Friday, February 18, 2005

The Hills of Lebanon

Reader DL sends a link to a Fouad Ajami article describing the effect of the Hariri assasination in the context of the history of Lebanon. Read the whole thing. But here are some excerpts.

A great, pitiless hoax was played on Lebanon. A country that had known the crosscurrents of the world, a place of culture -- French culture in east Beirut and the mountains, American culture on the western seaboard -- was to pass into the control of the conquering army of a brutal, backward regime. The Syrians had usages for Lebanon: There was money there for the Syrian kleptocracy, opportunities for drug dealings and contraband, a border from which the Syrians could wage intermittent little wars and deeds of terror against Israel, while maintaining the most quiet of borders on the Syrian-Israeli front.

Truth be known, this steady encroachment on Lebanon was aided and abetted by the silence of the world. In one of those astonishing changes, the Syrian arsonists had come to be seen as the fire brigade of a volatile Lebanese polity. A generation ago, the Pax Americana averted its gaze from the Syrian destruction of the last vestige of Lebanon's independence: In 1990-91, America had acquiesced when the Syrians put down the rebellion of a patriotic Lebanese officer, Michel Aoun, whose cause represented the devotion of the Christian Maronites to the ancestral independence of their country. That was the price paid by President George Herbert Walker Bush for enlisting Syria in the coalition that waged war against Saddam Hussein for his grab of Kuwait. Pity the Lebanese: They had cedars, Kuwait had oil. We would restore Kuwait's sovereignty as we consigned the Lebanese to their terrible fate in that big Syrian prison.

And remember, Assad was Hussein writ small.