Friday, February 25, 2005

Domino theory

The domino theory played out in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. I am convinced that it can work in the Middle East too. Consider this latest evidence.

Writing in the Washington Post on Wednesday, David Ignatius offered up this quote from Lebanon's paramount Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who, after siding with Syria for decades (he didn't have much choice; they killed his father) and opposing the U.S. war in Iraq, has become the leading figure in the anti-Syrian Lebanese opposition: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world . The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Jumblatt, for whom political changeability has long been the price to pay for protecting his minority community (and his control over it), nevertheless means what he says. Like many Lebanese, albeit at much greater risk to his own life, Jumblatt has gone too far in attacking Syria to turn back now. And while there are those in the Middle East and the United States who will refuse to give the administration any credit on democratization, at this end of the table, and in Iraq, the more pragmatic view is that it's best to take what one can from the outside if expanded freedom is the upshot.