In an apparent victory for Lebanon's opposition movement, Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned from office today, dissolving the country's pro-Syrian government and setting the stage for what could be a dramatic change in the relationship between Syria and Lebanon. Mr. Karami's announcement came as more than 25,000 flag-waving protesters massed outside Parliament, chanting "Syria out!" two weeks after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. When news of Mr. Karami's resignation reached the crowds, a cheer erupted throughout the square where they had gathered.Such talk was virtually unheard of only a year ago. But the resignation of Mr. Karami under pressure from people on the street underscored Syria's weakening grip on the country and the tremendous pressure on the Baathist state to withdraw from Lebanon. For over 30 years, Syria has dominated Lebanon's political and economic life through its military and proxy over the government, sanctioning Hezbollah and using the country as a gateway into the global economy. Mr. Hariri's assassination on Feb. 14 turned the opposition movement, which initially began in 2001, into a populist movement on the streets. "It was unprecedented for the Syrians," said [Beirut University political science professor Jihad al] Khazen. "It is the first time in Lebanon we see such national unity on such a crucial issue."Predictably, conservatives are giving credit where it's not due. Limbaugh said yesterday that Lebanon's revolution is proof that the neocon experiment is working. I disagree. Lebanon's revolution is proof that occupying a country, and installing puppet regimes, is going to piss the people off sooner or later. To assign credit for this to Bush and Perle is to take away from the Lebanese people their personal desire for democracy, and their undeniable courage in taking to the streets to defy an occupying power that would not hesitate to mow them down where they stand. Limbaughites do this with Russia and Eastern Europe, too - give all the credit to Reagan, and none to Gorbachev or the people of those countries themselves. Arrogance and hubris.
Credit where credit is due
While Russia continues to boomerang back to authoritarian dictatorship, there are rumblings of democracy taking place elsewhere. Last year, Ukraine was the big story, with its orange revolution. This year, we have Hosni Mubarak promising to allow candidates to run against him in the upcoming Egyptian presidential election. (It's a start). Now, we have the "Cedar revolution" in Lebanon. Lebanon was mired in a civil war from 1975-1985, and has been under Syrian military occupation since then. Syria is a Baathist authoritarian hereditary dictatorship. A swell place. The Lebanese had been ruled by a puppet regime installed and approved by Syria for years.