March 22, 2005

THE REST IS POSTSCRIPT (via Robert Schwartz):

What's Left? Shame. (Charles Krauthammer, March 18, 2005, Washington Post)

At his news conference on Wednesday, President Bush declined an invitation to claim vindication for his policy of spreading democracy in the Middle East. After two years of attacks on him as a historical illiterate pursuing the childish fantasy of Middle East democracy, he was entitled to claim a bit of credit. Yet he declined, partly out of modesty (as with Ronald Reagan, one of the secrets of his political success) and partly because he has learned the perils of declaring any mission accomplished.

The democracy project is, of course, just beginning. We do not yet know whether the Middle East today is Europe 1989 or Europe 1848. In 1989 we saw the swift collapse of the Soviet empire; in 1848 there was a flowering of liberal revolutions throughout Europe that, within a short time, were all suppressed.

Nonetheless, 1848 did presage the coming of the liberal idea throughout Europe. (By 1871, it had been restored to France, for example.) It marked a turning point from which there was no going back. The Arab Spring of 2005 will be noted by history as a similar turning point for the Arab world.

At a minimum these events mark the Arab acceptance of the End of History, the acknowledgement that they won't have successful and decent societies under either dictatorship or Islamicism.

As Window of Opportunity Opens in Lebanon, Hope Surges (Claudia Rosett, March 21, 2005, The New York Sun)

Above a busy shopping street where a bomb blew out the front walls of a building Friday night, injuring nine people, there now stretches a long row of glittering lights. Local authorities have rekindled the decorations left over from Christmas. "They want to show the bombers that they are building," a policeman guarding the site said.

After three decades that spanned a civil war followed by 15 years of brutality, jailing, and murder under Baathist Syrian dominion, such peaceful rejoinders to violence and repression have so far been the mark of Lebanon's democratic spring. And over the extraordinary five weeks since this Cedar Revolution began, the political landscape has shifted to a degree that leaves many here full of hope - and nervous. "A window of opportunity is opening," said lawyer Muhamad Mugraby, who two years ago served prison time as part of his long campaign for rule of law in Lebanon. He warned that "Lebanese politicians habitually have been good at closing such windows."

The main players have by now all had their say, from the withdrawing forces of Syria to the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, to the democratic demonstrators who turned out a million strong in downtown Beirut last Monday, backed at this stage by America, the European Union, and the United Nations. But no one knows yet exactly what a democratic Lebanon might look like, or who precisely might end up running it. There is no single leader of the democratic opposition. Rather, there are at least four or five, and as many as a dozen, top contenders, ranging from Druze chief Walid Jumblatt to the Maronite Patriarch to Bahiya Hariri, the sister of the assassinated former prime minister, Rafik Hariri - whose murder sparked this democratic uprising - to assorted leaders of the press and business community. They have been united in their insistence that Syria leave Lebanon. But beyond endorsing the general call for democracy, they hold widely disparate views about what a free Lebanon should look like. [...]

And yet, Lebanon has more reason today for hope than at any time in the past. Both this country and the world around it are changing. Beirut is no longer a war zone. In fact, it is a largely rebuilt city, in which one of the new landmarks is the tent encampment in downtown Martyr's Square, referred to these days by the Lebanese as "freedom square," or "sahat al-hurriya," where a new generation is demanding the right to join the modern democratic world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 22, 2005 7:24 AM
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