Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lee Harris - Palestinian's Moment of Truth

Without a doubt, Lee Harris's Civilization and Its Enemies is the most impressive book I have read in the last couple of years. The tome sprung from his incredibly well received essay 'Al-Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology'published in Policy Review. In short, Harris is probably the leading post 9/11 thinker out there. With relentless logic, which often lead to disturbing conclusions, he is certainly a man you want to pay attention to. His latest essay is no less impressive, the thesis being that the Palestinians, right now, are facing their moment of truth. I'll go over a couple of the grafs that stuck out to me, but the essay is pretty in depth, if you are at all interested in this subject, including the relative merits of legitimate and illegitimate terrorist warfare, and why the Palestinian model is different, this is a must must read.

He begins:
The Palestinian people stand at a critical moment in their history. They can rally behind the efforts of their new leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to bring an end to the Palestinian tradition of terror, or they can continue to give their support to those who are pursuing a fatal and futile fantasy -- a fantasy that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, both Israelis and Palestinians.

The fantasy in question is the fantasy that one day the so called "Zionist occupation" will end. And the reason it is a fantasy can be easily detected in the phrase "the Zionist occupation."

The state of Israel has long since ceased to be a Zionist project. Like it or not, Israel is a historical fait accompli, a state as real and genuine as any that has ever existed in history. If the Israeli people could have been run out of the area, they would have left long ago. Those who are there are seriously there. They aren't leaving in the future. That is why the Palestinian people have only one realistic choice before them: they must work in every way possible to eliminate the terror virus that was permitted to spread among them under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, especially now when the Palestinians at long last appear to have a leader who is trying to bring an end to Palestine's reign of terror.

Terrorism is a Palestinian tradition that must end. But in order to bring about this desperately needed change, not only must the Palestinian people cease to show sympathy with their indigenous terrorist organizations, so too must Westerners, both in Europe and in the United States. Sympathy with the Palestinian people is in order, but not sympathy for the institution that has held them back from all progress toward a genuinely responsible civic polity.

For that is what terrorism has become among the Palestinians -- it is their peculiar institution, the way slavery was the peculiar institution of the American South in the nineteenth century. For, like the slave system, terrorism, deployed as a means of achieving political goals, ends by poisoning the society that permits it to flourish in its midst. The only group that draws any advantage from its use are those who are ruthless enough to use it. Like slavery, it corrupts whatever it touches, and is of value only to those who live off it. Like slavery, it appears to be an institution that can only be destroyed by those who are willing to use extreme and drastic measures to eradicate it. And, lastly, like American slavery, Palestinian terrorism has its defenders, many of them decent and well-intentioned individuals. In what follows I will try to explain why these individuals are mistaken in extending their sympathy to organizations like Hamas and other "militant" Palestinian groups.
Surprisingly, Harris says that the West shares most of the blame for the "political triumph of Islamic terrorism." The only thing that surprised me more than this assertion was the persuasiveness with which he supports it:
....If the word "triumph" sounds premature or alarmist, ask yourself what nation state has had the impact on the geopolitical world order that the Islamic terrorists have had in the last half century. Without a navy or an air force or an army, without any of the paraphernalia of a normal nation state, a handful of terrorist organizations have managed to seize the center stage of world affairs, and have been deciding the fate of nations. They have all but shattered the international system of alliances upon which the Pax Americana depended; they have turned many of our former allies into current enemies; they have rallied fifth columnists within every Western democracy, including our own, to champion the cause of radical anti-Americanism; they have seduced the progressive Left into defending the most reactionary regimes in the world. They have turned one European election to their own purposes, and have thereby acquired a technique that can be all too easily applied to other elections, raising a question of the survivability of parliamentary democracy in the face of future coordinated terrorist strikes. They have put the governance of the United States on permanent hold by putting the fight against terrorism on top of our national agenda, where it will remain as long as the terrorists are willing to act to keep it there. In short, it is the terrorists who are calling the shots.
It certainly takes fewer resources to disrupt than to rule, the terrorists have exploited this fact to the fullest.

Skipping ahead, something that irks me to no end is the oft-repeated canard of 'violence begets violence' or some variation of that. Here's a little taste of Harris's deconstruction of that concept. (my emphasis)
You walk into my house and shoot my wife dead. I chase you out of the house and gun you down in the street. The next day your son kills me; and two days following my son kills your son.

Now here is a cycle of violence, and yet can there be any doubt who started this cycle? You did. True, I may have done things that, in your opinion, justified your violence; but provided I did not use physical violence against you or yours, then you were the first one to escalate to the deliberate use of violence.
So how could I have stopped the cycle of violence? Well, by not doing anything to you or your kin when you killed my wife.

But would this have stopped the cycle of violence? What if you came the next day and shot my son, and I still didn't use violence to avenge myself. In this case, is my refusal to stoop to the use of violence a factor promoting the end of violence, or an incentive to more violence on the part of the person who first decided to use it?
The "cycle of violence" is a cant phrase, like so many other cant phrases circulating today, in that it permits us to feel as if we have said something profound when in fact we are talking utter nonsense. Yes, violence, once begun, often breeds violence -- but, as history amply demonstrates, violence breeds violence no matter how the other party responds to it. Fighting violence breeds it, but so too does appeasing violence. Furthermore, massive and overwhelming violence, far from continuing the cycle of violence, often stops it in its tracks, like the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So what is the phrase "cycle of violence" good for? Well, for deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can be even-handed and fair-minded in our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since it is all just a cycle of violence, we do not need to take sides, or decide whose violence is justifiable. All violence is equally wrong, on this view; hence the role of the honest broker is to deplore both Israeli violence and Palestinian violence as if there were no difference between them.
But of course there is a difference between them as Harris explains. The Israeli's use violence in an attempt to prevent and punish terrorism, while the Palestinians use it to disrupt attempts at peaceful outcomes, and while it is impossible to try and determine 'who started it' it is quite obvious who is not trying to stop it.

Like I said, the essay goes into much more depth, including some historical comparisons and contrasts with the more Clausewitzian Algerian model of terrorism which was used to push out the French colonialists as comparisons to Tim McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Harris does the service of clarifying the often blury lens through which we try and view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Read the whole thing, as they say.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fisking a Favorite Columnist

I've been a huge Stephen Chapman fan since I discovered him 5-7 years ago. I've found myself in agreement with almost every one of his columns.... that was until the question of the Iraq war came up. Chapman is a big 'L' libertarian, and for reasons that I don't quite understand, Libertarians do not support the spread of liberty abroad. Rather they favor an isolationist Buchanan style foreign policy which I see as 'bury your head in the sand and hope nothing bad happens.' I used to lean that way, but I think the reality of 9/11 makes that position untenable. (I guess I am no longer a Libertarian.) That said, Chapman has at least done the service of providing a rational anti-war voice (as distinguished from the "it's all about the oil," American imperialism Michael Moore crowd.) At least, I thought so up until some of his more recent columns. This one from a week or so ago is still really irking me. It's too bad that a writer that has inspired me so much, is now inspiring such snarky comments. I never thought that I would be fisking Stephen Chapman, but here goes (his words blocked in italics)

Questionable Victory in the Middle East

Half a million demonstrators turned out in Beirut on Tuesday, waving flags and chanting slogans in a show of popular sentiment. But no, this was not the latest call by the Lebanese opposition for Syria to leave--this was a call for Syria to stay. And the rally was roughly seven times bigger than the latest anti-Syria protest.

All of a sudden Stephen Chapman puts a lot of stock in a demonstration organized by dictatorial regime, this despite the fact that many 'participants' were coerced and many others were ringers bused in from outside of Lebanon's borders. Yet he simply takes them at face value. I supposed that Chapman also believes that Saddam Hussein legitimately got 99.96% of the vote from the Iraqi population 2 years ago, and that the cheering crowds he was always shown amongst were truly sincere, rather than fearing death and torture. But even if it is simply numbers that count, then the demonstrations that represent so much reality for Chapman have since been trumped by another round of anti-Syrian protests this time 1,000,000 participants came out.

Maybe bringing democracy to the Arab world is going to be more complicated than we thought.

Who thought it would be easy? If it was easy and required little effort, then quite frankly we're a-holes for not doing it sooner.

Supporters of the war in Iraq have been crowing about the budding transformation of the Middle East, with democracy springing up everywhere thanks to President Bush's crusade in Iraq. Bush joined in the chorus this week, claiming that "a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction."

Apparently Chapman doesn't see it as critical that, for the first time, civil disobedience is actually achieving results in the Middle East. In the past protests of this sort would have been met with soldiers, tanks, torture, assassinations and rapes of family members of opposition leaders. (Remember Hama.) But with the world watching and 150,000 American troops on his border, Bashar Assad realizes that if he were to violently put down the protests, he would actually have to face some consequences. And even if the pro-Syrian demonstrations were 100% legitimate the fact that they responded with a counter-demonstration, rather than violence does qualify as progress "in hopeful new direction."

You can hardly blame them for looking at Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for heartening changes, since there haven't been many in the place where the transformation was supposed to start. But there's something delusional about claiming victory across the entire region when we haven't even come close to achieving victory in Iraq. It brings to mind the merchant who was selling a product below cost but planned to make up the losses on volume.

Huh? As they say, Democracy is a process, not an event. No one is claiming victory, only a hopeful new direction for the region. I'm not sure how anyone could argue that there haven't been many changes in the Middle Eastern dynamics over the last couple of years. Elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, protests in Egypt and Lebanon, and the election of a moderate president of Palestine doesn't sound like the status quo to me.

Yes, Iraq held an election on Jan. 30--though one that came about more because of the demands of Iraqi Shiites than because of the Bush administration, which was never in a hurry to allow a national plebiscite. The balloting, however, hasn't had a stabilizing effect.

Again, huh? So the removal of Saddam Hussein by the Bush administration wasn't a prerequisite? The Shi'ites only need to demand an election? The last time a Shi'ite cleric crossed Saddam he ended up watching his sister gang raped and then had nails driven into his head, just before his beard was set on fire and burned to death. But he only needed to demand elections?

Attacks on American and Iraqi security personnel have continued apace. More U.S. soldiers died in February 2005 than in February 2004. The deadliest single attack of the insurgency took place on Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber killed 125 people in the Shiite city of Hillah. Iraq still is teetering at the brink of civil war between the Shiites, who won the elections, and the Sunnis, who mostly declined to participate.

True, the insurgency didn't just give up, but lets wait a couple of months before we start spotting trends. They are still trying to foment civil war by slaughtering Iraqis, but it's not working. Local Iraqis are increasingly demonstrating and expressing their outrage towards the terrorists and the Shi'ites are talking of including the Sunnis into the political process. Not to mention that Iraq's provisional constitution is pretty well thought out and set up so as not to allow any one of the ethnic groups absolute power even if they win elections in overwhelming numbers. I read Iraq's provisional constitution, paid op-ed columnists probably should too.

Nor is it clear that the protests against Syria in Lebanon had much to do with events in Iraq. Many of the demonstrators, in fact, cited the inspiration of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution."

Wrong. It is clear that events in Iraq did provide some inspiration, as demonstrators themselves have acknowledged with placards thanking Bush as well as quotes like this, "we thank Mr. Bush for his position" and "We love the American people, please don't let Mr. Bush forget us." And perhaps most surprising is this quote from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt "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."

It's hard to argue that Bush deserves credit for the peaceful overthrow of Kiev's dictatorial regime--which was backed by Bush's soul mate, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose dismal human-rights record the administration has done its best to excuse.

This is perhaps the most intellectually dishonest piece of Chapman's column. The widely known fact is that the Bush administration was an opponent of Putin's puppet dictatorial regime in the Ukraine, and was a supporter of legitimate elections there - knowing that they would bring a Putin opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, to power. Oh and never mind that Putin was an incredibly outspoken critic of the Iraq war, oh and never mind that the administration has recently chided Russia over its retreat from Democratic reforms. This is hardly the relationship of "soul mates." If Chapman is unaware of such public disagreements between Putin and Bush then he is grossly underqualified to be writing op-ed pieces for the Chicago Tribune on international affairs. Or maybe he is deliberately misleading his readers because the actual facts don't quite support the picture he is peddling.

Maybe the most important event in the Middle East was the election of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority, which was unconnected to events in Iraq. It took place because Yasser Arafat died and because Palestinians saw they had a chance to improve their lives by turning away from violence.

Even there, though, it would be rash to bet that because of the advent of democracy, peace will settle over Israel and Palestine like a gentle snowfall. The 1991 gulf war helped to bring about the Oslo peace agreement--and look how that turned out.

The '91 Gulf War also left Saddam, Palestine's largest financial supporter, in power. And while Bush clearly did not do anything to push Arafat into the grave, he did refuse to deal with him - much to the dismay of the Euro-philes and the American left. This sent a clear message that the U.S., under this administration, would not negotiate with terrorists and that the Palestinians needed to find a political path other than the suicide bomb. Robbed of Saddam's financial support, and increasingly aware that the election of another terrorist would only lead to more dead bodies, the Palestinian's elected a moderate that may actually crack down on terror. While it is much too early to be optimistic on Israeli and Palestinian peace, it is a bit more than just dumb luck that events are moving in our favor.

Some of the signs of progress are very small signs at best. Saudi Arabia allowed municipal elections, with only men permitted to vote? It's not exactly the fall of the Berlin Wall. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he'll actually allow more than one candidate in next year's presidential election? Maybe he'll hold a real election, or maybe he'll pretend to.

What if Egypt were to let the people have their way? The United States has faithfully supported Mubarak because he's maintained peaceful relations with Israel. A government that represents popular opinion might be far more hostile to Israel and us. This may explain why the administration has preferred to focus its attention on the need for human-rights progress in, well, Lebanon.

Feudalism to capitalism used to take centuries, the Arab world is suddenly moving at a much faster clip than that. Trying to fight the war on terror by spreading democracy in the Middle East was certainly a risk, but if fighting a successful war against terrorism requires taking no risks, then we should simply surrender now and hope for the best. Obviously we don't yet know how this will turn out, but that is why it is called risk taking and not sure thing taking. If Chapman knows of a risk free option guaranteed to make the world more humane and safer, then he is the only one, and he ought to share it with the rest of us.

Even if going to war in Iraq turns out to have some positive effects on neighboring countries, it has had a host of negative effects on us. We've had more than 1,500 American service people killed and more than 11,000 wounded. The price tag is now close to $300 billion. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said last summer that the United States may have to keep 145,000 troops in Iraq for another five years.

Even if we're willing to bear that burden, we may not be able. The U.S. military finds itself running short of the recruits it needs. The general in charge of the Army Reserve has said the demands of Iraq are threatening to reduce it to a "broken force." We face a bigger and harder war in Iraq than the Bush administration ever imagined, and there is no end in sight.

During the Vietnam War, one senator said we should declare victory and leave. This time, Bush has decided to declare victory and stay.

I was wondering when the tired obligatory Vietnam comparison would hit. Of course there will be costs incurred, but what about the benefits? Democracies do not war with other democracies, to the contrary they engage in trade, they increase each other's wealth. Could anyone with an ounce of economic literacy dispute the fact that we and the world are significantly better off because we have former imperialist threatening nations like Japan and Germany as peaceful trading partners? If there is ever going to be open tolerant societies in the Arab world the process needs to start at some point. We could wait another 10 or 50 years and watch another handful of Middle Eastern kleptocrats make millions of dollars as another million or so corpses pile up, or we could make a push for change now. Tolerance and the rule of law probably won't sweep the region immediately, but they do require a starting point.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Forgiveness and Guilt: Retreat from Evil II

I emailed Wretchard and asked him to elaborate on his comments that I excerpted in my below post, here's what he said:
That's the saddest thing about guilt. It really is our fault and we know this because we accuse ourselves of it. There's a retarded guy who lives down the street. He doesn't have this guilt and never will. Those who genuinely cannot reproach themselves really don't have a problem. Sarte once said, "we are condemned to be free", by which he meant in part that we are condemened to be responsible. The Left offers one way out of this dilemma by creating the machinery of historical determinism. There is always something else to blame. Today it is called America but it would have another name if America didn't exist. It's a comforting thought, but it isn't true. Rachel Corrie thought herself righteous for supporting Palestinian 'militants'. The news yesterday reported her parents are suing Israel for running her over and Caterpiller for making the bulldozer. It is the Caterpillar part that is really revealing. I often ask myself whether I would have the guts to shoot someone running towards a schoolbus with a bomb even if that person were a retarded child -- or whether I would ask someone else to do it. A Down's syndrome boy was used as a suicide bomber not long ago. I would shoot him, I hope. And hope for forgiveness.

Regards, W.

Perhaps this is why so many on the left did not want Saddam deposed, because with it comes responsibility and of course guilt. This was revealed in an email debate I was having with a lefty war opponent for whom I have a lot of respect. I said something along the lines of 'no matter what happens, Hussein killed more Iraqis than we ever will,' he responded with "yes, but now we are the one's doing the killing." So it's not the dead bodies that matter, but where the fault lies. It might be comforting to write off Hussein types as simply a result of 'historical determinism' and turn away, but there is nothing moral about that. And while I do feel the sting of guilt when I hear about the deaths of coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians, I can live with it. Because ignoring the death cult of the Middle East and leaving a tyrant like Saddam in power while pretending that he is not doing unimaginable things to human beings on a daily basis is worse.

Obviously not everyone feels that way, as we (America) have been constantly learning. Even when we use violence in a good cause, it appears the fact that we use violence at all is enough to undermine said good cause in the eyes of many. In the case of Iraq we are using violence with the hope of improving the fate of an entire people by eliminating those who threaten their peace and stability. As the violence escalates in response to the brutality of the enemy, we come face to face with Wretchard's dilemma where the 'devil defeats the prospect of free moral lunch.' Either we continue using violence until those demonic head hackers are finally defeated, or we simply stop (or never start) and abandon those who desperately need help to those with the least scruples about using brutality to advance their own objectives.

Neither of these choices are particularly attractive, but reality is not dependent on our acceptance of it - this is the world we face. If you want to see what the second 'non-intervention' option looks like, you need only to look to Hitler's Germany, Rwanda in 1994, Saddam's first 30 years in power, or the Sudan today. I'll leave the reader to make the personal decision as to which choice is more forgivable as I know mine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Retreat from Evil

I've been oh so busy lately and I have a couple of half completed posts that I'd love to complete in the near future. Unfortunately I don't get paid to blog so Freedom's Fidelity has to take a back seat to my day job.... sometimes. So here is some quite thoughtful musings from Wretchard to fill up your mind. If you'll recall, the Phillipino government withdrew its troops from Iraq (and paid a hefty ransom) to effect the release of a Filipino hostage. If you understand that people respond to incentives, then you probably won't be surprised to learn that another Filipino hostage has been taken in Iraq. In that context, Wretchard asks the question:
How far does one have to retreat from evil to be truly safe? A letter writer to Michael Totten brought the inescapability of confronting evil home when he asked if Mr. Totten would rule out torture if the safety of his own child depended on applying it. Mr. Totten allowed it was a hard question; and yet the question was the right one to ask. Any real opposition to torture would be unwavering even if it involved sacrificing our own children. Volunteering those of others doesn't count. Ivan Karamazov famously asked Alyosha whether he would accept the edifice of Paradise if it were built upon the suffering of a single innocent child; Alyosha replied that he would not. Yet there are any number who would maintain a principled opposition to war, torture or hostage payments at the expense of the suffering of innocents. Did Saddam throw people into woodchippers? Regrettable but better that than violate the principle of collective international action. Are Blacks being massacred in Darfur? Sad, but unilateralism is worse. Surely the price of maintaining the no-ransom policy isn't worth the life of a Filipino hostage? Here the devil defeats the prospect of a free moral lunch. Not paying ransom kills, but paying it kills too. Breese Bull of the Washington Post takes it personally whenever ransom (a.k.a. 'go buy an IED') money is paid to 'insurgents'.
As a foreigner here, I feel threatened by the possibility that the Italian government may have rewarded the kidnappers. But Iraq is not about us foreigners. It is about Iraqis. And it is Iraqis who suffer most from kidnappings and from the transportation of the artillery shells and anti-tank mines that become roadside devices and car bombs. Kidnapping Iraqis has become an almost routine business transaction here. ... But since the Sgrena shooting, I've already sensed even greater reluctance to set up these dangerous checkpoints.

A long time ago I personally came to the conclusion that there was no way to live on earth without the stain of guilt, maybe the concept of Original Sin was a rueful recognition of this condition. Yet there is perhaps the chance that one may leave the earth forgiven. But that is another story.
This is getting awfully philosophical, but I am not so sure that one needs to seek forgiveness for an Original Sin he is destined to commit. This is not an easy thing to wrap one's brain around.

Update: Part II of this post is here.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

He's Back!

This is some good news. Brett Favre is coming back to play at least one more season for the Green Bay Packers.

“It came down to his wife and she’s doing well in her recovery,” Sherman said. “She wants him to play. He said he’s looking forward to playing — hopefully without any off-the-field situations and ’enjoying the journey.“’

The three-time MVP said after the Packers’ playoff loss to Minnesota in January that he wanted to reflect before committing to playing a 15th NFL season following a year of personal tumult.

His wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, a week after the death of her 24-year-old brother in an ATV accident on the quarterback’s property in Mississippi.

And Favre was still dealing with the stunning news of Reggie White’s death on the day after Christmas, which came about a year after the death of Favre’s father, Irv, from a heart attack.

“After the season, he just needed to think about some things,” Sherman said. “Any man would have to contemplate his future when his wife is fighting cancer. It’s not like he had to work to make money. He didn’t want to be a part-time husband and a part-time football player. It came down to his wife. If she’s not healthy, it’s obviously a different ballgame. But now she’s doing good. She wants him to play.”
I was lucky enough to see Barry Sanders play in person a few times in my life and of course growing up in Chicago allowed me to see the dominating, once in a generation artistry of Michael Jordan up close. There are so few athletes that climb to that class of the elite of the elites and when they leave the game, I have that sunken feeling - The game will never be this exciting again.

Well, for at least one more year, it will be.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What Success Looks Like

I was going to post this quote from a Time Magazine interview with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad:
WASHINGTON - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, under pressure to withdraw troops from Lebanon, insisted he should not be compared to Saddam Hussein and that he wanted to cooperate with international demands, according to an interview released Sunday.

...At the end of the interview, which was conducted last week, Assad said: "Please send this message: I am not Saddam Hussein. I want to cooperate."

I was going to talk about the obvious causation that exists here, but Vinod beat me to it and said it better than I would have. So go read his post and see my comments I left there.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

History on the Move

After reading Francis Fukuyama's The End of History, I couldn't help but notice this quote: (via InstaPundit)

Syrian opposition figures Tuesday hailed the fall of the Damascus-backed government in Beirut under the weight of mass street protests as a possible catalyst for democratic change in their own country. . . .

"A Syrian withdrawal is inevitable. History is on the move and nobody can halt its progress," said Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay. He said Lebanon was now playing the role of "engine for change" in the region.

"I welcome this promising democratic change which will have a contagious effect on the Syrian hinterland and be of benefit for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples," said Amiralay
Hmmmm..... Seems everyone wants to jump on the engine for change Iraqi bandwagon.

And then there is all of this from that I'm pasting directly from NormBlog:

Voices from yesterday's demonstration in Beirut:

Mario Saad, 18, said: "Today we are calling for the government's resignation. Even, if the parliamentary procedures fail, the people have made their choice; they want a government free of foreign influence."

"We are all together here to say that we have had it," said Myriam Khoury and Danielle Kattar, both 24. Kattar added: "We came here to express our opinion, and no one can intimidate us anymore."

Khoury said: "We have had enough of being governed by incompetent people. We deserve to be represented by a new political class that stands for us."

"Al-Hamdulillah (Thank God) we are re-writing history," said Hassan Abu-Ali, 79, who came all the way from Aramoun, in Mount Lebanon. "I will finally see my country free before I die."

And it ain't over till it's over:

Beirut (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters waving Lebanese flags returned to central Beirut Tuesday to demand Syria leave Lebanon as the United States and France offered to help the country hold free elections.

Thousands of demonstrators turned a square in Beirut into a sea of Lebanese flags Monday night and exploded into riotous celebration when the government unexpectedly quit after a parliament debate on Hariri's killing.

The jubilant protesters left in the early hours of Tuesday only for a few hundred to return hours later, vowing to keep up their street protests until Syrian troops left the country.

"Our hopes are growing regarding Syria's exit after the resignation of the government," Patrick Risha, a 22-year-old political science student told Reuters at Martyrs' Square. "This encourages us to stay here and continue our protest."

Then there's this:

Newspapers in Lebanon have greeted the fall of the government on Monday as a historic moment and proof of people power on the streets of Lebanon.

The opposition movement in Lebanon has been inescapable on Arab TV stations, which have brought the dramatic events of the past two weeks since the assassination of the country's former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, live into millions of Arab homes.

[W]ith Arab satellite stations focusing so intensely on Lebanon, there is little chance that the symbolism of the opposition's victory has been lost on the wider Arab world, including Syria.

Arab newspapers are weighing up the possible knock-on effect of events in Lebanon on other Arab states, asking whether it is the precursor of the spread of genuine democracy across the region.
History is on the move, and this movement is only happening because we said the status quo of containing dictators in the Middle East is an absolute failure. Too many times in the past we appeased dictators and only emboldened the dictators. Now, we've taken a stand for democracy and, for the first time in the Middle East have emboldened the democrats.

Hence, the reason for optimism about the Lebanese situation is, rather than the retaliatory suicide bombing, they engaged in peaceful protest.... and it was effective.

The Belmont Club offers some insight on the new challenges ahead.
'Militant' groups have often attempted to stabilize the front whenever events threatened to take a direction which they could not control. This usually took the form of a spoiling terrorist attack to re-mire things in blood, chaos and hatred as often happened during negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It would not be surprising if the terror masters fell back on this old repertoire by staging attacks directed not only at Middle Eastern targets but at the United States to throw back the threatening psychological wave. The problem is that there is no longer any widespread confidence, even in the places like Lebanon, that terror tactics will prevail. To that extent even the most heinous attacks, like the carbomb which recently killed more than 100 in Iraq, have lost their bite. Psychologically speaking, the greatest contribution of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns is that they have shattered terrorism's myth of invincibility. The terrorists embarked on a maximum effort to dislodge the US from Iraq, employing every weapon of violence, political maneuver and propaganda they could muster and came up much the worse for wear. This lesson has not been lost to public perception and has emboldened dissidents all across the region.

The real challenge will be to find ways to respond to the campaign of spoiling terror which may be forthcoming. Unlike Iraq, where US forces can respond directly to challenge, the problem will be the ability of the US to affect events over the wider region in clandestine or indirect ways. Tempo is America's friend, but the enemy is even now looking for a place to stem the rot.

It was a terrorist attack, the suicide murder of Rafik Hariri, that pushed Lebanon beyond the tipping point, and it was actually the terror attacks of 9/11 that set this whole big democracy wave across the Middle East in motion. In the ultimate irony, Osama and his henchmen may yet go down in history as martyrs.... for democracy.


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