So happy together...?
I have resisted commenting on the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM Rafik Hariri up to this point. Nearly every political blogger on the net has something to say about the attack and the resulting alliance proposal between Iran and Syria. There is a wealth of good writing on the subject out there, and I couldn’t come up with anything original to add. Until I saw this headline:Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences
In this piece from the Miami Herald the author puts forth the idea that the murder of Hariri may be the catalyst that will bring France and the United States together again with a common cause:The law of Unintended Consequences warns us to expect the unexpected. Prepare, then, for the unexpected to take shape as the shockwaves pushing out from the smoldering crater in Beirut recast crucial relationships around the world. Whoever orchestrated Hariri's assassination imagined the explosive event would produce results in accordance with a master plan. It is unlikely, however, that the master plan included strengthening the bonds between the United States and France. But closer ties between Paris and Washington will undoubtedly result from the Hariri murder.
The killing of Chirac's good friend comes at a key moment in relations between Washington and Paris. With both countries looking for ways to heal the wounds from the disagreement over the Iraq war, working together to push Syria out and bring stability to Lebanon provide the perfect setting to build a new, respectful relationship. This time, both players have lead roles. France, Lebanon's and Syria's former colonial ruler, has a key cultural and political relationship with the region, making it the ideal partner to work with the United States.
I have to admit that this never even crossed my mind. Could it possibly be true? Well, there is no doubt that Chirac felt the loss of his friend deeply and personally, he is in Beirut today to offer his condolences to Hariri’s family in person.
"This abominable crime, which belonged to another era and of which Rafik al-Hariri was the victim, has evoked the horror and consternation of the whole international community," Mr Chirac told reporters.
The Lebanese have seized on the killing and funeral as the focal point for a renewed push against Syria. According to press accounts, the people of Lebanon were moved by Chirac’s appearance and very vocal. I found this on the appearance of Chirac at the funeral:
The dignitaries were surrounded by heavily armed police holding back hundreds of chanting Hariri supporters, who shouted, "Syria out, Syria out" before singing Lebanon's national anthem. Chirac got a rousing round of applause from the crowd, who yelled "Vive Chirac, Vive France."
If the assassination of Hariri is what Tom Friedamn interprets it to be, a declaration from Syria that they are ready to play by “Hama Rules” over the occupation of Lebanon, then a cohesive front between the U.S. and France will be vital :
Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition: "You want to play here, you'd better be ready to play by Hama Rules - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you'd better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You'd better be ready to go all the way - because we will. But you Americans are exhausted by Iraq, and you Lebanese don't have the guts to stand up to us, and you French make a mean croissant but you've got no Hama Rules in your arsenal. So remember, we blow up prime ministers here. We shoot journalists. We fire on the Red Cross. We leveled one of our own cities. You want to play by Hama Rules, let's see what you've got. Otherwise, hasta la vista, baby."
The UN, at the urging of the US and France and with Hariri’s support recently passed Resolution 1559 calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The core of the resolution follows:
“1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;
“2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;
“3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;
“4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;
“5. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;
“6. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;
“7. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”
Could this, then, be the event that allows both the U.S. and France to finally shake off the disagreement over Iraq? The United States has demonstrated that we are sincere in our desire to bring democracy to the Middle East, and the brave voters of Iraq demonstrated that they are ready to participate. France stood up for what it believes in when it opposed the invasion of Iraq, but seems to have shown a willingness to move forward, especially in light of the elections. SecState Rice was received warmly in France and in general it appears that the Europeans are at least resigned to the current administration. Coupled with the Euro lead in dealing diplomatically with Iran, the murder of Hariri could indeed prove to be the straw that bridged the rift between the US and France, and with that the rest of the EU.
If this crime does become a catalyst to bring the US and France, and ultimately the EU, together in the ongoing struggle against terrorists and the regimes that support them, and as a result spread democracy and liberty, than Hariri and the others who died in the blast will not have died in vain. It is a shame that it may have taken the death of a friend of Chirac’s to bring the French around, that the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam was not enough to produce more than countless resolutions, but it took the death of one man in the Netherlands to shake the Dutch from their complacency.
We should welcome the French and the rest of the EU if they decide that Syria is the place where they decide to take a stand, but we must also continue to remind them that even in the countries where they do not have personal friends, people deserve freedom and liberty as well.