Friday, April 29, 2005

Stealing Away

The Syrians folded their tents and left. Elections in Lebanon will be held starting in May, just as the residents of Tent City demanded.
    Chalk up another, final, victory for the Cedar Revolution.
The Lebanese government formally announced the election will be held on time - on May 29th 2005.
The million-person demonstration, the two-month sleep-in at the tent-city, the countdown campaign, the village campaign, the media pressure, the international pressure - it all came together. It's a new era in Lebanon now.
There is lots of speculation about who is left behind as the occupiers pull out. Mika, a commenter on Belmont Club, makes a worrisome point:
    Will Iranian arms shipments still be allowed to make their destination in Hizbollahland through Syria?
Since I didn't hear any reports to the contrary, I'll also assume a million plus Syrians are still in Lebanon. Syria has 1.4 million "workers" in Lebanon. Are they leaving too? The Lebanese haven't started any shooting to get these out. This means psychologically, the Lebanese are cowed and intimidated by the Syrians. There's really little need for the Syrian army to physically back up the threat. It's already deeply imbedded psychologically.
And with that many Syrians in Lebanon, how long before they become the dominant story of Lebanon? In 20 years, will it be Lebanon?
What he misses, though, is the epochal nature of the Tent City experience. These people have been changed irrevocably by the experience of living together for two months, and most importantly, by achieving what they set out for: elections beginning in May.

And that's not the end of it. As Michael Totten says,
    ….The pall of fear over Lebanon has largely been broken. The democracy activists feel the difference. I feel it, too. I wouldn't quite call this a free country yet - not while Hezbollahland still exists as its own entity - but it feels like one now. The air is different. It's lighter.
Forging a new national identity will take a long time - if it ever truly happens at all. Lebanon will never have a true melting pot culture like the United States. This is an ancient land. Every last inch of it has been fought over and fiercely defended for centuries. Different parts of the country feel like separate micro-civilizations. But the people here have some things in common with each other that they don't have in common with anyone else. Lebanese Christians can understand and relate to Lebanese Muslims in ways that they never will be able to relate to, say, Christians from Kansas.
And, as usual, Belmont has an inimitable wrap on the whole thing, complete with vision and strategy:
    The most amazing aspect of this development is the demonstration of the power of indirect warfare. The US did not actually have to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon simply had to make their position untenable, in a manner analogous, but on a much grander scale, than the way a flanking operation turns a line. What do the Syrians gain by pulling back? They 'shorten their lines' by reducing their geopolitical vulnerabilities. The Syrian withdrawal, paradoxically, may be intended to make Damascus slightly less vulnerable. Yet because Syria depended so much upon Lebanon for easy money there are bound to be internal represcussions. For the moment Syria and Iran -- more on this later if I have the time -- are on the strategic defensive.
It makes you wonder: how does Wretchard see so clearly? And it makes you go back to check: will he have time to tell us about the strategic defensiveness of Syria and Iran? Remember, this is the man who told us -- when no one else thought so -- that Fallujah was winnable.

With the Belmont Club, it's always a good idea to stay tuned.


Czechmade said...

Lebanon - the missed lesson for the lazy West in the seventies - is a perfect apology for Israel: Since most sunnis were attracted quite recently to settle there from all over the Arab speaking world.

As for "humiliated" shia tale of Lebanon - I still do not understand.