Thursday, July 20, 2006

Democracy and Stability Interrupted: casualties of the Israeli assault on Lebanon

I'm looking at the title right now and thinking, have I done a journalistic booboo? I've always hated titles that tend to titillate, but are so misleading based on the content and the context of the article it is heading. I try my best to teach people going into journ or writing to be responsible when it comes to heading their pieces.

But then, it is true: the assault by Israel on Hezbollah positions on Southern Lebanon is becoming a catastrophe. Far from destroying the militant group, Israel is actually making things more dangerous for itself because it may just have dealt a mortal blow to another developing democracy in the region.

I remember watching the return of democracy in Lebanon, and its slow, painful but sure steps to stability. Its cost was painful - the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri was its catalyst, after all - but it proved that even in the war-torn and monarchy-controlled Middle East, there is a country whose people yearn for peace, stability and democracy, and who can cross religious lines to do what is right.

Lebanon is, after all, being touted as a showcase of not only religious tolerance but of harmony. Muslims and Christians live side-by-side there. They work, play and go through life without looking at each other with wary eyes and hidden weapons. Despite the presence of Hezbollah in its southern regions - admittedly a source of deep concern - Lebanon strikes one as a place not conducive to the growth of the extremist ideal. People here have long lived with people of other faiths beside them to be so easily hoodwinked by the fanatics.

I grieve for the Lebanese. Although I know the cause of the Israeli action, it is painful to see a people who have so recently won - on their own! - their right to democracy and to stability brought back to the nightmares of the past. And, like with the civil wars of 30 years ago, it largely isn't their fault. They were in the way. In fact, I am appalled by the amount of collateral damage the IDF is causing in trying to stamp out Hezbollah; it truly seems like the nightmarish realization of that age-old adage about using a cannon to kill a fly.

Have the Israelis not learned from America's mistakes? Did they not notice in Iraq what happens when you use an army to stamp out terrorists? Did they not know that the international community would be outraged at what appears to be a blatant disregard not only for the sovereignty of a state but of the callous disregard for the safety and security of that state's people? Or perhaps the leaders of Israel don't care anymore? But, truly, are the lives of three soldiers worth the stability of the region, the existence of a whole sovereign state, and the lives of millions of people in that state?

This must stop. There is so much potential for a stable and democratic Lebanon. It would be the fly in the fanatic's heady ointment, and a proof to the monarchies of the Middle East that democracy does work, even amidst the sands of Arabia. There are better, more effective ways to deal with unrepentant terrorists like Hezbollah than destroying half a country in the process. Because if Lebanon falls, then the Israelis may just have birthed a far bigger, nastier and deadlier monster than the one they currently are trying to kill

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