Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

THE DEBATE SHIFTS II

Protesters took to the streets in Lebanon for the past few days to demand Syrian withdrawal in the wake of Rafik Hariri's murder. Today Lebanon's pro-Syrian government resigned, and now Assad is saying that he will withdraw the troops within two, or perhaps six months. Meanwhile in Egypt, Mubarak will allow multi-party elections. The Arab News gushes optimistically:

With 70 million people, Egypt is the most populous Arab country, a regional political and military heavyweight. It is a pioneer in making peace with Israel, in Islamic learning, the arts, literature, medicine, sports and entertainment. In his State of the Union address, Bush called on Egypt to lead the way in one more thing: Democratic change in the Middle East. And it is now doing so.


The neocons' new favorite quote is from Walid Jumblatt, leader of a Lebanese Druze party, who said:

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. . . . The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.


I predicted earlier that there would be a lot of
"penance" among opponents of the war in the wake of the Iraqi elections. That seems to be materializing. Thus the New York Times editorializes:

Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the impoverished towns of the Gaza Strip...

[T]his has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power...


However, Ed Kilgore, guest-blogging at TalkingPointsMemo, is not impressed:

Now I am aware the State Department made the appropriate noises, as its predecessors would have done, after the Hariri assassination, about Syrian dominance of Lebanon, and I also know the Bush administration has been generally hostile towards the Syrian government, as has been U.S. policy for as long as I can remember. But it literally never crossed my mind that Bush's fans would credit him with for this positive event, as though his pro-democracy speeches exercise some sort of rhetorical enchantment.

This is the kind of thinking, of course, that has convinced God knows how many people that Ronald Reagan personally won the Cold War. It's the old post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) logical fallacy.


Now, it is a reasonable position to credit Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union. That's not just jingoism of the American right; I've talked to Russians who argue the same thing.

All the same, the comparison is not valid. Bush's role in promoting Mideast democracy was more active than Reagan's in toppling communism. Reagan challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Bush sent in the troops to take down Saddam's statue themselves.

In Eastern Europe, there was a series of velvet revolutions. In the Middle East, there was a shooting revolution first. Now the velvet revolutions are beginning to follow. Meanwhile, the anti-war left/intelligentsia/Democrats are breaking under the strain of cognitive dissonance.

[UPDATE: My mistake. Jumblatt is with the Druze, who are not Muslims; it is another religion allied with Muslims, according to an Israeli friend of mine. Also, more dove-penance here.]

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