Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kicking the Hornet's Nest

Who hasn’t been thrilled to death to see large numbers of Lebanese come out against Syrian control of their country? The rest of the Lebanese, apparently: no sooner had President Bush lauded the sight of thousands of people voting with their feet than hundreds of thousands with a different view did the exact same thing.

Of course, there’s a good chance the massive counter-protest was phoned in from Damascus, and a lot of the people there were doing so under threat. But while there’s always a question as to whether Hezbollah is acting on Syria’s behalf, or following their own agenda, there’s no question that they have the numbers to back them up - big time.

Maybe next time Bush will learn to try some reverse psychology and condemn anything he wants to see continue. If he announced “Darn you, Assad, stay in Lebanon!” then the Syrians might wonder what he was planning, and start inching for the border just to be safe...

But putting all cynicism aside, it is a good thing to see massive protests against the Syrian occupation. Their army’s been there far too long, and they’re not up to any good. The sooner they get back across their border - and help stop insurgents from crossing into Iraq, provided they’d care to - the better.

Of course, the Left is giving President Bush no real, direct credit for the so-called “Cedar Revolution,” much to the chagrin of the armchair culture-warriors of the Use-America Right. It’s almost as if they wanted to be invited to a party - or be made a high-ranking minister in the new government, just like Ahmed Chalabi.

But while I’m sure that the toppling of Saddam Hussein has made Assad rethink his own position, and made him more cooperative - at least on the surface - the true flashpoint for the movement came as a result of Rafik Hariri’s death. So, in order to give the President direct credit, we would have to accuse him of being behind the bomb that killed Rafik in the first place.

While there’s probably no shortage of people on the loonier fringes of the Left who would be happy to point that finger, I highly doubt it. But in a way, the accusation is right on target: Hariri’s death can be directly attributed to our invasion of Iraq, much in the same way that every kidnapping and beheading, car bomb and other, “complimentary” act of Terror that’s happened in the region since then.

Put simply, by invading we stirred up a massive hornet’s nest that was just waiting for us to show our faces underneath it. We’ve reaped a wealth of stings and bites ever since, and the hornets are moving far afield in search of new targets.

Case in point: the group that has claimed responsibility for Hariri’s death, the Group for Advocacy and Holy War in the Levant - *whew!* - seems to have popped up out of nowhere. Would we be hearing from them at all minus our invasion? Somehow I doubt it, and I have to wonder how many more Jihadist groups are going to spring up out of “nowhere” to vex us...

Unfortunately, you can’t say things like this, because it’s super-bad treason to even think it. “We have to support our troops,” say the people at the thinktanks and websites who are mysteriously nowhere near the front lines.

After all, Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, plotting to attack us with his massive stockpiles of invisible WMDs, or making secret deals with terrorist organizations that wanted him dead, too. He will no longer be torturing or killing Iraqis who express views contrary to official opinion, either - that particular task has been delegated to the interim government, with the occasional bad apple in uniform taking the initiative to help out.

But in spite of all these positive developments, I say there’s still ample room for meaningful criticism. By invading, we turned a manageable situation - Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, under our thumb since 1991 - into a real mess, giving the bastards both cause and opportunity. And more chaos has shaken out of the nest to keep our in-Iraq troubles company.

Of course, there’s opportunity in chaos. But chaos has to be carefully shepherded - there is no “managing” it - if you want the end result to be anything you’d want to take credit for. And will the Bush II Administration be happy to say that they “took credit” for Hezbollah coming to power in post-occupation Lebanon?

In the end, I have to applaud the Cedar Revolution. But it would be a good idea for everyone sitting on the sidelines - or coordinating the chaos from the beltway - to remember that there’s more than one kind of tree in Lebanon. And some of them like to set themselves on fire.


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