Monday, June 06, 2005

Don't Wait, Take It In Your Own Hands!

The more I think about it, the more I feel like I want to share it; it's like a lightbulb that has lit inside my head!

In my previous post The Big Picture That I Missed!, we ended up delving more in the comments section on the role of the U.S. in spreading democracy in the region and its prospects. Raja wrote that the current U.S. administration is seriously reconsidering "constructive instability" as a viable policy option in the Middle East - seeing what has become of Iraq (especially after the outcome of the much-awaited-for Iraqi elections failed which led Iraq back into a blood bath). I also wrote that of how much the U.S. is advocating for democracy in the Middle East, in my assessment it is not ready yet to face the big "threat" which is namely Islamic fundamentalist movemements that are also calling for democracy and fair representation in their political systems, such as in Syria and Egypt.

Given the above-mentioned premise, I can deduce that Cardinal Sfeir's call to postpone the confrontation with Baabda until after the elections to confront the President through constitutional means and through the Parliament as opposed to people power on the streets, is perhaps an American demand as well. The U.S., yes, is playing a prominent role in the region, no one can deny that. It would cringe at this moment to see the fruits of a peaceful uprising turning into a confrontation which might turn ugly; the fear that Lebanon would also become another battle scene, especially putting in mind the presence of Hizbullah and Syria's and Iran's inevitable involvement if any instability occurs in the country.

Correct me if I'm wrong...simply speculating.

As for the Damascus and Cairo Springs, I'm afraid that all of those freedom and democracy lovers have to rely on themselves to reach their intended goals, because the U.S. might just be unwilling to foster any more uprisings in the region, as their military presence in Iraq is faltering in the face of sectarian strife and religious fundamentalism (And if Lebanon's uprising was peaceful because of already existing freedoms albeit limited, in other regimes, any instability might just wreak havoc). Again, and I repeat what I wrote under the previous post's comments: Egypt is an amazing example of how the U.S. is willing to accept "cosmetic" changes made to the Egyptian electoral law, despite all of us knowing that that's not the change that many aspire for in the country. When Laura Bush visited Egypt, she angered many who questioned what sort of democracy the Americans are calling for as she extolled the reforms that Mubarak has put was funny that many Egyptians wanted more, so much more...

We don't want corrupt leaders, many corrupt leaders' regimes, including Saddam's and Saudi Arabia's, were and still are upheld for so long by the Americans for strategic interests. And now many feel and fear that if we rely too much on the US for "salvation" we'll get nowhere. I don't believe that the US administration is entertaining at all "disturbing" any more regimes or unleashing any revolutions. It's a shame because in the first place, if Bush did not start a war in Iraq and resorted to the UN (look at Lebanon, diplomacy works when there is consensus), it would have been able to help other countries open up peacefully, instead of toying around with the option of backing out from the whole project.

This is why it is imperative to stress continued dialogue in Lebanon to come up with solutions to issues that are beyond what Lebanon can take. The following quote is taken out from my first entry that I published on this blog on the 21st of February:

"I would like to see in the very near future a document drafted by the Opposition that will answer the many lingering questions: How are we going to resolve the question of the Sheba’a Farms? How will Hizbullah be disarmed and who will do so? What about the Palestinian refugee question?....Big, divisive issues indeed to which we must find honest and real answers. I believe the true challenge is not Syria’s withdrawal, but what will ensue after their withdrawal when we have to all sit together on one table to resolve those major, contentious issues on our own."

This quote still holds true....

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."


carine said...

the us-- like every other state-- is ultimately self-interested. whether they'll promote or impede democracy in lebanon depends on their own priorities, and they are likely to pursue both paths at different times-- or even simultaneously (if history is any indication).

we can't trust the us, because we can't trust anybody but ourselves. no one is coming to save lebanon: if we want a reformed country, we're going to have to get up and get active and build it with our own hands.

you wrote: "This is why it is imperative to stress continued dialogue in Lebanon to come up with solutions to issues that are beyond what Lebanon can take."

i totally agree... but what concrete steps do you (and anyone else out there) suggest ordinary citizens take to "stress" dialogue?? this is where i always start to run low on good, feasible ideas :(

hummbumm said...

Before the US gets blamed for everything here, let us note that it is the EU that now wants to proceed with Syria with business as usual, jailing of syrian dissidents, killing of kurds be damned, and it was France and Russia who were the biggest supporters of Saddam, and the EU is not doing jack to promote democracy anywhere. Aahh yes, opening up countries peacefully through diplomacy like waht the EU is trying to do with Cuba, and all the success diplomatic engagement has had with zimbabwe, Sudan, Myammar and every other tinpot dictatorship. I stand by my belief that there would have been no syrian withdrawal without an existential threat on the regime, one that is provided by the US military. Okay now that I have that off my chest, we can go back to regular programming. I totally agree we should rely on ourselves, maybe then we will stop blaming the US for doing too much or too little or too late or too early or not quite right etc... By the way if the US did not support any arab regime on the basis that none were democratic, they would be labelled as completely anti muslim idealogues who don't understand the delicacies and the cultures of the region.

liminal said...


Thanks for your opinions in this post, which brought so much of what I've been pondering lately to some focus. I think it is something that could use more discussion.

And Hummbumm,

I don't particularly think doha is even blaming the US...just stating the facts. US supports governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, while calling for democracy in the Arab world...and accepting the farcical cosmetic changes Mubarak has made to the electoral law.

When the double-standards grow thicker than mudslides, you've got to fess up and get with a realistic program if people are going to continue to buy-into the whole Greater Middle East plan America has at the moment.

Moreover, Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo do not square well with the American Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

And unfortunately, those are two things that many average people in the Arab world cannot help but think of these things when thinking about America and its intentions.

It's all rather tragic if you ask me. Nobody will end up winning, but extremists and war-profiteers from both ends of the spectrum. Whether it is profiting off of the propaganda coup that Guantanamo is for Islamic extremists, or profiting off of the violence and chaos which Iraqis have grown so regrettably accustomed to in the past couple years.

Anyway, excuse the rant...

I've got to seize the moment when words flow out these days.

Keep up the great work over here,


hummbumm said...

Yes the US should push more in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, morocco everywhere in the Arab world to be honest, but when they do push, they are left holding the bag, as the Europeans do not support them, they are accused of interference in domestic affairs etc... After all we have this Euro-Med thing and all sorts of other ties to the EU and why is that not used as a forum for change? Nothing at all from there, why no outrage at the blatant double standards of Europe, professing human rights and dealing with every scum out there? this is not directed to the comments here, because I understand what is being said here, but in general there is a sense of why is the US not doing more in one breath, and why are these imperialists interfering in our affairs in the other, that colors a lot of the discussion in the middle east. Back to the main points of Sheba, the palestinians and Hizbullah, I will predict this, none of these issues will be resolved unless the US takes an active stance. Unfortunate, yes but I believe that to be true. For sure, if the lebanese do not articulate a clear position on these issues, it will be done for us.

hummbumm said...

PS, I think my comments come across as more confrontational and harsh, then the spirit behind them. Chalk it up to a bad day.

JoseyWales said...

To Carine and all,

Carine said: ... but what concrete steps do you (and anyone else out there) suggest ordinary citizens take to "stress" dialogue??

A couple of ideas.

One: Forget the US, Gitmo, Sudan, Egypt, the EU, hypocrisy in international affairs, etc... It's all very interesting but we have our own problems. We waited 30 years for Syria to leave, now its is (almost) out. You want to thank Bush, Chirac, Aoun, the Saudis, the Zionist conspirators, Bashar's stupidity? Fine, but things need to fixed quickly in Lebanon or else….

TWO: Carine's got it right: what concrete steps to take?

I have not thought about that a lot. But certainly one thing bloggers can do is ASK and HARP on the right questions, and then hope that, somehow, these questions will find their way to the Lebanese press (mostly asleep at the switch, but they probably read you guys). And then from the press, to regular people and to the arena of political discourse.

Examples: 1)If Berri's got to go: Keep embarrassing his allies but in particular Hezballah because they prize their anti-corruption image.

2)Point out the cost of Hezballah arms: in terms of underdeveloment in the South.

3)Ask the idiot press via blogging or letters to the editor, why no hard questions to our political class. E.g. Two days ago Lahoud said that soon the Lebanese people will find out who stole and who was corrupt.
Why soon and not now?, When , a specific date? How? (Is Addoum still working on it from home? har, har). When did he know about that? Just yesterday? if not why did he not do anything about it?, etc….

I believe if these kind of questions, analyses, articles from a small blogger community, to the more mainstream stuff, and at some point I hope into the political arena. Bloggers would then hope to bend Lebanese politics a little. Let's not fool ourselves, it's is a long way, but you guys can have an impact.

Doha said...

Thank you all for your sincere and insightful comments. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (despite many of its brilliant ambassadors)should be the right place to be contemplating and debating answers to the important strategic questions we've posed, unfortunately I believe that this is not the case. And while think tanks, research institutes, and universities should be also debating these issues and disseminating such information to the press to pressure government, again we see almost a void on that part. Until when are we going to sweep these issues under the rug? The big white elephant cannot fit anymore within the walls of Bustros Palace. Answers to such issues should stop being concocted in dark, secret rooms; let them come out to the light. If only they know how much the Lebanese public can do and how much impact we can make to push our country forward...