The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Tipping point?

There have been a number of important developments in the Middle East in the last few days, starting with the Iraqi elections. Since then, there have been important moves towards the Bush administrations desired ends.
This includes today's resignation of the Lebanese Syrian-supported government. This is particularly strange given that all that they were facing was a no confidence vote by a legislature that is stacked with supporters. I can't help but wonder what is really going on there. Given the attacks on Harari and the Tel Aviv nightclub combined with the tepid response to UN sanctions threats, the announcement of a joint defense treaty with Iran, and the recent hand over of Saddam's Brother-in-law to the Iraqi government, Syria is looking a lot like a state undergoing an internal power struggle. Numerous, often contradictory agendas are bubbling to the surface and the Syrians have been unable to present a cogent message or a unified front to the international community. I have long suspected that Bassir al-Asad lacked the charisma and toughness that allowed his father to ride the tiger of the Syrian state apparatus for so long without getting bitten. The seeming confusion by the Syrians of how to react with a spiraling series of events pressing it from many sides is indicative of a lack of leadership. This may present the Lebanese, the Israelis, the French and the Americans the rare opportunity to give Syria a little push that could lead to, at the least, the end of the occupation of Lebanon and could ultimately see something of a democratic movement within Syria. It could also lead to bloody repression. The stakes couldn't possibly be higher.
This is also the case in Egypt. Large, illegal street protests were met not with batons and rubber bullets, but rather with a call for reform. After US Secretary of State Condi Rice canceled a visit to the country, Egyptian strong man Hosni Mubarak asked the legislature to change the law to allow for multi-party elections. It is a small, calculated step to assuage his critics, but history has shown that these small fissures can lead to a massive rupture in the walls of state.
Over in Libya, Americans can once again travel and see this North African country's historical treasures. I can't wait until I can walk down the streets of Tripoli myself. The Libyan government has hired the Adam Smith Institute to advise it as it undergoes the most sweeping economic and market reforms in 35 years.
In Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia, democratic elections are on the top of the agenda or already being held.
All of these developments are creating a snowballing effect that I haven't witnessed since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Another interesting development is the trend towards peaceful revolutions. Georgia, Ukraine, and now Lebanon; in all these cases the government was sent packing without blood shed and purely with the power of public consensus. I think that this trend is really getting into the blood of many oppressed and long suffering peoples around the world and especially in the Middle East. The scenes of free, fair elections in Iraq and Afghanistan has also emboldened those who needed to see a mechanism by which their frustrations could lead to positive change.


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