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February 26, 2005

Clock Ticking Softly For Damascus?

Overstated, perhaps, but two interesting stories suggest that Syria might have made its last consequence-free mistake.

From World Net Daily:

'U.S. will get Syria out by May'
Former Lebanese PM says war in Iraq will allow his country to be free

By Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM -- The U.S. led war against terrorism and its advances in Iraq and Afghanistan have enhanced the climate in the Middle East and will enable the international community to force Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon likely by May, former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun told WorldNetDaily today in an exclusive interview.

"The U.S. and EU are backing us in our movement to free Lebanon," said Aoun, speaking to WND from France. "They are interfering through diplomacy and threats of sanctions, and the situation is such today that Syria must comply. If the U.S. and Europe follow through, Syria will be obliged to withdraw before Lebanese elections in May."

Without offering a timeline, Syria announced Wednesday it will withdraw its troops from Lebanon to the eastern Bekaa Valley....

"The U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the Middle East. Not only the attacks to oust the rulers of those countries, but the consequences of the attacks changed things as well. They are democratizing the region and this will put pressure on [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to follow through," said Aoun.

"All these changes in the Middle East make obsolete the previous ways of Syria in dealing with Lebanon and Syria's involvement with political terrorism, which is not accepted anymore."

Meanwhile, a reader of TKS says...

...that the Iraqi forces are being built up to eventually take action against Syria. He adds the military action would be associated with Syria's refusal to police the border with Iraq to prevent terrorists and Baathists from entering Iraq.

This oddly echoes Kevin McCullough’s Pentagon source who said yesterday, “Likely, Syria's meddling in Iraq and the upcoming Lebanese elections will provide sufficient trigger for some "coalition" action. That action may well have an "Iraqi" face.”

The liberals may bleat, but a couple of points:

1) Europe actually seems to give a rat's ass about Lebanon's freedom, largely because France has always viewed itself as the protector of Lebanon's Christians. They might even pony up peace-keepers to keep order as the Syrian army departs.

2) It would not take a land invasion to drive Syria from Lebanon, should it come to that. Airstrikes on their troops should encourage them to depart as soon as humanly possible.

3) We wouldn't have to invade or occupy Syria, which we don't consider a threat like Iraq or Iran at this point; simply driving Syrian from Lebanon, and perhaps hitting military targets within Syria, would be enough. Not all military action needs to be a full-scale Iraq-style invasion and occupation (and reconstruction); American airpower can make life miserable for an intransigent regime.

I don't agree with Pat Buchanan much these days, but I do agree with his critique that Bush has to stop "warning" countries and threatening consequences unless he's actually prepared to do so-- unless he wants to see his credibility fall to nearly UN-levels.

Perhaps Bush agrees, and is putting out these sorts of low-key, unofficial threats out there to let Damascus know we're serious... or that we soon might be.

Related: David Brooks catches a bad case of optimism in a must-read column:

This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?

Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.

"Why not here?" is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion. Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.


Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a "maximalist" agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal - like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.

I was skeptical of Bush's full-throated call to place freedom and democracy at the heart of American foreign policy, and I guess I remain so.

But I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?

Read the whole thing. I don't think I've excerpted the best parts, because most of the essay is "best parts."

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posted by Ace at 02:15 AM

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