Skip to comments.Glorious 'catastrophe' in the Middle East
Posted on 03/04/2005 12:57:31 AM PST by Eurotwit
There's an obscure branch of mathematics known as "catastrophe theory," which looks at how a small perturbation in a previously stable system can suddenly produce dramatic change. A classic example of the theory is the way a bridge, after bearing immense weight for many years, can suddenly collapse because of a new stress.
We are now watching a glorious catastrophe take place in the Middle East. The old system that had looked so stable is ripping apart, with each beam pulling another down as it falls. The sudden stress that produced the catastrophe was the American invasion of Iraq two years ago. But this Arab power structure has been rotting at the joints for a generation. The real force that's bringing it down is public anger.
It's hard not to feel giddy watching the dominoes fall. In Lebanon, "people power" forced the resignation Monday of Syria's puppet government; in Egypt, the Pharaonic Hosni Mubarak agreed Saturday to allow other candidates to challenge his presidency for life; in Iraq, the momentum of January's election is still propelling the nation forward, despite bickering politicians and brutal suicide bombers.
But catastrophic change is dangerous, even when it's bringing down a system people detest. This is not a time for American triumphalism, or for gloating and lecturing to the Arabs. That kind of arrogance got us into trouble in Iraq during the first year of occupation. It was only when Iraqis began to take control of their own destinies that this project began to go right. The same rule holds for Lebanon, Egypt and the rest. America can help by keeping on the pressure, but it's their revolution.
Here are some warning flags about challenges ahead. My list is drawn from conversations this week with Arabs who are part of the new revolution. They worry that Washington, in its current giddy mood, may miss the danger signs.
The crucial issue for Lebanon is the role of Hizbullah. This Shiite militia is the best-organized political force in the country, and it's now at a crossroads. Hizbullah cannot remain the "A Team" of terrorism and also help build a new democracy in Lebanon. An encouraging sign is that the party's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, met quietly Monday night in Beirut with Samir Franjieh, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy opposition. They discussed a possible deal whereby Hizbullah would agree to disarm its militia and join a new government, so long as that government wasn't openly anti-Syrian and Hizbullah was allowed to keep its "resistance" squads. That's a steep price, but getting Hizbullah inside the tent of political change might be worth it.
For Syria's leaders, the issue is survival. Until recently, Syrian strategists had been telling me about their "sandwich strategy" for squeezing America in Iraq between a Syrian-backed insurgency and Iranian pressure. Now it's Damascus that's in the sandwich, and there are signs that President Bashar Assad realizes his best hope for survival lies with the United States. That's one of the benefits of catastrophic change: In the ensuing chaos, each player has to worry he will be sold out by its allies. Hizbullah must fear that Assad is about to cut a deal with America; meanwhile, Assad must worry that Nasrallah will make a deal first.
The biggest danger of all is Iran's bid to manipulate the new government in Iraq. Already, there are signs of its influence. The ambitious Ahmed Chalabi announced he was quitting the race for prime minister last month, reportedly the day after he met with Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, who apparently warned him to step back. That's scary; so is the recent demand by the head of the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade that he be given the post of interior minister. To check Iran's influence in Baghdad, the United States must make clear its "red lines." The chief American demand should be that the key security portfolios of defense, interior and intelligence must remain in friendly Iraqi hands.
An interesting idea for squeezing Iran comes from an Iraqi Sunni leader named Mithal Alusi, who's visiting Washington this week. He suggests inviting dissident Iranian Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri to the holy city of Najaf to explain his view that political rule by mullahs is incompatible with Islam. That would make Tehran think twice about meddling in Iraq.
There's no stopping the Middle East's glorious catastrophe now that it has begun. We are careening around the curve of history, and it's useful to remember a basic rule for navigating slippery roads. Once you're in the curve, you can't hit the brakes. The only way for America to keep this car on the road is to keep its foot on the accelerator.
I doubt the new leaders of Lebanon would make that deal, at least I would hope.
It could happen.
They practice deceptive moves a lot in the ME.
They should just crush Hezbollah after the Syrians leave.... although I would not doubt the Syrians would only leave after they get some killing done
Here actually France could play a constructive role. Their moral bankrupt stand to not yet have listed Hisbollah as a terrorist organisation could prove to be a useful tool to pressure Hisbollah into behaving.
Act up, and you're on the list.
Just finished Googling "Revolution" with other combinations of Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Islam, etc. There is an explosion of articles since Lebanon's recent events, centering on (re)birth of democracy. Exciting reading.
Oh, believe me, I know. I deal with them in business on a daily basis. I have come to hate the phrase "Insh'Allah," and all of its derivatives for example. LOL
But we're winning this war. At least the one in Iraq.
Now, when I hear the thumps and booms, I mutter "Give it up, creeps. You're losing and you know it."
It's going to calm down eventually. It is working; it's just going to take a little more time. The Iraqi mindset is changing.
We are careening around the curve of history . . .
I like that line.
"Once you're in the curve, you can't hit the brakes. The only way for America to keep this car on the road is to keep its foot on the accelerator."
Bush has his foot on the accelerator; Kerry, the dims, and the MSM have their feet on the brakes.
Since the author won't say it, I will...this is all President Bush's fault! Without his leadership, none of these things would be happening. The left is trying hard to paper over that crucial fact, just as they still choke on the idea that President Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. I hope to see the day when one honest leftist writer will give both these great presidents their due, but I won't hold my breath.
Pigs are flying out of Dan Schorr's butt, so anything's possible...
No reason they can't do both.
Much of diplomacy is saying "nice doggie!", while looking for a rock.
And bravo to you! Thanks for what y'all are doing over there.
And regarding "Insh'Allah", I bet you'll have little patience for "mañana" upon your return. ;-)
LOL - funny you shuld mention that. I worked on a big project in Argentina from 1998 - 2001. (Didn't live there - just went down there a lot.) I hated the "mañana" thing. When it's my job to get things delivered to places on time, the "mañanas" and "insh'Allahs" can drive you crazy. ;-)
Why? 1983. 241 Marines killed. Hezbollah is the perpetrator.
(insert devils advocate face here) True, it was an attack on a military target, and I cannot deny that our leaders of the time did not understand the enemy, hence this tragedy.
(remove the lawyer facade...) It matters not to me the reasons; these were, are, and will be America's and mine enemies. And though I'm just an old Coastie Salt, the Marines - as the Army/Navy/Air Force - son mis hermanos y compatriotas de sangre y alma - and I pray for the day when there will be a final reckoning with these scum.
Geez! Was Kofi right? Dubya has "upset the universe?"
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