Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Democracy Update

The Cedar Revolution is swelling, says the ever-excellent Claudia Rosset (she exposed the UN's Oil-for-Food fraud), writing from Beirut for the NY Sun:
Following the American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the massive Iraqi election turnout this past January, the balance is shifting in the Arab world. In Lebanon, which has emerged over the past month as the new frontline of change, Hariri's death - which many blame on Syria - was not the prime cause. It was more, as one opposition member puts it, "the drop of water that finally burst the dam." The truth these protesters are after goes well beyond finding out who, precisely, set up the bomb blast that in killing Hariri blew out windows and shut down buildings still under repair hundreds of yards from the crater.

After a generation spent as a ward of totalitarian Syria, after a long string of murders and disappearances that continued even after the Civil War ended in 1990, after years in which the Baathist apparatus of Syria has wound its way deep into Lebanese politics and cast a long shadow over daily life, many Lebanese want the truth that comes with living in a free society.

"Something magnificent is being done in Lebanon. It is being reborn," says parliamentarian Muhammad Kabbani, a member of the late Hariri's party, and one of more than 10,000 protesters who gathered in Beirut's Martyrs' Square this past Saturday to hold up red, white, and green placards to make a huge, human Lebanese flag. One of the organizers of the protest, Alain Lahoud - an anti-Syrian cousin of the country's pro-Syrian president - provides a tour of the demonstrators' graffiti, including a trash can on which someone has scrawled the name of the head the Syrian intelligence service in Lebanon, inviting him to deposit himself within. "They have broken the wall of fear," says Mr. Lahoud "They are tasting freedom."
The pro-democracy rally was far larger than the Syrian/Hizbollah thug convention last week. And Publius Pundit says, "The protests carried into last night, with the entire camp holding a candlelight vigil." National Review Online posted Walid Phares's round-up of the protests and probable reactions.

NRO also has several photos of the crowd, as does Publius Pundit (scroll down). The Lebanon Daily Star shows the demonstrators forming a human version of the Lebanese flag:

Cedar Power (click to enlarge)

Even more promising, the opposition's already locked up the "babe vote."

Freedom (click to enlarge)

Choice (click to enlarge)

Though most U.S. lefties remain enveloped in Bush-hatred, the AP confirms the opposition is inspired by America:
A line of people in the square carried a 100-yard-long white-and-red Lebanese flag with the distinct green cedar tree in the middle, shaking it up and down and shouting, "Syria out."

Protesters chanted "Truth, freedom, national unity!" or "We want only the Lebanese army in Lebanon!"

"Syria out, no half measures," read a banner, borrowing from President Bush's description of Damascus' gradual withdrawal from this country of 3.5 million.
And support for Bush's policies is mushrooming--even in the Arab world, says Youssef Ibrahim in Sunday's WaPo:
Listen to the conversations in the cafes on the edge of the creek that runs through this Persian Gulf city, and it is hard to believe that the George W. Bush being praised by Arab diners is the same George W. Bush who has been widely excoriated in these parts ever since he took office.

Yet the balmy breeze blowing along the creek carries murmurs of approval for the devoutly Christian U.S. president, whose persistent calls for democracy in the Middle East are looking less like preaching and more like timely encouragement.

Nowadays, intellectuals, businessmen and working-class people alike can be caught lauding Bush's hard-edged posture on democracy and cheering his handling of Arab rulers who are U.S. allies. Many also admire Bush's unvarnished threats against Syria should it fail to pull its soldiers and spies out of Lebanon before the elections there next month -- a warning the United Nations reinforced last week with immediate effects. For Bush, it is not quite a lovefest but a celebration nonetheless.

"His talk about democracy is good," an Egyptian-born woman was telling companions at the Fatafeet (or "Crumbs") restaurant the other night, exuberant enough for her voice to carry to neighboring tables. "He keeps hitting this nail. That's good, by God, isn't it?" At another table, a Lebanese man was waxing enthusiastic over Bush's blunt and irreverent manner toward Arab autocrats. "It is good to light a fire under their feet," he said.

From Casablanca to Kuwait City, the writings of newspaper columnists and the chatter of pundits on Arabic language satellite television suggest a change in climate for advocates of human rights, constitutional reforms, business transparency, women's rights and limits on power. And while developments differ vastly from country to country, their common feature is a lifting -- albeit a tentative one -- of the fear that has for decades constricted the Arab mind.
Remember this when a dyspeptic Democrat insists he knows what's best for Arabs. They also know what's best for Americans, implemented through a far-reaching and expensive nanny state. Ronald Reagan neatly summarized the Democrats' approach on domestic issues:
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
According to Michael Barone:
The Democrats' problem is that they have proceeded for years with a goal of moving America some distance toward a Western European welfare state. Just how far, they have not had to decide. But . . . Europe [is] a failing model: high unemployment, stalled economies and the welfare state in retreat. . . For now, Democrats are facing the fact that general arguments for a larger welfare state just doesn't seem attractive to most voters.
Since Vietnam, leftist foreign policy has oscillated between the null set, premature surrender and, most recently, "just say no." New Republic's Peter Beinart proposed to purge Democrats against the global war on terrorism--and got no takers other than his boss. And Kerry's famous "global test" would condition supporting democracy in Lebanon on obtaining a note from President Assad. (Senator Lieberman, to his credit, might forge a permission slip.)

At home and abroad, the odds of the left getting it right are worse than a coin toss. The new Deaniacs promise change--they won't quit until their winning percentage drops below a stopped clock. Luckily, the Lebanese pro-democracy opposition was dealt President Bush as an ace in the hole.

(via Instapundit, Publius Pundit and LGF)


Mark at Decision08 links Time Magazine's one-sentence summary of Lebanon: "[Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah is concerned that Lebanon will move into the U.S. orbit and face pressure to sign a peace treaty with Israel." Apparently there's a two-for one sale on peace in the middle-East--call it a "Red state light special."

Still More:

Jay Tea at Wizbang points to a pro-democracy protester guaranteed to make a big impression.

More and More:

NRO's The Corner prints an email from Lebanon:
Thanks Claudia for your article on March 15, 2005: “Million Lebanese Stage Massive retort to Terrorists,” NY Sun.

I am the woman who held high the poster “Thank’s Free World” (sic). Sorry for the spelling.

From all my heart please let me repeat this again and again:

“Thanks Free World”

“Thanks Free World”

“Thanks Free World”

“Thanks Free World”

“Thanks Free World”

“Thanks Free World”

Yours truly,

Rawya Okal

Galleries of babe photos here and here.

(via Publius Pundit)

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