In an interesting couple of reports from Beirut, conservative talking head Tucker Carlson illustrates the importance of liberalism and cultural diversity in the Middle East and the danger we all face if Israel's offensive goes too far.
Near the end of a round up of military action in Lebanon is this brief, but potent paragraph that sums up the real danger we face in Israel's continued assault. From the New York Times:
The last few weeks have essentially transformed Lebanese politics, marginalizing the democratic forces promoted by the United States and France — known as the March 14 group — and instead empowering President Émil Lahoud, a staunch ally of Syria, and above all the Shiite Muslim speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, who is the only official link to the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
So, in the process of clearing out Hezbollah fighters who have cruelly lobbed missiles into civilian Israeli neighborhoods and launched aggressive, but small, incursions across the borders, Israel is developing an unstable neighbor state and strengthened ties to a state sponsor of terrorism. That seems...bad.
Tucker Carlson had a fascinating comment on a recent Hardball report related to this very fact. After pointing out that Northern Lebanon, which Israel is driving into now, has been a Christian haven in what has been a relatively liberal Arab nation, Carlson illustrates the danger of an offensive going too far.
The second thing and the broader and longer term fear here is this could wind up a failed state again. That the turmoil going on now could collapse this government, which let's not forget has been held up by the Bush administration as a model democratic government. I mean, this is a success story from the Bush administration's point of view. And it could all come tumbling down and this could become yet another mosquito swamp for al Qaeda and like-minded groups. That could be an effect of this war. That could be a terrifying possibility.
We keep hearing about Lebanon's fragile government, but here is a very specific reason why Israel needs to be careful not to destabilize what may have been an ineffective deterrent to Hezbollah (a non-governmental, paramilitary gang of terrorists), but an otherwise safe neighbor. And the danger isn't just in toppling the government, but also galvanizing the Lebanese population to support a decidedly unfriendly ideology.
"You know, it's a reminder that in the Middle East, which increasing is monochromatic, it's Muslim, this is an outpost of genuine diversity," said Carlson.
In a later episode, Carlson illustrated in real terms the diversity found in Lebanon and the danger of losing it.
"...liberalism in the broadest sense, tolerance for pluralism, for genuine general diversity of ideas, that's the thing the Middle East needs." Said Carlson and then as an interesting example, noted that Beirut has a gay bar downtown.
"If you destroy that liberalism, that whole region becomes a lot more dangerous to us, America."
Increasingly violent offensives tend to turn public opinion. Despite Israel's insistence that civilian deaths are not the fault of their bombs but of Hezbollah fighters who instigate a response, the people on the ground see their families killed and look to the who and the how before they consider the why. When they see that their loved ones were killed by Israeli troops in American made or financed weaponry, they'll turn to whoever is fighting these "aggressors" and we end up with yet another breeding ground for terrorism.