February 17, 2005


'Hama Rules' (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 2/17/05, NY Times)

When Syria's Baath regime feels its back up against the wall, it always resorts to "Hama Rules." Hama Rules is a term I coined after the Syrian Army leveled - and I mean leveled - a portion of its own city, Hama, to put down a rebellion by Sunni Muslim fundamentalists there in 1982. Some 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians were buried in the ruble. Monday's murder of Mr. Hariri, a self-made billionaire who devoted his money and energy to rebuilding Lebanon after its civil war, had all the hallmarks of Hama Rules - beginning with 650 pounds of dynamite to incinerate an armor-plated motorcade.

Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition: "You want to play here, you'd better be ready to play by Hama Rules - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you'd better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You'd better be ready to go all the way - because we will. But you Americans are exhausted by Iraq, and you Lebanese don't have the guts to stand up to us, and you French make a mean croissant but you've got no Hama Rules in your arsenal. So remember, we blow up prime ministers here. We shoot journalists. We fire on the Red Cross. We leveled one of our own cities. You want to play by Hama Rules, let's see what you've got. Otherwise, hasta la vista, baby."

It is a measure, though, of just how disgusted the Lebanese are with the Syrian occupation and Hama Rules that everyone - from senior Lebanese politicians, like the courageous Walid Jumblatt, to street protesters - is openly accusing Syria of Mr. Hariri's murder.

What else can the Lebanese do? They must unite all their communities and hit the Syrian regime with "Baghdad Rules," which were demonstrated 10 days ago by the Iraqi people. Baghdad Rules are when an Arab public does something totally unprecedented: it takes to the streets, despite the threat of violence from jihadists and Baathists, and expresses its democratic will.

How'd Hama Rules work out for Saddam and al Qaeada?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2005 9:04 AM

Hama Rules work only when one side is using the playbook. When Reverse Hamas Rules are incorporated, look out!

Posted by: AllenS at February 17, 2005 9:26 AM

Answer to Hama rules: Dresden rules. These clowns think they're bad because they don't know what bad is.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 17, 2005 9:32 AM

friedman is a fat man in a bathtub.

Posted by: cjm at February 17, 2005 10:28 AM

I actually read this as something of a muddled call by Friedman for Syria's opponents to start getting as tough with them as they've been to their own people and the Lebanese over the past 20-30 years. But, this being the New York Times, having Tom actually come right out and say he wants George W. Bush to bust a few more Baathist heads by going into Damascus would make him a even bigger pariah around the smart set than Kurt Andersen probably is right now for that New York Magazine piece saying that Bush was in all liklihood right about this Iraqi freedom thing after all.

Posted by: John at February 17, 2005 10:40 AM

cjm: I believe that may have been the first-ever Little Feat reference here at OJ's place.

Well done. Also quite true.

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 17, 2005 10:51 AM

Lou - well put. And Tokyo was probably even worse than Dresden.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 17, 2005 11:00 AM

We didn't get where we are today by being pushovers, Mr. Friedman. We wrote the (unpublished) book on dirty and inventive ways of making our enemies die painful deaths.

I'll see your Hama rules, and raze (sic) you one Atlanta, Columbia, Dresden, Tokyo, and Nagasaki.

Posted by: Mikey at February 17, 2005 4:19 PM

All bluster aside, we do need to realize that neither the Syrians nor the Iranians will be 'impressed' until we something more current. Then they will scurry.

Posted by: ratbert at February 17, 2005 4:39 PM

OK, thanks for nothing, oj. I've had that stupid song running through my head all day now. What was the !@#$% band's name?

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2005 11:24 PM

Didn't we used to have an air force?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 18, 2005 3:08 AM

This is a defecate or get off the pot moment for Hezbollah. Are they a movement which is defending the rights of oppressed Shia in Lebanon or are they merely janizaries for Syria and Iran? Are the so-called 'Palestinians' in the 'camps' interested in nation-building or are they just another criminal gang like the FARC? Where's Georges Habash and what does he have to say? This will get interesting.

A unified Lebanese resistance to Syrian occupation would have the Syrians out in a matter of days. 15000 Syrians ain't gonna get it done against 100,000 or so armed Lebanese from all faith communities. But if the Syrians can rely on assistance from the 'Palestinians', Hezbollah, and their paid toadys among the Maronites like the quisling Emile Lahoud, then they can hold power until a foreign entity intervenes.

Posted by: Bart at February 18, 2005 10:39 AM

i will accept the "rocket in my pocket" reference but the "bogart" reference is to broad. i keep a little feat tape in my car at all times.

falleujah rules, is that current enough ?

assad is going to get the colonoscopy he deserves, in short order. make it a double.

Posted by: cjm at February 18, 2005 6:02 PM