WASHINGTON -- Revolutions do not stand still. They either move forward or they die. We are at the dawn of a glorious, delicate, revolutionary moment in the Middle East. It was triggered by the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam, and televised images of 8 million Iraqis voting in a free multiparty election. Which led to the obvious question throughout the Middle East: Why Iraqis and not us?
To be sure, the rolling revolution began outside the Middle East with the Afghan elections, scandalously underplayed in the American media. That was followed by the Iraqi elections, impossible to underplay even by the American media. In between came free Palestinian elections that produced a moderate reform-oriented leadership, followed by an amazing mini-uprising in the Palestinian parliament that rejected an attempt to force corrupt cronies on the new government.
And it continued -- demonstrations in Egypt for democracy, a shocking rarity that led President Mubarak to promise the first contested presidential elections in Egyptian history. And now, of course, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, where the assassination of opposition leader Rafiq Hariri led to an explosion of people power in the streets that brought down Syria's puppet-government in Beirut.
Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, takes to The New York Times to oppose immediate withdrawal of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to ``engage and empower'' the tyranny in Damascus.
These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall, and our ``realists'' want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy to try to rein in the revolution in Lebanon. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by our proclamation of those principles.
Moreover, the Cedar Revolution promises not only to liberate Lebanon, but to transform the entire Middle East. Why? Because a forced Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon could bring down the Assad dictatorship. The road to Damascus goes through Beirut. And changing Damascus will transform the region.
We are not talking about invading Syria. We have done enough invading and there is no need. If Assad loses Lebanon, his regime could be fatally weakened.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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