Democracy vs. stability — a false dilemma in Lebanon

Shmuel Rosner at Slate looks at the current war and asks “is ‘Arab democracy’ worth all of this chaos?” But this assumes that the chaos can be attributed to Arab democracy. And such a claim is true in the context of the current war only in the sense that if Israel had continued to deny self-rule in southern Lebanon by occupying that area, this war would not have occurred. Once it pulled out, the prospects of aggression against Israel did not increase when Lebanon became more democratic. Aggression against Israel did not begin with the democratization of Lebanon; Israel has faced such aggression off and on since its founding. The “stability” that Rosner celebrates among Arab nations like Syria provided no brake. The Arab autocrats and militia leaders supported, orchestrated, and unleashed violence against Israel whenever they felt that doing so served their interests. It’s the same now.

Rosner has fun taking shots at those who saw hope in the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon and the rise of an independent Lebanese government. But he wisely stops short of arguing that the current war would not have occurred under the old arrangement. Without making that argument, though, the question Rosner asks, “Is ‘Arab democracy’ worth all this chaos?” makes no sense in the context of the current war (in Iraq, the question is legitimate, provided one remembers that we didn’t go into Iraq for the purpose of imposing a democratic government)

In one respect, Israel does seem better off by virtue of the existence of the independent Lebanese government. Liberal commentators are dreaming when they suggest that this government, through its army, will take care of business in south Lebanon and thereby elminate the need for the Israelis to crush Hezbollah. But when/if the Israelis accomplish this, it’s conceivable that the Lebanese government can prevent Hezbollah from re-emerging. Without the developments in Lebanon of the past two years, there would be less hope of this.

Via Real Clear Politics.

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