How much credit does Bush get for the anti-Syria protests in Lebanon?
No surprise that we've seen the usual disagreements about how much credit Bush gets for the recent dramatic "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon. For example, in the comments section of this post of Michael Totten's, someone named Benjamin objects to Totten's calling it a "revolution," or tying it directly to Bush's actions:
Although you [Totten] are anxious in your article to trumpet the apparent success of US foreign policy as regards Lebanon, you don't acknowledge the internal dynamic of Lebanon's politics which has been building since way before Dubya was President, and which is influenced by many other factors... Indeed, you are anxious to 'claim' the Arab street, just as the other lot did earlier. I am not sure how useful that is, or indeed accurate."
Well, Benjamin, I hereby submit that it's both useful and accurate. "Useful," because it's good to relate causes to effects, even if the causes might only be partial or contributing causes. "Accurate," because simple logic indicates that there is some sort of causal relationship. True, we don't have a classic experiment here in which we have an alternate universe as a control, a world in which the US never liberated (and yes, we can now say "liberated") Iraq and Bush never criticized dictatorships in the Arab world, so we'll never know for sure. But how useful or accurate is it to fail to connect some fairly obvious and close-together dots?
My take on it? Whatever gradual, step-by-step approaches Lebanon has taken since 1991 towards a more representative government free of the Syrian occupation, Bush's contribution can't be denied, unless one is desperately looking to deny it. It as though goods were being laboriously transported by mule pack through some steep canyon pass, and then suddenly a helicopter swoops down and hoists the mule, pack and all, aboard. The goods are going to get to their destination a lot sooner, and it doesn't make sense to say, "Oh, well, the mule was carrying those packs there anyway, so what help was the helicopter?"
Just ask yourself: if not for Bush and the war in Iraq and most particularly the Iraqi elections of 1/30, do you think these anti-Syrian demonstrations would ever have happened? And, if so, how many people do you think they would they have drawn? The Iraqi war has energized and emboldened this new Arab Street, which may in fact represent a heretofore "silent majority" in the Arab world.