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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Trouble in Lebanon 

Just to follow up on my happy posts about anti-Syrian (and presumably pro-Democracy) protests in Lebanon - the pro-Syria faction is firing back, and they're doing it at the request of and with support from Hezbollah.
Hundreds of thousands pro-Syrian protesters waved flags and chanted anti-American slogans in a central Beirut square Tuesday, answering a nationwide call by the militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group for a demonstration to counter weeks of massive rallies demanding Syrian forces leave Lebanon.
I think that's a problem. It should also be noted that this rally is as big or bigger than the anti-Syria rallies before it. Hopefully this isn't the start of civil conflict, and it appears things are proceeding relatively non-violently thusfar. But Hezbollah is not known as a bastion of peaceful ideology, so who knows what happens next.

This new rally comports well with Juan Cole's argument that the root of terrorism is not "hating freedom" but hating occupation and interference - and reacting the the resulting feeling of humiliation. I think perhaps that Bush's overt and vocal calls for Syrian withdrawal may be having some (unintended?) consequences here.

UPDATE: Atrios points out something that is implicit in everything I write about this stuff, but I haven't made explicit yet...so here it is, in a slightly shriller form than I might employ (gotta love Atrios):
A big problem with the administration flunkies and their assorted allies in the commentariat giving credit to George W. Bush for all nice-sounding political happenings in the world is that doing so aligns whatever political movement with the US and the Bush administration, and knocks the legs out from under it. This shouldn't be too difficult to comprehend. Just as opposition to the Bush administration is characterized as "pro-saddam" or whatever in this country, as long as political oppposition movements in other countries can be painted as "pro-US" or "pro-Bush" or even as being directly funded by the US they can be deligitimized (or branded as traitors).
I think that perhaps takes it a little too far, but the basic point is true. I think that Bush calling loudly for Syrian withdrawal and the media supporting the idea that the withdrawal is somehow Bush's doing (though I'm not denying that his policies have some impact) is doing more harm than good at this point to the cause of the anti-Syrian voices in Lebanon and will similarly affect any other movement of this sort that may spring up in the region should the same tactics be used.

UPDATE 2: I should point out that you can replace "Bush" in that last paragraph of mine with "X" where X is any president of the United States. It's not Bush's involvement that's the problem here, it's U.S. involvement.

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