March 1, 2005

Democracy in Lebanon!

What could be more wonderful!

Except that there already was democracy in Lebanon from 1943 to 1975, and it broke down because the demography changed. The Christians had been the richest and biggest group in 1943, followed by the Sunnis, so the Christians had the most power and the Sunnis the second position. Life was nice - Beirut was a tourist town. But the backward Shi'ites were fast growing, as were Walid Jumblatt's Druze, and they both wanted more power. Then the Palestinians showed up, having gotten kicked out of Jordan by King Hussein. And so a decade and a half of civil war started in 1975.

Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon tried invading in 1982, without really mentioning it to the rest of the cabinet, kind of like Rumsfeld invading Mexico on his own say-so. There was dancing in the streets as the Israelis advanced, but then it all bogged down and Israel got stuck in Lebanon for 18 years before going home. So then the US sent troops to help make peace, but after awhile, for reasons that almost nobody can remember now, but which no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time, the U.S.S. New Jersey battleship spent much of 1983 shelling Jumblatt's Druze villages. Eventually, Reagan decided this wasn't such a good idea, and we went home. And the Lebanese kept shelling each other for eight more years, until the Syrians won, and the killing finally stopped.

So, has the demography of Lebanon improved over the last 30 years? Have the proportion of middle class, Western-oriented, modern, moderate folks in Lebanon increased? Not exactly. A huge fraction of the Christian population has left. The big birthrate had been among the rural Shi'ites, the people represented by the ferociously anti-Israeli, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, so presumably they will be much stronger if another vote is held. But, then, that apparently is our Grand Strategy in the Middle East, at least this month: to build up Iran's power, at least until we decide to attack Iran as part of next month's Grand Strategy.

My homepage and blog is

No comments: