Paul Greenberg

It was the kind of news you don't expect to come out of the Middle East -- the good kind: "Pro-Western coalition beats Hezbollah in vote." Pro-Western? The winning ticket might as well have been labeled pro-democracy or pro-peace or, for that matter, pro-tolerance and pro-civilization. (The two have a way of going together.) As for the losers, a defeat for Hezbollah means a defeat for terror and a couple of its more notorious sponsors -- the dictatorial regimes in Syria and Iran. Any election that disappoints those two partners in crime, like this one in Lebanon, has to be a good thing.

Syria's campaign of assassinations in Lebanon seems to have succeeded -- in arousing the suspicions, even ire, of a still free people. The empty appeals to pan-Islamic fervor, wrapped in the even emptier anti-American slogans, didn't work this time. After all, Lebanon has one of the more mixed and sophisticated electorates in the Arab world; many Lebanese have visited the United States or have relatives here. They know better than to believe the kind of agitprop that regularly sways the Arab Street. Which may be why the usual demagoguery didn't work this time. Much to the surprise of us cynics.

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The election returns in Lebanon represent an impressive comeback for the cause of the martyred Rafik Hariri. He led the party that finally drove the Syrians out of Lebanon in the Cedar Revolution of 2005. And paid for it with his life. His son Saad now leads the coalition of Sunni, Christian and Druze voters that emerged victorious. Its win revives hope -- not just for Lebanon but for democracy in the Middle East. Somewhere in Texas, George W. Bush must be smiling, for he never gave up hope for democracy even in the Arab world.

The prospects for unity, peace, and self-determination are now a little brighter for Lebanon. And beyond. Together with the growing strength of a pro-Western, pro-democratic government in ravaged Iraq, the news from Lebanon heartens. Even though we've learned not to take anything for granted in that part of the world, at least if it's a hopeful development. Where the Middle East is concerned, euphoria can be fleeting, and treacherous. So, no, this is no decisive victory for the forces of freedom; victories at the ballot box seldom are. They must be won again and again. But at least this wasn't a victory for those forces opposed to freedom. Tyranny and terror have lost a round.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.