Assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri

  • News
  • Thread starter plover
  • Start date
  • #1
plover
Homework Helper
188
0
Juan Cole has provided a précis of Lebanese history as a context for the recent events there and the politics that surrounds the presence of the Syrian occupation forces.

There's no good way to excerpt the historical sections, but here are the concluding paragraphs:
The assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the popular multi-billionnaire Sunni prime minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004), angered a broad swathe of the Sunni community, convincing them it was time for the Syrians to go. Despite the lack of any real evidence for the identity of the assassin, the Lebanese public fixed on the Syrians as the most likely culprit. The Sunnis, the Druze and the Maronites have seldom agreed in history. The last time they all did, it was about the need to end the French Mandate, which they made happen in 1943. This cross-confessional unity helps explain how the crowds managed to precipitate the downfall of the government of PM Omar Karami.

If Lebanese people power can force a Syrian withdrawal, the public relations implications may be ambiguous for Tel Aviv. After the US withdrawal from Iraq, Israeli dominance of the West Bank and Gaza will be the last military occupation of major territory in the Middle East. People in the region, in Europe, and in the US itself may begin asking why, if Syria had to leave Lebanon, Israel should not have to leave the West Bank and Gaza.

[...]

The Lebanese are still not entirely united on a Syrian military withdrawal. Supporters of outgoing PM Omar Karami rioted in Tripoli on Monday. Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah still supports the Syrians and has expressed anxieties about the Hariri assassination and its aftermath leading to renewed civil war (an argument for continued Syrian military presence).

Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism.

But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of Bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people power really is.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
russ_watters
Mentor
21,024
7,725
Does Juan Cole understand that the Cold War is over?
 
  • #3
plover
Homework Helper
188
0
russ_watters said:
Does Juan Cole understand that the Cold War is over?
As I noted, the piece is summarizing a historical context, which means it might refer to things in the past, no?

Did you even read the rest of it? And if not, why comment?
 
  • #4
russ_watters
Mentor
21,024
7,725
plover said:
As I noted, the piece is summarizing a historical context, which means it might refer to things in the past, no?
Certainly, but it appears to be saying that the Cold War will affect our response to the situation:
But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of Bin Ali.
Tested? Why would it be a test for us unless...
Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes.
But since the Cold War is over....see my first post.

edit: wait, I may have misread. Would we be tested because (if) the crowds are "Islamist"? Well, of by "Islamist," they mean favoring an authoritarian theocracy, no, that won't be much of a test: that isn't "people power."

edit2:
Did you even read the rest of it?
I did read the rest of it. The rest is just history (slanted history, but whatever). The main purpose of the writing is in the intro and the conclusion which you quoted: taking backhanded pot shots at Bush and the US. I'm not a big fan of Cole. History professors are supposed to be apolitical. It is unethical to be an activist.
 
Last edited:
  • #5
plover
Homework Helper
188
0
russ_watters said:
Certainly, but it appears to be saying that the Cold War will affect our response to the situation: Tested? Why would it be a test for us unless... But since the Cold War is over.... see my first post.
Huh? The "test" is whether the "democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington" would be followed up by support of the Tunisian (or other Arab) people if they "take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism". I have no clue why you think the Cold War is supposed to determine the response in some sense. The "test" per se does not appear to have anything to do with the Cold War, which is just part of the historical context that has produced many of the current Middle Eastern regimes.

In my view, there are currently two (possibly) conflicting indicators as to how the administration might handle things: one is the recent noise Condi made in Cairo about Egyptian political prisoners, the other is the public silence of the administration concerning recent crackdowns in Jordan on the press and various groups demonstrating for freedom of speech and association combined with the rise of ethnic Jordanian nationalism (largely directed against ethnic Palestinians). I say "possibly" because while these are outwardly divergent responses, I'm unsure as to how they may arise out of the administration's prior relations to Mubarak and King Abdullah.
edit: wait, I may have misread. Would we be tested because (if) the crowds are "Islamist"? Well, of by "Islamist," they mean favoring an authoritarian theocracy, no, that won't be much of a test: that isn't "people power."
"Islamist" is a very general term; obviously many are authoritarian theocrats (or close enough as to make no difference), others are not, but a simplistic take on the concept is at best unhelpful.

I also don't see at it as a necessary element of the argument—it is probably just the likely scenario in Tunisia. (And I have no sense of what the character of grass roots movements might be in Tunisia.)
edit2: I did read the rest of it. The rest is just history (slanted history, but whatever). [emphasis added]
Heh – like you know enough Lebanese history to say that objectively.
The main purpose of the writing is in the intro and the conclusion which you quoted: taking backhanded pot shots at Bush and the US.
Actually to me, the history is the important part—it's certainly the reason I posted this. But I was kind of stuck as to what to quote that might convince people to read the rest.

Also, if you look closely at what is actually said, it is not pot-shots at Bush or the U.S. It's a caution against attributing more control over world events to the U.S. President than is warranted (a tendency vastly predating Bush), and in that sense is a complaint about hasty generalization, especially as practiced by journalists.

These days if you mention Bush (in any light), people scream partisanship, whether it's there or not. To the extent Cole's statement can be interpreted as partisan, it's not directed at Bush, but at those liable to produce unconsidered triumphalist statements on his behalf.

Maybe he could have phrased what he said more carefully to defend against people reading things "between the lines" (and on first reading the piece, I can't say I caught the distinction I noted above), but honestly, he shouldn't have to.
I'm not a big fan of Cole. History professors are supposed to be apolitical. It is unethical to be an activist.
I'm not sure what to say to this. It sounds like you might have been reading some of the recent hatchet pieces against Cole. You certainly don't seem to have read enough by him to know that he does not reflexively attack Bush. His real animus appears to be against ignorance (hardly a surprising attribute for a professor). Thus, he opposes Bush's policies to the extent they exhibit ignorance about the Middle East, but he can be similarly appalled by those on the left when their opinions are woefully uninformed. Attack him if you like, but at least attack him for what he actually does rather than what those who have been smearing him want you to believe.
 
Last edited:
  • #6
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
6,852
10
Yes Russ, I would like to know why it's "slanted" history too. For instance Cole says The US manipulated Lebanese politics DURING THE COLD WAR, including the 1958 "invasion" byt the US Marines, which I well remember - I was in the Air Force at the time and was scheduled to go and give them meterological support, but the whole thing was over before the paperwork cleared. Do you deny this happened? And do you deny Cole's point that this and other manipulations are in the causal past of today's events, and not forgotten by Lebanese who care about their country?

Why is there always this knee jerk rejection of every suggestion that when the US or ANYBODY plays "reallistic hard ball foreign policy" they store up ill-will that can come back to bite 'em?
 

Related Threads on Assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri

  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
3K
Replies
31
Views
4K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
31
Views
8K
  • Poll
  • Last Post
3
Replies
56
Views
6K
Replies
15
Views
2K
Replies
77
Views
11K
Top