Occupation Schizophrenia

The Lebanese now seem determined to oust their occupiers. Nothing surprising about that. The desire to be free of foreign rule should be easily grasped by all. As Old Right icon Robert Taft said of American postwar interventionism,

    It is based on the theory that we know better what is good for the world than the world itself. It assumes that we are always right and that anyone who disagrees with us is wrong. It reminds me of the idealism of the bureaucrats in Washington who want to regulate the lives of every American along the lines that the bureaucrats think best for them. …

    Other people simply do not like to be dominated and we would be in the same position of suppressing rebellions by force in which the British found themselves during the nineteenth century.

Of course, Taft, a true conservative, did not mean that those rebels were all “good” and the imperialists all “evil,” just that imperialism – even with good intentions – breeds resentment and will inevitably backfire on its practitioners. Unlike the Christopher Hitchenses and David Horowitzes of the ’60s, a Taft conservative would find nothing cute and cuddly about Ho Chi Minh; he would simply understand the universal impulses Ho exploited. In the same way, the contemporary antiwar Right has no illusions about the Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. You won’t see them lionized on this site. We don’t look at these bombers and snipers – whether Sunni, Shi’ite, Ba’athist, or other – and see a bunch of Thomas Jeffersons or Gandhis. We recognize that many, if not most, of these folks hold pretty illiberal political and social views. But we also recognize that they are responding in an entirely predictable manner to the invasion and occupation of their homeland.

That’s why it’s so amusing to watch the neocons, who insist on denying any legitimate motives to the Iraqi resistance, legitimize and even celebrate Lebanese resistance leader Walid Jumblatt. Now we all know the neocons can be a little mercurial themselves (e.g., damning centralization for Europe while demanding it for us, ditching democracy at the first sight of a Palestinian, etc.), but this guy is too much. Jumblatt is a cunning little socialist fruitcake who, sensing an opportunity, has quickly transformed from a reliable supporter of the Syrian regime to its harshest critic.

Given that he accuses the Syrians of killing his father almost 30 years ago, his sudden turn is a rather extreme rehash of Al Gore taking money from the tobacco lobby after his sister died of lung cancer, then using her memory to bash Big Tobacco. I seem to recall Gore’s maneuver causing a stir over at Reason, but not so Jumblatt’s. No, they find Jumblatt’s performance thoroughly convincing. Here’s tireless liberventionist Charles Paul Freund:

    Democracy “is now coming to our region,” Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told Lebanese who were gathering Sunday for today’s dramatic protests. “There is no going back.”

Well, democracy may well be coming and the Syrians going, but I sure hope no Americans have to die for a Lebanon ruled by Jumblatt’s ilk. And I have a feeling that some may lament the “horrible” Syrian occupation once it’s gone. After all, Lebanon:

– has, especially by local standards, a relatively free press. Reporters Without Borders ranks it #56 out of 139 countries on its press freedom index, higher than any other Arab country – even higher than Israel (#92). (And Reporters Without Borders wasn’t sucking up to Syria, either, which came in at a floor-scraping 126th.)

– boasts a reasonably open and liberal culture. You won’t be seeing any fashion shows like this in liberated Baghdad anytime soon.

– may leave something to be desired in terms of economic freedom, according to the Heritage Institute, but then any economic ranking system that puts the UK and Sweden near the top leaves something to be desired itself. Anyway, North Korea it ain’t.

There’s a lesson in all this somewhere about the blowback from even the most benign occupation, but I’ll leave that to the Syrians to figure out. If the Lebanese want independence, then more power to them. But Western observers should avoid the facile narratives issuing from interested parties.