Bigger Street Scenes, or Another Bad Day for Assad

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Today's opposition demonstration in Beirut seems to be bigger in numbers than last Tuesday's Hizbollah turnout: The CBC says it "easily exceeded the pro-government rally of some 500,000." Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to 800,000 to "nearly two million." These numbers are apparently coming from the traditional opposition, as neither Nabih Berri nor Suleiman Franjiyeh nor any other Syrian allies I know of have bolted to the opposition yet.

Meanwhile Robert Fisk reports, without any attribution, "The UN investigators have become convinced that there was a cover-up of evidence at the very highest levels of the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence authorities."

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  1. When did we start trusting the U.N. again? 🙂

  2. You know they should put up turnstiles at these rallies, that way we can have an accurate count.

  3. Anticipating Reynolds, I’ve been scouring the Yahoo news photos site for pictures of freedom babes. There’s quite a selection.

  4. While I’m sure it’s a spectacularly large demonstration, I don’t think there’s enough salt at hand for the “nearly two million figure”. (The entire population of the country is estimated to be less than four million: http://www.nationbynation.com/Lebanon/Population.html)

  5. I’m vaguely happy about events in Lebanon today however, I have yet to be convinced about a couple of things:

    US invasion and occupation lead to Syria killing Hariri — I have yet to see the dots connected

    US military occupation of Iraq led to mass demonstrations against Syrian military occupation of Lebanon

    Bush deserves more credit than Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, etc. for the move towards liberalization in the Arab world.

    This moment isn’t Lebanon 1975 instead of Ukraine last year. If civil war breaks out on Lebanon would Bush take credit for that?

    If Syrian occupation of Lebanon — peaceful and liberal by middle eastern standards is wrong, isn’t the brutal occupation of Iraq by the US wrong?

    While my bias is obvious, I know little about Lebanon and am open to good arguements…

  6. Spur – Re your point one (and kind of in general on the IRAQ->ArabFreedom construction). I’m not sure anyone argues that events were directly caused by the Iraqi invasion – eg. Arafat was gonna die anyway, Hariri’s assasination was not likely a direct result of the invasion. I think the idea is that the subsequent reactions to those events has a connection to the administrations position in the region. Would demonstrations of this scope against Syrian occupation have arisen if we didn’t have an administration crying Arab freedom and democracy at every turn? Or demonstrating a will to act with an invasion of an Arab nation? Perhaps, perhaps not, but there is a plausibility argument to be made. Did the US invasion make Syria assasinate Hariri? Probably not. Did the US occupation of Iraq (and comensurate rhetoric from the administration) lead to a more bold response from the opposition than might have been forthcoming otherwise? That seems to be possible.
    -K

  7. The opposition is probably just busing in bloggers from D.C.

  8. Karl,

    I’m not sure anyone argues that events were directly caused by the Iraqi invasion…

    I’ve seen this argued in blogosphere a lot.

  9. Spur – anyone who thinks the Syrian occupation of Lebanon is more morally justifiable than the “brutal US occupation” of Iraq has an odd moral compass.

    Syria putting an end to the civil war in Lebanon is arguably good, although its hard to argue this was more moral than the US ousting Saddam Hussein. Thus, even the morality of the initial intervention is not necessarily in Syria’s favor.

    Syria staying around and running the joint with its terrorist buddies Hezbollah doesn’t even begin to compare with the rebuilding and the installation of sovereign democratic insitutions that the US is engaged in in Iraq.

    Calling the US occupation “brutal” displays a willful ignorance of context and history that doesn’t speak well of your powers of analysis.

  10. I think it’s reasonable to think that:

    The US has traditionally backed “friendly” dictators throughout the Middle East.

    Thanks to that, people in the Middle East have been understandably cynical about US intentions.

    Thanks to that, and the assurances of many of the more out-there antiwar Westerners, they assumed that the US only invaded for oil and intended to prop up a friendly dictator.

    Yet, the elections surprised them. Perhaps some now feel that the US might be willing for once to live up to more of its traditional rhetoric.

    US pressure on Egypt, which has led to the release of the opposition figure and the announcement of (possibly sham) elections, surprised them. Etc.

    Even those who are cynical might believe that mere US anger at Syria, which has already been extensively explained, could for realpolitik reasons cause the US to support the Lebanese in getting Syria out.

    Those who have always wanted the US to stop its dalliances with dictators should, perhaps cautiously, celebrate a shift in policy, while still criticizing areas which do not live up to it. Those who in a partisan manner now start talking about the importance of stability and how dictatorships are inevitable will earn little respect.

  11. “Those who in a partisan manner now start talking about the importance of stability and how dictatorships are inevitable will earn little respect.”

    I keep seeing this charge made against liberals. Can anyone provide a good example of a widely known media source making such an argument?

  12. Why “a widely known media source”?

    For that matter, why “liberals”? They haven’t been the only ones accused of that stance.

  13. joe…and anybody else.

    On these threads I constantly hear about how the US “supported” tyrannies in the MidEast from 1945 – or whenever most Arab societies (and Persia) developed indigineous governments, until recently.

    Anyone care to put more MEAT on those bones? What did the US DO, as opposed to the Soviet Union, Europe, or anyone else? What should we have done instead?

    We buy oil for people who sell it: so? Should we embargo ALL societies governed in ways we disapprove of, at ALL times?

    We have sold arms to people who buy them? And less than others, I would imagine?

    We have GIVEN direct military assistance to some Arab societies, at some times, in response to perceived threats. This was wrong?

    We have factored development aid through existing regimes. Always wrong?

    We have not continuously scolded foreign societies over how they were governed. Who has a better record?

    Most conspicuously, the US has supported Israel against nearly all Arab regimes, during a prolonged conflict, including three wars.

    Does this sound like “support” to anyone?

    I see neither moral equivalence, nor moral responsibilty, in the previous US policy in the MidEast…although I feel recent changes are more forward-looking. What do you say?

    I know…Iknow – there is a photograph of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam. The day you saw that, joe…I expect you stopped thinkng. No further assessment of a complex situation is necessary or desirable, so far as you’re concerned…right?

  14. i’ve yet to hear anyone address the skepticism evinced by the arabist and nur al-cubicle regarding the manufactured basis of these pretty well-financed, telegenic color-coded “revolutions”. they seem to follow the serbian model and gene sharp’s outline very closely.

    i’ve come to severely doubt it’s the lebanese that watched the ukrainian revolution so closely so much as it is the same american-backed ngo’s manifesting the same policy program that accounts for the naked similarities.

    such third party regime change may not be a universal evil — but it surely isn’t what anyone in the united states believes they’re watching in lebanon, and they have conveniently given the bush administration the excuses they need to start issuing ultimatums and rattling sabres.

    do you know any american ngo’s at work in beirut, mr cavanaugh (or mr young or mr freund)? who’s paying for all the stickers and flags and porta-potties at these things (conveniences noticably lacking at hezbollah’s rally the other day)?

  15. Andrew, you’ve got to be kidding me. Have you ever heard of Mohammed Mossedegh? Have you ever read anything about our country’s relations with Pakistan in the 70s and 80s? Our country’s unclean hands go a lot deeper than the minor sins of omission you characterize them as.

    Does it strike anyone else as enormously hypocritical for Andrew to argue that America’s tolerance of Middle Eastern dictators for the past half century doesn’t leave us with any “moral responsibility,” after he’s spend the last two years condemning dissenters for the Iraq invasion as enablers of Saddam’s crimes?

  16. Eric .5b,

    ‘Why “a widely known media source”?’

    1) Because anyone can find a freeper/DU loonie to make the opposition look bad,

    2) Because there are many, many, many widely known media sources who dissent from the Bush line and are accused of supporting dictators. I’m curious whether any of you making such a charge against people who’ve come out against Bush’s policies can actually find an example to back it up.

  17. joe

    Massadeq and the Shah would probably be your best – and likely only – example…and I did a college paper on it. I am far from convinced we could have PREVENTED the coup, although it is fair to say we supported it. That was 1953, and a non-Arab society. The reason we have such a “long” history of supporting dictators in the MidEast, is beause you have to go a LONG way back to turn up a convincing example.

    What was happening at the time. Our British friends put us up to it, in a different age, and we were worried about the Baath dictatorship in Iraq. A classic example of something that has happened a lot of times since…embracing one of the reptiles for fear of the other re. Iraq/Iran.

    And what joe, did WE have to do with Nasser, Papa Assad, Qadaafi, Saddam or Boumediene? How much have we had to do with with the jerry-built monarchies?

    You seem to argue three sides of it. When we neglect one of these police states we’re supporting it, when we confront one, we’re opening the door to theocrats and civil war, and when the emergent democracy turns out OK…it was all due to happen in spite of us. This is just shallow partisan spin and Soft-Marxist comix.

  18. Have you ever heard of Mohammed Mossedegh?

    Some guy who was nationalizing the oil industry in Iran? What’s wrong with taking him down?

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