Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Lebanese Model Would Be Fatal for Iraq

Looks like southern Lebanon is heating up again:

Lebanon Conflict

The largest military action since 2000 was carried out by Israel in response to attacks by Hezbollah. Israeli warplanes bombed a number of Hezbollah targets and bulldozed a Hezbollah command post in southern Lebanon:

The Israeli strike came a day after the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah fired mortars and rockets toward the Israeli-Lebanese border, wounding 11 Israeli soldiers and damaging a house in an Israeli border community. The shelling sent thousands of Israeli civilians into bomb shelters. Israeli return fire killed four Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israel also bombed the Lebanese capital of Beirut with paper leaflets:

leaflet bombs

The Syrian withdraw from Lebanon has given hope to a country that has been torn apart by war and terrorism for over thirty years. That said the conflict that caused the Lebanese civil war still defines the country yet today as this article from the Cornell Library reports back in 1999:

Lebanon Civil War

The fatal flaw of the Lebanese Model is this:

The agreement, known after the town in Saudi Arabia where it was signed, Taif, set a 50-50 balance between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanese parliament and reordered the powers of the branches of government. But two major features of the Taif accord have not been implemented.

One was a plan to dismantle the sectarian structure of Lebanese politics, which has long been organized around parties beholden to one or another religious faction.
Not only is Lebanese politics still marked by sectarianism, said analysts, but the antagonisms among the various sectarian interests is greater than ever. None of the nation's major politicians is regarded as a truly national figure.

Rather, each represents mainly the interests of his own clan--Christian Maronites, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims or Druze.

When sectarianism is the guiding principle of a countries politics I think it is probably impossible for democracy to succeed. If 30 years of violence is not enough to cause a country like Lebanon to remove religion as the driving force of their politics and government, it is hard to imagine that democracy can succeed there.

Recent signs have shown a glimmer of hope in Lebanon, but unless true action follows then real change will not come.

The Iraqis should consider the Lebanese Model as they strive to bring democracy to their country. Per this ABC poll Iraqis supported democracy 49% compared to a Strong Leader for Life at 28% and an Islamic State at 21%:

Iraqi Support for Democracy

Unless Iraqis can put aside the interests of their clans, then they will remain in a cycle of sectarian violence that will only deepen and become worse. America and other countries have made a huge investment in Iraq and there are many positive signs of returns on that investment. However, the ultimate factor that will decide whether Iraqis succeed in building a democracy will be the Iraqi people’s ability to remove clan religious agendas from their core political process.

Violence and conflict will continue in countries like Lebanon and Iraq until the citizens realize that freedom of religion in a democracy means more than their individual freedom to worship as they wish. It means that everyone should be free to worship as they wish and to be able to do so without persecution.

It also means probably most importantly that particular religious agendas must be prevented from defining the political process and government. It appears to me at this point that followers of fundamental Islam will have a very hard time embracing the core requirement of democracy that requires “separation of church and state”.

The Lebanese Model can not be what the Iraqis follow if they are to succeed in building their democracy. Also, things in Lebanon won’t change until and unless they scrap the old model…………………………………….