From the Council on Foreign Relations
albeit not perfect, the election results were certified, with the 128 total seats being divided as follows:
Tayyar al-Mustaqbal (Future Tide) coalition, 72 seats. An anti-Syria opposition coalition led by Said Hariri, a 35-year-old businessman and son of the former prime minister. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, joined forces with Walid Jumblatt, head of the minority Druze community and leader of the al-Taqadummi al-Ishtiraki, or Progressive Socialist Party. Jumblatt led a Syria-backed armed militia against Christian groups during the civil war; after the war he served as a cabinet official in several pro-Syrian Lebanese governments. In 1988, Jumblatt responded to attempts by Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to strip him of power by leaving government and joining the anti-Syria opposition movement. Future Tide also includes several notable Christian politicians.
Amal Party/Hezbollah, 35 seats. Hezbollah is an armed Shiite militia backed by Iran that has wide support in Lebanon's Shiite south, where it is credited with ending the Israeli occupation. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, formed a coalition with the Amal Party, a Shiite group led by Nabih Berri, a former military officer considered one of Syria's main collaborators in Lebanon. The Amal/Hezbollah group, which polled strongly in the south, is now the main Shiite party in Lebanon.
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), 21 seats. General Michel Aoun, the FPM leader, is a Maronite Christian and former military officer who led a failed coup against Syria in 1989 and served briefly as Lebanon's prime minister and acting president before fleeing to France. He returned to Lebanon May 7 after 14 years in exile. Aoun shocked many supporters by forming a last-minute alliance with Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian former cabinet minister and part of a prominent pro-Syrian clan. The alliance made strong gains in the third week of voting in the Christian areas of central Mount Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley. That showing made Aoun the most influential Maronite leader in the country. "It's clear now that Aoun speaks for the Maronite interests," says Hussein Ibish, vice chair of the Progressive Muslim Union and former Washington correspondent for Beirut's Daily Star. Maronite Christians in Lebanon's heartland voted overwhelmingly for Aoun and against the Christian leaders who ran on their own or joined the Future Tide coalition.
The elections were deemed fair, monitored by international observers for the first time in Lebanese history.
CSMonitor: Qualms about Lebanon being truly 'free'
The chief objection, of course is Hezbollah itself, that an armed political party, even in the minority is a dangerous thing to have around, as it exercises a bullet-based veto on a range of public policy choices.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Arab-Israeli tensions interfere with Lebanese domestic politics on a daily basis. Consider this: the 250,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanese camps have access to stored arms. Their plight is dire and that factor adds instability to the country.
The role of Iran in Lebanon is complicated. Since Iran is the world's leading Shiite community and Hezbollah is Lebanon's major Shiite political organization, there is a clear common ground for partnership between these two contrasting political entities. Hezbollah is a militia, a political party and a welfare organization. Iran is an isolated and agitated state, and its ideology is reflected in Hezbollah's political culture.
After the presidential elections in Iran this Friday, the new regime will determine how friendly it will be to the West and how sensitive it will be to Lebanon's sovereignty. Subsequently, Iran's leadership may help or hinder the politics of accommodation of Hezbollah.
In principle, the less suspicious and more secure Hezbollah is, the more likely it is to lay down its arms. Hezbollah may be persuaded to give up its heavy weapons and to stop carrying light arms as a first step. This compromise would also be a measure of respect for the new Lebanese government. However, current elections have further emboldened Hezbollah, making it more likely that weapons will need to be addressed in the near future.
As Russian premier Putin said just a while ago on CNN (paraphrased like nobody's business): Hizbollah's maintenance of a state-within-a-state, and aggression against Israel, is an unacceptable situation. [Putin would go on to criticize Israel for its lack of balance (disproportionate response)] The first point is taken; it is well nigh impossible for the extant Lebanese state to hold any control over Hizbollah, and this impairs the functionality of representative governance in Lebanon.
The question, then, is what responsibility an impotent regime has over a faction that pretty much runs its own foreign policy?
The Lebanese would/do say: What do expect us to be able to do about it?
Israel's vote is clearly that the Lebanese government and people are wholly responsible, and Israel has acted on this interpretation. The American administration has given qualified support; every other major power in the world has disagreed. But in war, who ultimately cares what the spectators think?
[In background: Oh, wow. More mushroom clouds of dust in Beirut on the television screen...and Lebanese PM Siniora referring to Israel as 'the enemy', and calling on its friends elsewhere in the world for 'help and rescue'.]
But never mind that liberal media. What did George W. Bush have to say?
in his March 5, 2005 radio address, Bush says (it's public property, so you get it all):
Today, America and Europe are standing together with the Lebanese people. The United States and France worked closely to pass U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. This resolution demands that Lebanon's sovereignty be respected, that all foreign forces be withdrawn, and that free and fair elections be conducted without foreign influence. The world is now speaking with one voice to ensure that democracy and freedom are given a chance to flourish in Lebanon.
French President Chirac, British Prime Minister Blair, and German Chancellor Schroeder have all called on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. A Syrian withdrawal of all its military and intelligence personnel would help ensure that the Lebanese elections occur as scheduled in the spring, and that they will be free and fair.
At the same time, the Lebanese people were demonstrating against terrorism in Beirut, the elected leader of the Palestinian people, President Abbas, declared that his government is committed to chasing down and punishing those responsible for last weekend's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Such action is critical, because that attack is a reminder that there are still groups and individuals who will kill to prevent peace in the Middle East.
President Abbas made his remarks in London during an international meeting of world and Arab leaders, hosted by Prime Minister Blair. The leaders attending this meeting expressed their support for the Palestinians' efforts to reform their political institutions, their economy, and their security services. And the first reform must be the dismantling of terrorist organizations. Only by ending terrorism can we achieve our common goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and freedom.
Today, people in a long-troubled part of the world are standing up for their freedom. In the last five months, we have witnessed successful elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territory and Iraq; peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut; and steps toward democratic reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The trend is clear: In the Middle East and throughout the world, freedom is on the march. The road ahead will not be easy, and progress will sometimes be slow. But America, Europe and our Arab partners must all continue the hard work of defeating terrorism and supporting democratic reforms.
Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul, and spreading freedom's blessings is the calling of our time. And when freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful.
Thank you for listening.
The money quote is in bold: A year ago, the United States called for all foreign forces to quit Lebanon, so freedom could have a chance to prevail.
No such call this week. No such call is expected next week, either.
But what did Bush have to say a few months ago?
Still lovin' that Lebanese freedom
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's been my honor to welcome the Prime Minister of Lebanon to the Oval Office. Prime Minister, thanks for coming.
PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, we just had a really interesting discussion. I told the Prime Minister that the United States strongly supports a free and independent and sovereign Lebanon. We took great joy in seeing the Cedar Revolution. We understand that the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the street to express their desire to be free required courage, and we support the desire of the people to have a government responsive to their needs and a government that is free, truly free.
We talked about the need to make sure that there is a full investigation on the death of former Prime Minister Hariri, and we'll work with the international community to see that justice is done. We talked about the great tradition of Lebanon to serve as a model of entrepreneurship and prosperity. Beirut is one of the great international cities, and I'm convinced that if Lebanon is truly free and independent and democratic, that Beirut will once again regain her place as a center of financial and culture and the arts.
There's no question in my mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example for what is possible in the broader Middle East; that out of the tough times the country has been through will rise a state that shows that it's possible for people of religious difference to live side-by-side in peace; to show that it's possible for people to put aside past histories to live together in a way that the people want, which is, therefore, to be peace and hope and opportunity.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, we're really glad you're here. I want to thank you for the wonderful visit we've had, and welcome you here to the White House.
PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I would like to really thank President Bush for giving us the opportunity to be here at the White House and to discuss matters of mutual interest to the United States and Lebanon, and matters that has to do with the developments that have been taking place in Lebanon.
For the past over 16 or 18 months, Lebanon has been undergoing major changes. And Lebanon has really been committing itself that we want the change to happen to -- in a democratic and a peaceful manner, but at the same time, to really stay course -- on course; that we are there to meet the expectations of the people to have a united, liberal, free country, and, at the same time, prosperous economy.
So that are the matters that we have discussed with President Bush, and I really would like to seize this opportunity to thank President Bush and the United States for the support that they have been extending to Lebanon throughout the past periods, and with all the resolutions that were taken since the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. The United States has been of great support to Lebanon.
I am really convinced that President Bush and the United States will stand beside Lebanon to have Lebanon stay as a free, democratic, united, and sovereign state. And the United States is really of great importance in this regard, whether this can be done directly or indirectly. So I would like once more to express our great thanks for President Bush and the United States for this.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. (Applause.
Gush. I mean, that was really sweet.
It was also so three months ago.
Voice of America - Beyond Understanding of the Subtleties... until a few days ago
I'm surprised this nuanced an article was allowed to go out
The assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri four months ago set in motion the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the emergence of a mass-based opposition movement, and a re-examination of the countryâ€™s sectarian political system. But some analysts say real democratic changes may have to wait for the next generation of Lebanese politicians.
Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is set to lead the new Lebanese Parliament after four rounds of general elections that ended this week. But Arab-Israeli clashes in 1948 and 1967, thousands of Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon, causing regional upheaval and a 15-year civil war in Lebanon. U-N resolutions and international peacekeepers failed to bring an end to the turmoil. Then in 1975 Syrian troops marched in.
Daoud Khairallah, who teaches law at Georgetown University says, â€œSyria, in fact, was the underwriter of peace and security in Lebanon, granted at the price of much coercion and rampant corruption. Is there a substitute for Syria should things flare up again? There does not seem to be an answer that I am aware of.â€�
Professor Khairallah says a landslide victory of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah-Amal alliance in southern Lebanon shows many Lebanese are still loyal to Damascus. Hezbollah, formed in 1982 as a militia to resist occupying Israeli troops and supported by Iran and Syria, has become a major force in Lebanese politics. Its civil arm operates schools, hospitals and a television network for thousands of Shia Muslims. Georgetown Universityâ€™s Daoud Khairallah says it would be a mistake to try to enforce Hezbollahâ€™s disarmament.
And Right-wing pundits? Not subtle, but they were very supportive...
...on account citing Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" for the past twelve months was ammo against Democrats.
Now the progress toward democracy in Iraq is leading Middle Easterners to concentrate on the question of how to build decent governments and decent societies. We can see the results--the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the first seriously contested elections in Egypt, Libya's giving up WMD s, the Jordanian protests against Abu Musab Zarqawi's recent suicide attacks, and even a bit of reform in Saudi Arabia. In Syria, the Washington Post' s David Ignatius reports, "People talk politics here with a passion I haven't heard since the 1980s in Eastern Europe. They're writing manifestos, dreaming of new political parties, trying to rehabilitate old ones from the 1950s."
All the result of invading Iraq, of course (BTW - how's that looking compared to a year ago?). The point is that the technical equivalent of intellectuals on the right liked Lebanon just fine...until Israel needed to invade it.
And that's typical of what So-Called Right-wing Elite Wingnuts (or SCREWs said about Lebanon a year ago. After all, that's what THEIR President was saying until a few days ago.
What about Israel? What did Israel have to say, back in the day?
from the Hebrew Press archive, we learn that the Jerusalem Post, at least, wasn't very impressed with Lebanon's ability to enforce much of anything vis a vis Hizbollah:
...."The younger Hariri may be popular in Paris and Washington, but he isn't free of Syria's yoke. Hizbullah will cast its intimidating shadow so long as Beirut refrains from taking unequivocal control of Hizbullah's latifundia in the south. Lebanese sovereignty [in South Lebanon] is on paper only... Trying to please everyone will only render Hariri powerless and land him in trouble. He will never free himself or his country from Syrian hegemony if he turns a blind eye to Lebanon's south. If he chooses to hope for the best and avoid confrontation, his electoral success will prove to be yet another Levantine sham, a facade of progress concealing the same old quagmire."
And this article reflects a longstanding concern about Hizbollah 'mainstreaming' (my word) itself into an important if not likely to be dominant role in Lebanese politics, and concedes that as of the 2004 municipal elections in Lebanon, it looked very much like Hizbollah was going to get what it wanted -- which it did (winning every single parliamentary seat in Southern Lebanon, its electoral as well as military stronghold).
There is another party, called Amal, that vies with Hizbollah for influence among the Shia. Currently, this is not Amal's time to shine...
While the party is currently in a strong position within the Shi'a community politically, this has not always been the case, and the party is pragmatic enough to realize this fact. Hizballah has undergone its share of political setbacks, but appears to have grown stronger from these experiences. In the late 1990s for example, the party experienced its first major split when a former Secretary-General of the party, Shaykh Subhi Tufayli, was defeated in the contest for the position by the more moderate Shaykh 'Abbas al-Mussawi and formed a breakaway group known as the "Revolution of the Hungry" (Thawrat al-Jiya'). Tufayli's support base was largely limited to the villages of Brital and Tarayya, but it did show that the party was vulnerable to the same type of leadership splits that affect other, secular political parties. Of more concern, however, were the results of the 1998 municipal elections. Amal made significant gains in the traditionally strong Hizballah areas of Ba'albak, prompting one observer at the time to state, "Many Shi'ites…view Hizballah as too radical. Amal's largely secular leadership also appeals more to many individual members of the community."
While its success against the IDF gained it great kudos, the military wing of Hizballah these days must be managed far more judiciously by Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah than in the pre-2000 period. While Israel remains an unpopular neighbor amongst the Lebanese (particularly amongst those from the south), the United Nations' rejection of Lebanon's (Syrian-inspired) claims to the Sheba'a Farms has presented the Islamic Resistance with a conundrum. With no unfulfilled UN Resolution behind its military operations, Hizballah's military actions in the south are carried out without the full support of the local population, especially given the Israeli reactions which follow. The more that Hizballah carries out military action in the Sheba'a farms for its own and others' strategic purposes, the more it risks alienating the Lebanese polity, the majority of whom lack any affinity with the Sheba'a farms issue.
Hizballah appears to understand the limitations of relying too heavily on its military component, however, and the party planned for the period following the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. It has always been active within the Lebanese Shi'a community as a significant provider of social services, and has been careful in maintaining a reputation for probity that eludes Amal. Of particular note is its ability to mobilize its supporters to achieve both its strategic and local political purposes. This is one aspect that will be of the utmost importance to the party in the long term as it continues to establish itself as a major player in the Lebanese political scene. In May 2004, the party was able to stage a mass rally of over 250,000 people in Beirut to protest at U.S. military incursions into the Iraqi holy sites at Karbala and Najaf, indicating its mass appeal. Illustrative of the ability of the party to mobilize its support base at the local level was the fact that voter turnout was particularly good in the regions where Hizballah was strong. In Ba'albak, for example, over 70 percent of registered voters participated, while the figure for Nabatiyyah in the South was approximately 65 percent of voters. This compares with a figure of just over 20 percent for Beirut, and 30 percent for Sunni-dominated Tripoli.
Again, that was then.
What about now?
Let's check it out....
Bush made a few phones calls, none to Israel
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, traveling with the president, said, 'Today on the plane, the President made some phone calls to foreign leaders regarding the situation in the Middle East. He talked to King Abdullah of Jordan, they talked for, I don't know, 12 minutes or so. He also talked to Hosni Mubarak, and the third (call) was to Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon. The topics were all the same. He thanked especially King Abdullah and President Mubarak for their help in trying to resolve the situation in the region.'
'The President also reiterated his support for the democracy (in Lebanon) in his conversation with Prime Minister Siniora,' Snow added. 'They talked about ways to move ahead not only within the Arab League, but also the President encouraging his allies to speak out with everybody involved, including the Syrians and once again made the point that Hezbollah has been granted shelter in Syria, it is financed by Iran and both parties should be held responsible for some of the activities that are going on there.'
'He also reiterated the statement yesterday,' Snow continued, 'that he believes that the Israelis have a right to protect themselves, and also that we think it's important that in doing that they try to limit as much as possible so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human lives. So that is basically it.'
Asked if President Bush was doing anything to rein in Israeli attacks Snow responded, 'No. The President is not going to make military decisions for Israel.'
Handholding on one side, carte blanche on the other. What a leader. What a take-charge kind of guy...until there's something that needs taking charge of. Then he lets the ball drop, looks the other way while his top lieutenants drop, looks the other way while American interests and core values are dropped off the cliff, or into the ocean, or into the fire.
And what about the SCREWs?
You know -- the So-Called Right-wing Elite Wingnuts?
Lee Smith - In so many words, the Lebanese brought in on themselves, by not kicking Hizbollah out when they had the chance; now, it's too late.
[Of course, all Lebanon had to do was a civil war this past year to root out the only competent fighting force in the country, one that operated with the overwhelming support of the Shia portion of the population, concentrated in the South. Not even Israel with 18 years of time on its hands managed to do that...but it's Lebanon's fault for not being stronger than Israel, so Lebanon gets what it deserves.]
Perennial idiot Tom Friedman - This guy never fails to disappoint. I mean, he sets the bar lower and lower, and somehow manages to find a way to limbo underneath it yet again.
Friedman adheres to the refrain that representative parliamentary democracy, and all the good things associated with it, simply do not apply to Islamist parties. The premise is that some movements (say, Communism, for example) are so intrinsically hostile to freedom that coexistence with other parties within a competitive electoral system cannot possibly be tolerated by 'real' small-d democratic parties and institutions, or foreign democracies that are just as threatened by such movements as the host country itself.
Ergo, any notion that the election of such a party to power, as with Hamas in Palestine or (NEVER happened) Hizbollah, hypothetically, in Lebanon, cannot be tolerated, nor any legitimacy attributed to such an outcome. It is one and the same with the Nazis coming to power by ballots rather than bullets.
By that same token, I suppose we should outlaw the current iteration of the Republican Party in the United States, on the grounds that it sports an intrinsically totalitarian ideology. But...no. Friedman is highly focused on justifying the elimination of radical representative democracy in the Middle East.
This is nothing less than a disregard of the democratic process, and a latter-day nastiness: a reverence for appropriate outcomes. You don't get to be safe, sovereign and free, if you vote in ways that you already-safe, sovereign and free neigbbors do not appreciate. In fact, you don't get to be safe, sovereign and free, even if you do vote for governments that despise your topmost enemy in the region (ie., the Martyrs List in Lebanon, explicitly anti-Syrian).
And the Shia sectarian parties that are the clear powers-to-be in the safe, sovereign and free Republic of Iraq, well, something's going to have to be done about that, too.
So what we're really saying, I suppose: If America or Israel doesn't like you, period, it doesn't matter who you vote for. Sooner or later, we're going to come after you, whether you are a representative democracy or not.
And that is a terrifying message for peace and freedom in the modern-day world.
And this idiot Friedman, in his smarmy oh-no-I-hope-this-doesn't-happen- but-it-probably-is-cause-I'm-prescient-even-if-I'm-never-right sort of way, is all about the outcomes, not the process. Or denying any good thing to people who would use that process to express interests and effect policies that constrain his desires in any way.
What he desires, it's God's own mystery. I have no clue.
Uri Dromi reminds us the outcome of all the other wars between Israel and the Arabs...except for the Southern Lebanon War.
I guess that one didn't count, on account it was a tie or something.
Funny Dromi doesn't mention it at all. Too busy wagging his finger at the Arab world, one supposes.
Well...we kind of drifted away from our original track, but you get the idea.
A year ago and up to about last Sunday, Lebanon's Cedar Revolution was a shining example of neoconservative success.
Now, all it did was mainstream terrorist group Hizbollah and bring well-justified destruction on all of Lebanon.
Just ask the SCREWs; they'll tell you like it is, as opposed to what it was until a few days ago.
But don't let their own words escape them. Once upon a time, they loved Lebanon so...until it stopped being useful as as one sort of talking point, and became much more valuable as another kind altogether.
Invoking Dr. Pangloss from Candide: Surely, this is the best of all possible Republican worlds!
Of that I have no doubt. No doubt at all. With all that implies.