Current events in Lebanon, says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “remind me of the Berlin wall.”
It’s no wonder: Rice is a Sovietologist. A major part of her academic career was formulated during the Cold War.
It’s understandable that the images, however fascinating, of the masses storming the Lebanese parliament and forcing Omar Karami’s government to quit, remind her of the good old days when the Berlin Wall fell.
Who doesn’t want to resemble President Reagan, who went down in history for his “tear down this wall” speech.
Since the war of civilizations has taken center stage, there has been an ongoing debate as to who’s right (or alternately, who is more arrogant and more dangerous).
There are thoses who assert that certain peoples – the Arabs – in this case – have a different culture, that democracy in its Western context is not considered their highest form of expression, and therefore any attempt to force such a democracy on them will end in a catastrophe.
And then there are those who believe we should not think there are backward people in the world, that democracy isn’t good for them. They seek to help the Lebanese or the Egyptians to reach a point that would expose them to the prosperity of the West.
President Bush and his administration are clearly situated in the former camp.
That’s also the essence of Nathan Sharansky’s book, the one Bush has constantly been praising lately.
Either way, both sides are ignoring for convenience sake, the fact that many of the Arab states, including Iraq and Lebanon, are the artificial creation of colonial occupiers.
Britain and France, who divided the Middle East between them after World War I, delineated borders as they saw fit, penning in minority groups with a history of bloodshed among themselves.
The civil war in Lebanon is the outcome of the decision to house Christians, Druze, Sunis and Shiites under one political roof.
Iraq has three large communities – Sunis, Shiites and Curds – with growing tension among them.
There’s a good chance what Rice termed “the falling of the wall” will in fact lead these countries to chaos.
It won’t necessarily happen because the Arabs don’t understand what democracy is.
That’s exactly what happened in a place Rice knows all too well, east Europe and the Balkans. There too, countries artificially created by the willpower of superpowers fell apart after fighting each other in bloody wars.
There were cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing and border disputes as well, some of which are still going on today.
It’s not that the communist dictatorship would have been a better option, and clearly Sadam’s dictatorship or the Syrian occupation are not any better than the current or future situation in Iraq or Lebanon.
Let’s leave aside the dispute in Israel’s top echelons and defense establishment on whether it’s in Israel’s interest for the Syrians to leave Lebanon (some security sources such as head of the national security council Giora Eiland said they believe the Syrians are a stabilizing factor on the northern border).
The argument is only against the simplistic rejoicing of the Bush administration’s comparison of dissimilar situations, and handing the world out equal judgment according to American standards, just by the strength of their military force.
In the end, it won’t be the Americans paying the price if the new order in Iraq or Lebanon collapses with a big bang.