Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Mystery Explained?

Something about the whole Syria/Lebanon thing has been bothering me. When hunting for clues in a homicide, naturally you have to ask who stands to gain from the death. Some Syrians (unsurprisingly) pointed at Israel. I've been trying to figure out how that doesn't make sense.

Since the blast killed Rafiq Hariri, world attention has focused on Lebanon much more sharply than before, with the effect of strengthening international pressure for Damascus to pull troops out of Lebanon. Damascus, therefore, gains nothing, loses much, and there's no obvious correlative gain. Why, then, would Bashar Assad choose to kill Hariri?

Maybe it was just plain stupidity.

"The elder Assad was a tactical genius, even if his rule ultimately failed (he never regained the Golan Heights, never came close to destroying Israel, and rode Syria's economy and culture into the ground). The younger Assad combines strategic blindness with tactical ineptitude.
"Mr. Assad's response – pretending to denounce the murder, putting a relative in charge of the intelligence services, purchasing SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, and announcing a mutual defense pact with Tehran – points to his cluelessness about the trouble he has stirred up for himself."

Update: Via Vodka Pundit:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "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." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

And Vodka Pundit adds:

"The speaker, Walid Jumlatt, was up until quite recently a major purveyor of anti-American Arabist conspiracy theorizing, which makes his current stance and statements all the more exhilirating. If we can reach people who used to say stuff like this, there's more than hope: there's fundamental progress."

I don't think I can go as far as Vodka Pundit goes. True, the statements on the other side of his link are pretty crazy anti-American rants. But his Jumlatt quote emphasizes the (obviously important) actions of the Iraqi voters, without expressly or impliedly giving credit to America. Clearly we see fundamental progress in terms of a belief in the transformative power of democracy, but not in America's reputation in that region. For what that's worth.

Update: Lebanon's Daily Star looks like it prefers anti-Syria headlines, but the Syria Times focuses its reporting on a Lebanese politician who rebuffed British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and bascially called for other nations to butt out. Syria Today doesn't have anything to say about Lebanon on today's home page. It doesn't look like a popular topic in Syria.