In Saturday’s NYT, David Brooks makes the case that the recent popular protests in Lebanon against the Syrian occupation are a result of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq. It appears to be a pretty compelling argument.
First, Brooks quotes Lebanese dissident Walid Jumblatt: “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Thus, Brooks argues, a “maximalist,” interventionist U.S. foreign policy is justified, since “now we have mass demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. A tent city is rising up near the crater where Rafik Hariri was killed, and the inhabitants are refusing to leave until Syria withdraws.”
Of course, if you ignore half the relevant facts like Brooks did, you can quote the same sources and make just the opposite case. What if Brooks had instead quoted Walid Jumblatt from two months ago, when he described how “we are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory.” As it regards Syria’s occupation in Lebanon, our “maximalist” foreign policy didn’t work out quite as well in 1991, when we “quietly supported the Syrian assault” against the Lebanese nationalists in power at the time — the same folks who Brooks is celebrating today.