But is it good for the Jews?

What happens if Lebanese democracy turns out to mean rule by Hizbullah?

Jonathan Zasloff writes:

According to Ha’aretz, Syrian troops will be out of Lebanon by tomorrow. Regardless of the timing, many in Jerusalem and Washington are celebrating. In particular, it will be seen as a vindication of George Bush’s call for democracy.

But in Israel, the situation can always get worse, and this will be no exception. If Bush has any more vindications like this, we’ll start hankering after the failures.

Hizbullah made little secret of its desire to have Syrian troops stay. But now, who exactly is supposed to clamp down on Hizbullah terrorists now that the Syrians are gone? Beforehand, we knew where to put pressure on Hizbullah–through Damascus. Now, the Syrians can say with a good deal of justification that they have no responsibility for the matter.

With all the talk about the Syrian exit, hundreds of Iranian intelligence agents remain in Lebanon, and they will give Hizbullah all the guidance it needs straight from Tehran. The Syrians might have feared an Israeli strike–the mullahs will not.

But doesn’t this show the success of people power, and the Cedar Revolution? Again, be careful what you wish for. Hizbullah’s Shiite base is the fastest growing sector in the country: there’s a reason why they haven’t taken a census there in decades. But if you’ve got democracy, you’ve got to have a census. Hizbullah could very well find that it can get a majority to the polls. And this will hasten the creation of a pro-Iranian Shiite crescent across the Middle East.

And all of this isn’t the worst of it. For decades, Israel has attracted support from abroad by accurately boasting that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. if Lebanon carries this off, that claim gets shaky. Arabs will start to claim that they, too, can have multiethnic democracies. And if that is true, then why stop it there? Why not pursue the binational state within Israel/Palestine? After all, there’s no need to have a Zionist “shelter state” now that Arabs can be trusted with pluralism.

This argument isn’t true, but it is very attractive–particularly to Europeans, whose elites have given up on ethnic nationalism, and reject Zionism partially on that basis. Little wonder that the French were so anxious to get the Syrians out: it’s just one more way to undermine the Israelis.

So in the end, the Bushies will celebrate the “success” of their policy, only for the rest of us to pick up the pieces several years out. Haven’t we heard this somewhere before?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com