Day By Day

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lebanon -- The Bush Revolution Spreads

David Ignatius had a great piece in the WaPo on his recent experiences in Lebanon; they have inspired him. He writes:
BEIRUT -- "Enough!" That's one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri's grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.
This is a movement that transcends mere religious and ethnic distinctions. Ignatius describes the mourners at the grave of martyred former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri:
A crowd was still gathered at Hariri's resting place well after midnight early yesterday. Thousands of candles -- many bearing Christian icons, others Muslim designs -- flickered in a semicircle around the grave and melted together into a multicolored patina of wax. Mourners have written angry messages in Arabic on a nearby wall denouncing Syria....
He recounts conversations with student demonstrators:
They talk like characters in "Les Miserables," but their revolutionary bravado is the sort of force that can change history. "We have nothing to lose anymore. We want freedom or death," says Indra Hage, a young Lebanese Christian. "We're going to stay here, even if soldiers attack us," says Hadi Abi Almouna, a Druze Muslim. "Freedom needs sacrifices, and we are ready to give them."
And in case you missed the point:
"It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."
As I pointed out in an earlier post the key figure in this opposition is Walid Jumblatt, long an anti-American accommodationist, who has soured on the Syrian occupation and was inspired by what took place in Iraq. Ignatius writes with wonder:
Over the years, I've often heard him [Jamblatt] denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative....
He continues:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Read the whole thing here.

David Ignatius, now back in the US, was on TV yesterday talking about his amazement at what he saw in Iraq and Lebanon. Here is a major figure in Washington's journalist community, long recognized as an expert on the Middle East, who has covered the beat for years. He, in other words, personifies the conventional wisdom of Washington's policy elite, with all its worldly cynicism, negativity, and passion for order and management.

These are the very people who for four years have been telling the public that Bush is naive, impulsive, dangerous... you know the tune. And these are the people who, in league with Democrat leaders, have been trying to impede Bush's policies. But the experience of recent months have finally made Ignatius a believer. He now gets it. He's beginning to discern the contours of what President Bush has set in motion. The Bush Revolution is transforming the way people think and act in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, the entire Middle East, even some in Europe... and maybe, just maybe, it will have a lasting effect on the culture of cynicism that prevails inside the Washington beltway. The World will be a better place for what President Bush is doing; perhaps Washington will be too.

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