Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#1137 Pipes blogs: MEF does strategy; dangerous anarchy


January 31, 2012

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The Middle East Forum: Strategy, not Advocacy

by Daniel Pipes
January 31, 2012


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Given the many excellent organizations dealing with Middle Eastern and Islamic issues, what niches does the Middle East Forum's fill? We provide strategic counsel, as opposed to advocacy or apologetics. To understand what this means, look at the Arab-Israeli conflict, which attracts particularly intense attention and vehement views.

Advocates fill the news pages and airwaves with passionate statements of justification and condemnation. Their work involves morality: which of the combatants acts with justice, and which acts in evil ways? Those advocates who win this argument shape public opinion and that, in turn, influences or even determines government policies.

But morality and justice are not the only important debate; another one, more specialized, concerns strategy – not who is right or wrong, but how to win. This latter discussion focuses on an assessment of forces and offers ideas how to achieve one's goals. The strategist takes the goals for granted (i.e., a secure Israel) and focuses on achieving them.

Advocacy and strategy each have their role. The advocate speaks of right and wrong, the strategist deals with success and failure. Passion marks the former, ice runs in the latter's veins. The advocate would choke on presenting his adversary's viewpoint but the strategist routinely puts himself in his opponent's place (think of war games). For example, I have imagined myself in charge of the Islamist movement, figuring out what it should do so as to understand how best to stop it.

Like most research institutes, the Middle East Forum focuses primarily on strategic activities. This is, I believe, the best use of our having devoted years or even decades to the study of our topics. To defend our outlook, attack the views of our opponents, and convince the undecided are crucial tasks, but not ours. We focus on helping our side figure out how to win. Not being based in Washington, the Forum's work is directed primarily toward two audiences: (1) the public and (2) specialists who both share our outlook and seek information, analysis, and policy recommendations.

For example, when I discussed the media's biased coverage of Israel, I do so not to discredit it but to understand its logic and to suggest ways for those concerned with Israel's security and welfare to deal with it. Likewise, during the Gaza hostilities of 2008-09, I stayed away from justifying Israel's conduct or excoriating Hamas but instead criticized Israeli strategic ineptitude and offered an alternative approach.

Debates, responses, corrections, defenses, polemics, and apologetics have a crucial role; but the Forum is engaged in finding the path to victory. (January 31, 2012)

Anarchy, the New Threat

by Daniel Pipes
January 28, 2012
Cross-posted from National Review Online


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The scourge of the twentieth century was overly-powerful governments; could the looming problem of this century be too-weak governments?

The political scientist R. J. Rummel estimates, in his evocatively titled study, Death by Government (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1994) with revised numbers in 2005, that deaths at the hands of one's own government in the period 1900-87 amounted to 212 million persons, while deaths from warfare numbered 34 million. In other words, victims of their own government (what he calls democide) were in fact over six times greater than those killed in the century's wars.

The largest number of fatalities was 78 million killed by the Chinese Communists, then 62 million by the Soviet Communists, 21 million by the Nazis, 10 million by the Chinese nationalists, and 6 million by the Japanese militarists. Even this listing is incomplete; as Rummel puts it, "post-1987 democides by Iraq, Iran, Burundi, Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, Bosnia, Croatia, Sudan, Somalia, the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and others have not been included."

And while murderous regimes certainly continue to rule and massacre, there is a new danger looming – anarchy. Consider several cases in the Middle East in chronological order:

  • Afghanistan: Since the coup d'état that overthrew the king in 1973, Afghanistan has not had a central government that could effectively control the country.
  • Lebanon: Once called the "Switzerland of the Middle East," Lebanon has endured a mix of totalitarian rule by Syria and anarchy since the country's civil war began in 1975.
  • Somalia: The Siad Barre regime fell in 1991 and has lacked anything remotely resembling a central government since then. The country's anarchy has led to a massive piracy problem in the Indian Ocean that already in 2007 was called "frightening and unacceptable" and since has grown yet worse.
  • Palestinian Authority: Thanks to mismanagement and aggression, the Palestinian Authority has lost most of its authority since taking power in 1994. Half of its territory is under a hostile organization, Hamas.
  • Iraq: The U.S. government made the mistake of disbanding Iraq's army after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the country has yet to tame the subsequent chaos.
  • Yemen: It's difficult to pinpoint a date when the country became anarchic, but the Houthi War of 2009 offers a reasonable starting point.
  • Libya: Since the uprising against Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi in early 2011, the country has not had a central power.

Syria is not yet anarchic but the regime has lost control of several towns (Zabadani, Saqba) and more could be on the way.

The same story holds in many countries of Africa, including Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Parts of Russia and Mexico suffer from anarchy. Piracy has grown to the point that it afflicts several parts of the world.

Because this pattern is so much at variance with the old problem of overweening central government, it tends not to be seen. But it is real and it needs to be recognized. (January 28, 2012)

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Flights of fancy

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January 31, 2012

Flights of fancy

We find it ironic that the author of the column below that recently appeared in the Washington Post is also the author of “Holy Ignorance.”

How else to explain how someone can be so blind to what is happening in countries like Egypt? Has he not read the polls taken in Egypt over the past few years, showing strong support for sharia law?

Does he really believe that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist political parties, which won over 2/3 of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, were elected simply because they promised a better economy?

Does he really believe the Muslim Brotherhood would support the right of Muslims to convert to Islam?

There are those who see what they want to see, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Many of them are in our government, in the media, in academia. We, too, would be delighted to see a reformed Muslim Brotherhood, one that, according to the author below, is “middle class bourgeois.” One that has given up its aspirations for worldwide Islamist rule.

But we can’t afford to engage in such flights of fancy.

A new generation of political Islamists steps forward

By Olivier Roy, Published: January 20

Olivier Roy is a professor at the European University Institute in Florence and the author of “Holy Ignorance.”


Everywhere, the Muslim Brotherhood is benefiting from a democratization it did not trigger. There is a political vacuum because the liberal vanguard that initiated the Arab Spring did not try, and did not want, to take power. This was a revolution without revolutionaries. Yet the Muslim Brothers are the only organized political force. They are rooted in society, and decades of opposition against authoritarian regimes gave them experience, legitimacy and respect. Their conservative agenda fits a conservative society, which may welcome democracy but did not turn liberal.

Under these circumstances, the ghost of a totalitarian Islamic state is raised, with the specter of imposing sharia and closing the short democratic parenthesis. But such an outcome is unlikely.

The Islamists have, in fact, changed: They are more middle-class “bourgeois,” and they benefited from the liberalization of local economies during the last decades of the 20th century, especially in countries with no oil rent. The Islamists have also drawn lessons from the failure of ideological regimes and from the success of Turkey’s AKP party. They are no longer advocating jihad and understand geostrategic constraints, such as the need to maintain peace, even a cold one, with Israel. Realism is the starting point of political wisdom.

The Islamists have been elected with a clear agenda: stability, good governance and a better economy. If they have been able to reach a larger constituency than the hard-core supporters of sharia, it is precisely because they can combine such a reformist agenda while talking about religion, values, identity and tradition. The Nahda party won the majority of the votes cast at the Tunisian consulate of San Francisco, although Tunisian expatriates in Silicon Valley are not known for their Islamic fundamentalism.

This mix of technocratic modernism and conservative values is their brand, and to turn their back on multipartism and legalism would alienate a large portion of their constituency, at a time when they have no means to confiscate power. They have neither military forces nor oil wealth to bypass the people: They have to negotiate and deliver. Their electorate wants stability and peace, not revolution.

They are stepping into a new political landscape: a democracy, although a fledgling and fragile one. The only way to maintain their legitimacy is through elections. Even if their pristine political culture is not democratic, they are formatted by the democratic landscape, much as the Roman Catholic Church ended up accepting democratic institutions. But it will take time.

Another important change, if we refer to the “revolutionary” period of the 1970s and 1980s, is that the Muslim Brothers do not monopolize Islam in the public sphere. In fact, the religious revival that has engulfed Arab societies led to a diversification and an individualization of the religious field. Religious state institutions such as Al Azhar, so recently discredited, are regaining autonomy after so recently being discredited. Al Azhar’s dean, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, openly spoke in favor of democracy and of separating religious institutions from the state. A new phenomenon is the decision of the Salafis, an ultraconservative Sunni sect, to establish political parties. On the one hand they will push for a more Islamic agenda, trying to outbid the Muslim Brothers on Islam, but this will force the Brotherhood to clarify its own position and to find a way to distance itself from the call for sharia.

To do that, the Muslim Brothers have to turn purely Islamic norms into more universal conservative values — such as limiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in a way that is closer to Utah’s rules than to Saudi laws and promoting “family values” instead of imposing sharia norms on women.

In the coming months the hot issue in Egypt, beyond the status of women, will be religious freedom. Not in the sense that Coptic Christians will have less freedom to practice — there were a lot of limitations under the so-called secular dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak — but in defining religious freedom as not merely a minority right but an individual human right, implying the right to convert from Islam to Christianity.

The issue is institutionalizing democracy, not promoting liberal policies. Democracy could take hold only if it is based in well-established values. Liberalism does not precede democracy; America’s Founding Fathers were not liberal. But once democracy is rooted in institutions and political culture, then the debate on freedom, censorship, social norms and individual rights could be managed through freedom of expression and changes of majorities in parliament. However, there will be no institutionalization of democracy without the Muslim Brothers.


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Khashan in MEQ: "The Pragmatics of Lebanon's Politics"

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The Pragmatics of Lebanon's Politics

by Hilal Khashan
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2012 (view PDF)


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Lebanese society has had a remarkable ability to overcome deep-rooted sectarian and religious divides that could readily have imploded less problematic countries. This has been largely due to its pragmatic political system, which avoids acting upon polarizing issues on principle, opting instead for pragmatic loopholes. Given their confessional political system, Lebanese are conditioned to think pragmatically even when the issue at hand is divisive and does not lend itself to resolution. In Lebanon, pragmatism is a necessity and not an option as failure to accommodate other sects might ruin the country's delicate fabric.

Three vivid illustrations of this dynamic can be seen in the handling of the issues preoccupying Lebanese decision-makers these days: Hezbollah's continued militarization, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and the Syrian connection.

Hezbollah's Militarization

Demands to disarm Hezbollah have grown since its 2006 war with Israel from Sunni as well as from some Shiite politicians only to be countered by other leaders in the patchwork politics that is Lebanon.

Most non-Shiite Lebanese find it difficult to accept Hezbollah's armament and have not missed an opportunity to express displeasure with the fact that, while the 1989 Ta'if agreement called for the demilitarization of all Lebanese militias, Hezbollah was exempted on the grounds that it was resisting Israel's presence in southern Lebanon. As much as they disapprove of Hezbollah's behavior, Lebanese find it politically correct to praise its "resistance." The proverb "kiss the hand you cannot bite" seems to fit the way many Lebanese view the militant Islamist group.

Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising that Hezbollah's military buildup and its rivals' intensifying demand for its disarmament have been the most divisive issue since Israel's withdrawal from its security zone in south Lebanon in May 2000. This demand for disarmament gained considerable momentum after the July 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war as the eviction of Hezbollah from its bases south of the Litani River and the deployment of the Lebanese army in its place led critics to question the need for the group's continued militarization.

Thus, for example, the pro-Hariri member of parliament (MP) Ahmad Fatfat argued that Hezbollah's primary concern had shifted from confronting Israel to controlling Lebanon "and transforming it into a forward base on the Mediterranean for Iran."[1] His parliamentary peer Sami Jemayyil compared "Hezbollah's expansionist behavior in Lebanon" to that of the Zionists, while former Lebanese president Amin Jemayyil noted that "Hezbollah seems preoccupied these days with controlling the site of the Lebanese government in Beirut and the Special Tribunal's location in [the] Hague."[2] Addressing his supporters on the sixth anniversary of the March 14 coalition, former prime minister Saad Hariri criticized "the supremacy of [Hezbollah's] arms and the manner in which it is influencing the formation of the country's forthcoming cabinet [of Najib Miqati]."[3]

Even Nabih Berri, speaker of parliament and leader of the Shiite Amal movement—who showered Hezbollah with praise and defended its right to resist "the Israeli occupation" as "nonnegotiable"[4]—was paraphrased by a released Wikileaks cable as having privately said that "he supported Israeli military action against Hezbollah in 2006 as long as it did not backfire and create more public support for the party."[5]

It makes eminent sense for Berri to wish the demise of Hezbollah, whose rise to prominence among Lebanese Shiites came at Amal's expense. This does not seem to be the case with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has perfected the shadowy art of doublespeak, rejecting Hezbollah's use of arms for domestic purposes while refusing "to expose Lebanon to Israeli aggression."[6] Jumblatt won notoriety for continuously vacillating from one political camp to another. His ambivalent statement above suggests that he does not preclude the possibility of returning to the March 14 coalition should Hezbollah's fortunes wane.

But most surprising and perplexing was the change of heart of Bishara Boutros Rai since his appointment as Maronite patriarch in March 2011. In his previous capacity as archbishop of Byblos, he voiced deep concern over Hezbollah's arsenal.[7] Once appointed to the top religious post, however, he expressed understanding of the group's reluctance to disarm: "The international community has not pressured Israel to pull out of Lebanese territory. Hezbollah also wants to help armed Palestinians in Lebanon who want to be granted the right of return to their lands. … When this happens, we will tell Hezbollah to disarm."[8] Ibrahim Amin Said, head of Hezbollah's politburo, concurred: "The issue has nothing to do with the manner in which the resistance uses its arms as some would like to argue; the issue pertains to the justification of the very existence of the resistance, and whether Lebanon should have a defense force capable of deterring the Israeli enemy."[9]

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The issue of the U.N. Special Tribunal is even more divisive than Hezbollah's militarization. While Hezbollah takes pride in its weapons, presented as a deterrent to Israel, its implication in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri brings shame to the organization. It seems that Hezbollah is more concerned about the moral blow to its image and prestige attending an association with the assassination than the arrest of its indicted members and their surrender to the U.N. Special Tribunal. The tribunal for its part scaled down the scope of its investigation, choosing to indict individuals in Hezbollah rather than the organization itself.

Accommodation and pragmatism have been extended even to the pursuit of justice where a delicate balance was struck between law enforcement and public peace. At least in their public pronouncements, Hezbollah spokesmen were still dissatisfied with the tribunal, even in its reduced scope. In a press conference held by Muhammad Raad, head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, he described the tribunal as a "creation that serves international interests at the expense of the will and interests of the Lebanese people and their constitutional institutions" and called upon "all free, honorable, and nationalist Lebanese, regardless of their affiliations and positions, to boycott the tribunal's requests."[10] Nabil Qawuq, deputy chair of Hezbollah's Executive Council, derided the indictment of Hezbollah personnel as "an effort by the U.S. to compensate for its political defeats in Lebanon and the rest of the region."[11] Hashim Safieddine, chair of the council, ridiculed the Special Tribunal as "a political and media farce totally divorced from the pursuit of justice."[12]

Despite the overwhelming evidence implicating Hezbollah in the assassination, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and his allies have never ceased to plead the group's innocence. As soon as the tribunal indicted four Hezbollah members in the assassination, Nasrallah described them as honorable men who resisted Israel's occupation and, instead, laid the blame on the Jewish state, which had allegedly plotted the indictments.[13] When the tribunal revealed the names of these operatives shortly afterward and requested the Lebanese government to turn them in within thirty days to stand trial, Nasrallah responded disdainfully: "They cannot find them or arrest them in thirty days, or sixty days, or in a year, two years, thirty years, or three hundred years."[14] Nasrallah advised the leaders of the March 14 opposition not to expect the government of Prime Minister Najib Miqati to do in connection with the tribunal "what the government of his predecessor Saad Hariri couldn't do."[15]

For his part, Miqati emphasized Beirut's commitment to fulfill its international commitments, which included "paying its share of $32 million toward the cost of the STL operations,"[16] yet refused to "talk about solutions now, because I want the government efforts to succeed."[17] He also disregarded U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's concern about the Lebanese government's reaction to the deepening crisis in Syria, noting that he would not "endanger Lebanon by violating the rules of the international legitimacy."[18]

This did not escape Hezbollah's eye. Though repeatedly voicing his disapproval of financing the tribunal, Nasrallah and his colleagues were sympathetic to Miqati's predicament, claiming that the prime minister "must not be embarrassed by the reaction of the international community and his own constituency if he reneges on Lebanon's commitments."[19] They understand all too well that there is nothing they can do to stop the working of the tribunal. They can resent it and plead their innocence with their Shiite constituents—the main target audience of Hezbollah's rhetoric. As far as Hezbollah's leadership is concerned, what matters is how the Shiite community perceives them; the tribunal's activities are of far lesser concern as they seem to believe that its eventual impact will be minimal.

The Syrian Nexus

Lebanon's government finds itself in an unenviable position of having to accommodate Syrian interests and sensitivities, on the one hand, and the positions of its own divided communities vis-à-vis Syria, on the other. Ever since Lebanese independence, Damascus has been a constant political actor in its neighbor's affairs, forcing successive Lebanese governments to play a delicate game of appeasing everyone. Thus, for example the Lebanese government has recently stated that it cannot support a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, but it will abide by international resolutions, irrespective of what it thought of them.[20]

For their part, the Syrians have never reconciled themselves to Lebanon's creation on what they perceive as part of their territory. They also resented Beirut's development during the French Mandate from a slumbering provincial city into a business, medical, and educational hub, and it did not take long for relations to sour after the French departed in 1946. In 1950, the Syrian regime unilaterally dissolved the bilateral customs union and instigated the practice of closing down passenger and trade routes at will. Since then, bilateral relations have been characterized by envy, suspicion, resentment, and hate. It took the entry of the Syrian army into Lebanon in 1976 to finally give the Damascus regime a sense of vindication. Damascus's hegemony in Lebanon lasted until 2005 when the Syrian army pulled out shortly after Hariri's assassination.

Given their intense involvement in Lebanese affairs, the Syrians could always count on Lebanese allies. Certainly, any government in Beirut, irrespective of its relations with Damascus, understands the inherent mindset of the regime, which views the Lebanese as unappreciative of the selfless sacrifices of the Syrians on their behalf. Because Syrian officials seem to believe that retribution follows ingratitude, their Lebanese counterparts have been especially careful to avoid incurring their wrath. This has been particularly the case since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in mid-March 2011. The simultaneous inception of the Syrian protests with the decision of the March 14 coalition to boycott the Miqati cabinet gave ammunition to Damascus's official claim that "the security of the two countries is inseparable."[21] The Bashar al-Assad regime immediately accused the Future Trend party of providing material support for anti-regime elements. The secretariat general of the March 14 coalition responded by issuing a denouncement of the Baath regime's "baseless accusations of intervention in Syrian affairs, including support for saboteur networks."[22]

There is no denying that many Lebanese, especially Sunni Muslims, have expressed jubilation about the Syrian uprising, criticizing the Miqati government's decision to refrain from providing relief for the thousands of refugees fleeing Syrian army reprisals. Tripoli MP Muhammad Kabbara urged the Lebanese people to take the side of the Syrian people: "I hurt because the brotherly Syrian people are subjected to a systematic massacre, and I am ashamed because we are letting them down. We are under history's watchful eye. We must take political, moral, and humanitarian action to lend support to the Syrian people."[23] As in most protest organizing in Arab countries, the mosques played a key role in galvanizing Lebanese support for the anti-Assad movement. One hundred Sunni clerics convened in a Tripoli mosque to "express solidarity with the glorious popular uprising in Syria and to condemn the brutality of the Assad regime against unarmed protesters." They took issue with the regime's "labeling of demonstrators as foreign lackeys."[24]

In response to a call by the militant Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party)[25] for a pro-rebel demonstration in downtown Beirut, Lebanon's Arab Youth Party (a Syrian intelligence creation with no active membership) organized a counter rally in support of Assad. Party head Nadim Shimali condemned the anti-Assad rally as a violation of the 1989 Ta'if agreement, which stipulated that Lebanon would not allow itself to provide a base for any force, state, or organization seeking to undermine Syria's security. He urged the Lebanese authorities to crack down on anti-Syrian activities, threatening that otherwise his party would be forced to take matters into its own hands.[26] "The security forces complied with Shimali's warning and ensured that no activity would take place in Beirut or Tripoli to support the Syrian protest movement," lamented a communiqué issued by Hizb al-Tahrir. "They threatened to prevent any show of support outside mosques. In contrast, the [Lebanese] authorities allowed a handful of the Syrian regime's gangsters to demonstrate."[27]

However, this complaint was not entirely true. The government tried to strike a middle-of-the-road approach to the Lebanese divide vis-à-vis the Syrian upheavals. Lebanon's open political system did not interfere with the free expression of opinion on the Syrian situation. The Phalange Party, for example, announced that its branches in northern Lebanon were providing humanitarian and social aid "to Syrian families seeking refuge there."[28] The Future Trend party and Islamist groups threw themselves into providing humanitarian aid to several thousand Syrian refugees despite protests by the Syrian government and Hezbollah on the grounds that the refugees included subversive elements. The Lebanese military simply pulled out from the border area and allowed the Syrian army to chase defectors while, at the same time, it did not attempt to prevent sympathetic Lebanese groups from providing them with shelter. The Beirut government did all within its power to minimize the damage to its relations with Damascus as a result of the strong support among most Lebanese for the Syrian uprising. Foreign Minister Adnan Mansur made it clear that Beirut would not vote in favor of a Security Council resolution condemning Damascus.[29] This position was hardly defensible or consistent given that Lebanon's ambassador to the U.N. had proposed that the Security Council implement a no-fly zone over Libya to protect its people from the excesses of the Qaddafi regime.

The spread of protests inside Syria coincided with the deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon, including several attacks against the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the south of the country. According to Fares Said, coordinator of the secretariat of the March 14 coalition, the surge of violence in Lebanon appears to be tied to statements from Damascus. Said was specifically alluding to the attacks on the French and Italian contingents in UNIFIL, the abduction of seven Estonians in the Bekaa Valley, and the Marun al-Ras incident where the Israelis opened fire on demonstrators who attempted to climb the border fence.[30] Indeed, Assad's cousin Rami Makhluf had warned that Israelis could not expect to live in peace while Syrians suffered from turmoil whereas Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem threatened that EU sanctions against Damascus were bound to have an adverse impact on Europe's security.[31]

Small wonder that the Assad regime exhibited anger at expressions of solidarity with the protesters, especially by the Lebanese armed forces and the Phalange. Phalange MP Nadim Jemayyil made a statement that particularly infuriated the Syrian regime: "We cannot but side with the Syrian people in their confrontation of the repressive and dictatorial regime. We are willing to open a new chapter with the Syrian people and join hands to build a new Middle East founded on freedom and democracy."[32] Assad's people expected nothing less than such statements as Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah asserted that Washington was punishing Damascus by promoting the Syrian protest movement "in order to settle historical scores with the country that has always stood on the side of the forces of opposition to Israeli and American occupation."[33]

President Assad seemed in no mood for advice, certainly not from mercurial Druze chief Jumblatt who exhorted him "to think differently and recognize his people's legitimate demands in order to prevent Syria from slipping into chaos." Speaking carefully to avoid triggering a defensive reaction, Jumblatt explained that "the best advice he could give to the Syrian president had to be motivated by truthfulness, and not flattery."[34] When the Druze leader would not cease his repeated calls on Assad to reform, the Syrian authorities finally informed him that he was unwelcome in Damascus.[35] For Assad, his late father's brutally repressive practices of the 1970s and 1980s appeared fully appropriate in the second decade of the twenty-first century. He may have believed that his Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts fell too soon because they did not use sufficient force to suppress the opposition. Among his many repressive measures, Assad instructed his Beirut ambassador Ali Abdulkarim to chase and apprehend Syrian enemies of the regime in Lebanon. Indeed, Abdulkarim was singled out for U.S. and EU sanctions for his role in abducting opposition members in collusion with Lebanese authorities.[36]

The Lebanese government clamped down on Syrian opposition in Lebanon because of heavy pressure by the Assad regime to do so. Yet it showed leniency in dealing with the anti-Assad Lebanese protesters. Members of the Syrian opposition in Lebanon are not part of the country's political process and can be readily controlled. Dealing with the Lebanese groups and sects, by contrast, is a different matter altogether as they have a veto power and can bring the country's political system to a standstill.

Rational Polemics

Lebanon is not a failed state. Though its self-steering capability is grossly wanting, it is perfectly capable of making waves. Its political system may be akin to a person paralyzed below the waist but with functioning arms and intact vocal abilities. The creation of Greater Lebanon may not have been an entirely happy historical accident, yet it appears to be quite capable of dealing with its disabilities. It cannot make its own sovereign decisions, but it can almost always modify them to fit the exigencies of its unique political formula. For some countries, controversy can be politically debilitating; in Lebanon, it is a means of survival.

Hilal Khashan is a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.

[1] An-Nahar (Beirut), Mar. 14, 2011.
[2] Ibid., Sept. 2, 2011.
[3] Al-Liwa (Beirut), Mar. 14, 2011.
[4] As-Safir (Beirut), Sept. 3, 2011.
[5] "No One Likes Them," Now Lebanon (Beirut), Sept. 15, 2011.
[6] Al-Hayat (London), Mar. 28, 2011.
[7] Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (Beirut), Feb. 9, 2010.
[8] As-Safir, Sept. 9, 2011.
[9] Al-Manar TV (Beirut), Mar. 21, 2011.
[10] An-Nahar, Mar. 5, 2011.
[11] Al-Jarida (Beirut), Mar. 6, 2011.
[12] An-Nahar, May 15, 2011.
[13] BBC World News, July 3, 2011.
[14] Ibid., July 29, 2011.
[15] As-Safir, July 4, 2011.
[16] As-Siyasa (Kuwait), Sept. 6, 2011.
[17] The Daily Star (Beirut), Sept. 12, 2011.
[18] An-Nahar, Sept. 3, 2011.
[19] Ukaz (Riyadh), Sept. 7, 2011.
[20] Ar-Rai (Kuwait), Oct. 4, 2011.
[21] Al-Jarida, May 28, 2011.
[22] An-Nahar, Apr. 21, 2011.
[23] Ibid., May 17, 2011.
[24] Al-Akhbar (Cairo), May 9, 2011.
[25] Committed to the reintroduction of the worldwide caliphate, this party rejects the existing order in all Arab and Islamic states and advocates its violent overthrow.
[26] The Daily Star, June 4, 2011.
[27] An-Nahar, June 4, 2011.
[28] Al-Anwar, May 27, 2011.
[29] As-Siyasa, Sept. 18, 2011.
[30] An-Nahar, May 29, 2011.
[31] Ibid.; al-Akhbar, Apr. 11, 2011.
[32] Al-Liwa, May 31, 2011.
[33] An-Nahar, May 9, 2011.
[34] Ibid., May 24, 2011.
[35] Al-Anba (Fallujah), Sept. 24, 2011.
[36] Ukaz, Sept. 7, 2011.

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