The slow road to democracy

Reinoud Leenders, Middle East Report, May 23:

When the last Syrian soldier left Lebanese territory in April 2005, jubilant crowds gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to celebrate the coming of a new era. In Washington and Paris, the mood was also festive, as officials praised what they called Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution” as the first in a projected series of popularly led regime changes, or at least changes of regime behaviour, all across the region. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proclaimed at the American University in Cairo in June, Lebanon’s “supporters of democracy [were] demanding independence from foreign masters [and] calling for change. It is not only the Lebanese people who desire freedom.”

A year has now passed, and the joyous atmosphere in Lebanon has turned unmistakably sour. Gone are the Lebanese flags draped over Beirut’s balconies. In place of these symbols of national unity, sectarian tensions are running high. Gone, too, is the widespread optimism over comprehensive political and economic reform. In its place is exasperation at perpetual political bickering and socio-economic stagnation.

UPDATE: Noam Chomsky explains the US position towards Lebanon.