in Lebanon are roughly around this mark:

    ca. 36% Shiites.

    That means that the Shiite community is the single largest community, but NOT a majority. You can’t be a majority when you don’t even crack 40% of the total population.

    Now the Shiites are divided along several lines. You have the main two parties: Amal and Hizballah, who hate each other, and are fighting for control. Both have completely different visions of Lebanon, its political scene, and their role in that scene. You also have the relics of older times, the Asaad family. You add to that the Baalbeck/Hermel area tribes. It’s to be noted that the Baalbeck area Shiites are to be differentiated from the southern Shiites, and the history and politics of the two still convey that subtlety.

    ca. 20% Sunnis.

    They got a boost in recent years from Syrian “demographic engineering” when they gave citizenships to a host of Sunni Syrians.

    The Sunnis are also divided regionally, and along family lines. However, it’s safe to say that they’ve been Lebanon’s first-class citizens (not the Maronites, contrary to common perception). That follows with the domination of the (at heart Sunni) Arab nationalism, and before that, from Ottoman time class divisions.

    ca. 22% Maronites.

    That number is the result of massive migration and the war. The Maronites are also divided along family and party lines, and along some regional lines. The war showed those divisions clearly. They still remain the most vibrant segment of society.

    ca. 8% Druze

    Their numbers have been dropping steadily. They don’t have the birth rates of the Shiites. They have always been hard to peg, like all non-Muslim minorities (they are NOW counted among the Muslims for ideological reasons, but they don’t really consider themselves that. For this phenomenon, see Joshua Landis’ paper on religious education and religious groups in Syria on his blog “Syria Comment”.) They have been divided along family lines, with the Jumblats dominating the scene in the last couple of decades.

    ca. 10% Orthodox Christians.

    The main Christian group elsewhere in the Levant, save for Lebanon. They too have been depleted by migration. They are also the best educated in the country and the region overall. They have usually been associated with the Communist party, the SSNP, and Arab nationalist parties.

    The remaining rough percentage (around 4-5%) is divided among other less numerous Christian sects (Syriac, Armenian, Protestant, Latin rite, Chaldeans) and tiny heterodox “Muslim” ones (Ismailis), Kurds. There used to be a small Jewish community, but it’s now down to a handful. Their story is told in Kirsten Schulze’s book, “The Jews of Lebanon.”

    That’s a rough, slightly traditional, but most reasonable and unshrill picture of the situation. To people who flash exotic numbers and mass political visions, I say: relax.

  27. Tony, the relevant point was that there is no way with Lebanon’s current demographics that a truly democratic process in the country will produce a Christian-dominated government, as your own numbers demonstrate. The Phalange will only be restored to power via foreign bayonets and will only remain in power by disenfranchising some portion of the Muslim populace (almost certainly the Shi’a).

  28. SR,
    Your point shows the limits of Buchanan/Libertarian legalism. There is a debate about WHEN national sovereignty ought to be voided by internal actions…Sadly, that’s not the debate we’re having. And that’s the problem with so many people hereabouts, they have a theoretical bent, “This is TRUE and no other.” And its the problem you have. National sovereignty is not an absolute, so that a government may do ANYTHING it likes within its boundaries.
    One of the safeguards is that in an international system founded upon the nation-state and many nation-states having just emerged from colonialism is that these players are very suspicious of international “intervention”, either because they see it as a precedent or that it smacks of “colonialism.”
    It is more profitable to discuss what bright lines need to be established for international intervention to be acceptable than to simply declare the nation-state supreme within its boundaries.
    Unless you’re a Buchanan Republican, OK unless you WERE a Buchanan Republican, now a Reformist, you already accept compromised national sovereignty in the form of Free Trade. NAFTA and WTO are predicated upon nations accepting rulings from extra-national bodies.
    So we seem to be at the point of the punchline of the old joke, “We’ve already established THAT ma’am, now we’re negiotiating the price.”
    Finally, the Nazi argument has flaws, BUT if the Nazi’s had beaten Britain to the point of an armistice, then the point comes more in focus. Because from June 1940 until some point in history, the Nazi’s would have imposed their system on their protectorates, so eventually that “system” IS the Staus Quo. So, the question remains, could the US and Britain demand that the Nazi’s and their various Quisling states end the Holocaust and failing to achieve that diplomatically, could they use force?
    Remember, France’s LEGAL GOVERNMENT accepted the Armistice of 22 June 1940, and the Occupation and Vichy were all legally enacted via treaties between legitimate nation-states. In fact, the US recognized Vichy, I’m sure up until 1942 and the Invasion of No. Africa. What happened in France from June 1940 until 1943 was at the behest of the French government, so was the US correct in withdrawing recognition of Vichy and supporting DeGaulle? Could the US invade France to “liberate” it in 1944? (Yes, since the Nazi’s had abrogated the Armistice and occupied ALL of France in 1943). However, had the Germans refrained and left Vichy in power, would it be your assertion that the US and Britain could NOT invade France legally in 1944?
    These hypotheticals I hope, underscore the limits of the Nation-State as supremely sovereign entity argument.

  29. SR,

    I have no idea where you get your fixation with the Phalange. You need to move beyond the 80’s to the present reality of Lebanon. The Phalange is a nothing party, even in the Christian community. It’s divided into two factions: one run by Pakradouni, Syria’s ally, and the other run by Amin Gemayel, who’s trying to establish a semblance of relevance in today’s Lebanon.

    The Christian community today is mainly divided between two parties: the Free Patriotic Movement, loyal to General Aoun (in Paris), and the Lebanese Forces, loyal to Samir Geagea (in jail). The LF has also been divided, only the pro-regime faction is completely discredited, with no real following. There’s also the smaller, but significant, Nationalist Liberals, Chamoun’s party, which is mainly working with the previous two, in hopes of consolidation.

    There are also other gatherings such as the Qornet Shehwan gathering, and others. QS is the mainstream Christian opposition, combining figures from the three mentioned above, as well as Gemayel and independents. They work mainly in concert with what is the strongest Christian political presence, the Maronite Church.

    So, in that scene there is nothing that resembles the realities you’re referring to. Moreover, all the above-mentioned parties have absolutely no interest in the idea of a “Christian dominated” Lebanon. In many ways, all they’re asking for is a critical edition of the 1943 idea of Lebanon as an independent, sovereign, consociational democracy. They differ in their visions of that goal. Some want federalism or political decentralization and stronger local governments, others want secularism, and others want to maintain political sectarianism as a guarantee of pluralism, etc. Much of these ideas correspond well to the history and reality of Lebanon as a pluralistic country. They all counter mass politics and radical ideologies.

    So what you’re talking about corresponds to no reality in Lebanon.

    The Maronite Church has explicitly rejected to put its bets on America. Others decided that they would seek foreign POLITICAL help in order to pressure Syria to retreat, not to establish them in power or to impose them with them not having a constituency (the Aounists, who sought US help, have a huge following). In principle, I have no problem with seeking foreign help. In practice, it has achieved little. Most Christians are afraid to stick their necks out to be left hanging dry. So once again, your vision is non-existent.

    As for “disenfranchsing some portion of the Muslim populace” that’s flat out ridiculous. Many of the Muslims’ problems are (and have been) due to their own internal dynamics. Sunnis always were the first-class citizens, so it’s unfair to throw it on the Maronites as has been done by some. The Shiite community is searching for its voice and still hasn’t found it. Hizballah’s declared agenda will never be accepted. It’s learned to play the Lebanese game despite itself, and when it loses Syrian patronage (let alone its Iranian patronage, should the theocracy crumble) and its raison d’etre (confrontation with Israel), it remains to be seen how it will transform itself. Amal has always played the Lebanese game, and Berri, its leader, is interested in making sure he’s taken care of and he has been. Other voices in the Shi’a community, weaker voices like Asaad, or important voices like the late cleric Shamseddine, who called for safeguarding political sectarianism in Lebanon, have basically stated that the fabric of Lebanon should not be radically changed.

    The whole point is that the idea of mass politics is not going to fly in Lebanon. It’s always been about consensus. Numbers don’t matter in that. Growth will be accomodated, but there will be no dominance. There is no single dominant group. The largest group doesn’t crack 40% and is internally diverse and internally competitive. So you have a fairly balanced mosaic of 36-22-20-10-8 or so. Within those percentages you have coalitions and differences. Think electoral college, no “popular vote”. Proportion might be adjusted somewhat, but the picture is essentially equilibrium. So it’s very misleading to say “the muslims are a majority, 70-30, and should rule”. This statement is not only ignorant of the realities of Lebanon and its communities, it’s also ignorant of the nature, and variety, of democracy (and I don’t mean that in the usual, and stupid, sense of apologists for Islamic Shura!). Go and read Arend Lijphart’s books that I always recommend: “Democracies” and “Democracy in Plural Societies.” The first one lists a bunch of different democracies in the Western world. For instance, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada, all of which are relevant models to Lebanon.

    In the end, I think Joshua Landis nailed the problem. That is that Lebanon’s Muslims, Shiite and Sunnis, have not yet established a LEBANESE narrative of their own, and what the meaning and nature of Lebanon is for them.

  30. SR,

    I’m actually pulling out a Fatherland-esque scenario, where the US doesn’t join in on WW2, and so Germany overruns all of Europe, including Britain, by 1944. After sixty years pass, such a regime would have at least as much legitimacy as Saddam had in Iraq; he came to power in a coup.

  31. As for Dan’s statement: “All you’re saying is that you don’t care how many foreigners die, so long as none of them get killed by us,” that is exactly what I am saying

    Ah, a Buchananite. I thought the pest control guys had the party sprayed for those last year. That explains the strange fear of being invaded and occupied by foreign “peacekeepers”, I guess, although not the magical faith in the power of “sovreignity” to protect us from it. Even Buchanan’s not that loopy.

    I was going to take a moment to ask if you’d ever heard of Panama, Nicaragua, or Grenada, but then I realized that you’re very boring. So nevermind.

  32. Dan that was funny.
    TONY
    Thanks for the demographic breakdown.
    IF COULD OBLIGE A FEW QUESTIONS?

    How many Christians have moved away? Did most move during the 70’s and 80’s or recently as well?
    My friend tells me there are tens of thousands of Lebanse Christian immigrants (last 30 years) living in South America?

    Did they leave bcs they had the wealth to do so and get away from the violence -OR- more so because they were being murdered, persecuted etc… during the Civil War and afterwards.

    Were more Christian groups particularly in Southern Lebanon murdered than Muslim or Palestinians?

    How is the situation there now relatively speaking as far as a true free press and religious freedom.
    Wasn’t there some Western Christian missionaries killed there by Islamists last year?

    Are most Lebanese more Western oriented and Lebanese or is Islamist extremism growing there as well?

    Is the general feeling in Lebanon extremely anti-Israeli and Jewish?

    What is the feeling towards the Palestinians in general, particularly those in camps in Lebanon? or Lebanese don’t see them?
    Do Lebanese care that much about the Conflict as much as the media would have us believe?

    Has Hezballah been successful in its media campaign in general with Lebanese in general terms and or just with regards to Israel?

    Thanks.

    Mike

  33. I find it funny that I’ve been called a “libertarian/anarcho-capitalist” and “an angry leftist” within three posts, particularly given I’m neither. I’m a life-long registered Republican (voted for Reagan, Bush the Elder, Dole, and Bush the Younger) who’s repulsed by what a bunch of thugs his party has degenerated into. In regards to your question crimethink, I wasn’t making an analogy between those things, I was pointing out that there are principles you should stand by because the damage that comes from compromising them is greater than that which comes from sticking to them.

    As for Dan’s statement: “All you’re saying is that you don’t care how many foreigners die, so long as none of them get killed by us,” that is exactly what I am saying. We bear no more moral culpability for those deaths then you bear for the death by tuberculosis of that homeless man you walked past on your way to work every day, even though you could have easily taken him to a community clinic and gotten him a $15 course of antibiotics. Don’t cry to me about saving the world when you aren’t willing to do it yourself.

  34. SR:

    government committing horrors = ten guilty men go free

    other nation intervenes to stop horrors = one innocent man to prison

    Huh?????

  35. SR,

    Most homeless men don’t have such diseases, and those that do usually don’t have medical records conspicuously attached to their clothes detailing their condition and what treatment they need.

    OTOH, the whole world knew what Saddam was up to.

  36. I’ll wax hypothetical for a moment, but it’s a hypothetical that could easily have happened.

    So let’s say that Nazi Germany won WW2, and its sovereignty extends across Europe, from Spain to the Urals. This has been the case for 60 years (1944-2004). It is well known here in the US that the German government has moved on from exterminating European Jews to other undesirables, and is gassing & burning millions per year.

    If the US has the capability to intervene and stop the slaughter, will doing so cause more damage than respecting the Nazis’ right to commit horrors within their own borders? If not, what reason is there to respect Nazi sovereignty?

  37. “National sovereignty is not an absolute, so that a government may do ANYTHING it likes within its boundaries. ”

    The issue isn’t what it may do, but who gets to decide and act, and when, to make a difference. National sovereignty should be as close to absolute as possible. I have no desire to invade Israel or other middle east countries because they outlaw religious proselytism. Or Burma, cause they’re thugs.

    Using US military force involves large amounts of compulsion (taxes and force used for conscription and violence on others who do not vote (foreigners). It should not be done lightly.

    In the case of Syria and Lebanon it is a cross-border situation, so the internal affairs principle which should be respected, may not apply. Whether the US should do something about it depends on policy ideas of how much cost, etc.

    Having an empire is a bad thing, and therefore it is best to let the locals have it out wherever possible. Empires require vast amounts of domestic and foreign coercion inconsistent with the idea of a liberty-centered state.

    Nobody anywhere likes to be ruled by foreigners and liberators are usually welcome for only a period of months.

    When it comes to the middle east, intervention is not the greatest idea, especially as its chief enthusaists and architects tend to be those who think — Ataturk was a good guy, Israel’s shit dont stink, Palestinians never existed but are very dangerous, Lebanese Christians are not a minority and it doesnt matter anyway, SAddam was chock full of WMDs, Muslims are enjoined to kill nonbelievers, the Book of Revelations is happening by the clock right now, etc.

    We intervened in Lebanon in 1958, didnt take. In Iraq, it’s bad. Iran in 1954 (covertly) — blew up later. It is perhaps a credit to us that we rule unwilling others poorly. Even the lauded examples of Japan Germany and Italy only work because they were advanced societies in the first place for the most part, not because of our great Big Government tutelage.

    Reordering the middle east is a fantasyland of big government power thrill not based on a restrained view of government, the historic record, the realities on the ground, or a clear view of human nature. It might be worth it to be part of an effort to squeeze Syrian rule and exploitation out of Lebanon but we are so hated in Lebanon that direct action may backfire.

  38. When it comes to the middle east, intervention is not the greatest idea, especially as its chief enthusaists and architects tend to be those who think — Ataturk was a good guy

    Can you name an Arab leader in the Middle East that was a ‘good guy’? Just curious?
    Sadat made ‘peace’ with Israel and modernized the country somewhat.. held the Muslim Brotherhood at bay. However, he was fond of Hitler and Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and was horrible to the Coopts.

    Israel’s shit dont stink, Palestinians never existed but are very dangerous, Lebanese Christians are not a minority and it doesnt matter anyway, SAddam was chock full of WMDs, Muslims are enjoined to kill nonbelievers, the Book of Revelations is happening by the clock right now, etc.

    A little carried away with yourself there.
    So do Wolfowitz, Powell and Lewis fit those mindsets? lol…
    You think Michael or Tony think they do?

  39. “Well, the historic record and a clear understanding of human nature indicates that the only way to bring lasting peace between the Islamist world and the Western world will be to crush and slaughter the citizens of the Islamist world until the broken and helpless remnants desperatley sue for peace. ”

    1. What is the IslamIST world?

    2. Insofar as that may mean the Islamic world — let’s see… the Crusades brought permanent peace after victory and slaughter, Israel has permanent peace after victory, dispossession and occupation, Genghiz Khan permanently silenced Islamic fanaticism, no Islamists in Turkey after Ataturk (no Christian Greeks or Armenians either but that’s another story we dont want to get into)…..

    3. “…the historic record and a clear understanding of human nature indicates that the only way to bring lasting peace between the Islamist world and the infidel world of Christians and Jews will be to crush and slaughter the citizens of the infidel world until the broken and helpless remnants desperatley sue for peace.” — Sincerely,Osama bin-Laden

  40. The issue isn’t what it may do, but who gets to decide and act, and when, to make a difference

    Well that’s an easy one. We “get” to decide when we “get” to act.

    Reordering the middle east is a fantasyland of big government power thrill not based on a restrained view of government, the historic record, the realities on the ground, or a clear view of human nature

    Well, the historic record and a clear understanding of human nature indicates that the only way to bring lasting peace between the Islamist world and the Western world will be to crush and slaughter the citizens of the Islamist world until the broken and helpless remnants desperatley sue for peace. That’s how it’s always worked in the past; nothing short of that has ever yielded lasting success.

    So, yes, even though the current democratization/regime-change plan probably isn’t going to work, I think it’s worth attempting, simply because of the tens or hundreds of millions of Muslim lives it will save if it succeeds.

  41. Matthew,

    None of the conflicts that you mention have anything to do with what Dan is saying. A good example is Rome and Carthage. There are no more Carthaginians; therefore, we don’t have to deal with their horrible child-sacrificing religion.

    Just imagine if a nuke is detonated in a major American city, killing millions. The vast majority of (the remaining) Americans will be calling for the destruction of the Arab world. This is the result that Dan hopes to avoid by attempting to democratize the Middle East. The US has succeeded in democratizing countries before, but only AFTER the it turned the countries to rubble and made that rubble bounce–Japan and Germany come to mind.

  42. Oops! “AFTER the it” should be “AFTER it”.

  43. “None of the conflicts that you mention have anything to do with what Dan is saying.”

    It has everything to do with what Dan is saying, he said Islamists (I assume he means Muslims as a whole which is technically what is not meant by Islamists but that is what he appears to be saying) — that Muslims slaughtered and pulverized will accept terms and make permanent peace. It hasnt happened in the past, or present.

    Carthage came back to life and in any event we were left with Rome’s emperor/state and statue worshiping, newborn-baby-exposing, Christian-persecuting, Jewish temple destroying and nation-dispersing religion. So much for civilizational hegemons….

    Germany and Japan were semi-democracies and well integrated and educated populations prior to totalitarianism, we did not miraculously change their culture or politics, we destroyed their current support for a particular regime which declared war on us, or set of them, and forced them back on track, with a Soviet threat in the background to urge them on. They did it themselves…

    Political messianism is a dangerous course.

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