The White House got a few things wrong, but it may have this one right when it asked Nancy Pelosi to "miss Syria"... Indeed, there may be a price for the ill-advised Pelosi trip to Syria. It is a price that we Lebanese will most likely pay. Again.
I and many fellow Lebanese would add our modest voices to plea for the speaker of the house to "miss Syria". Since the speaker is on a "fact-finding" mission to Lebanon, here are the simple facts; neither Lebanon, nor the United States, can afford that visit.
One simple fact; we Lebanese do not deserve Pelosi's visit to Damascus. It is true that we have more than a few faults; for one, our latest performance at the Arab Summit displayed our asinine propensity for division to the whole wide word. More insidious is the ongoing "debate" among our "leaders" on the latest electoral cuisine, where they are resolutely avoiding the real issue; the need for a representative system that reflects the country's demographic make-up while preserving its pluralism. Such a system would be called a bicameral legislature. But I digress...
Another simple fact; While America came into Iraq uninvited, it will not be allowed not leave Iraq uninvited. Yes, the United States blundered in Iraq under false and fabricated evidence. But that is beside the point; they are stuck there in one form or another until they can sort out the mess they have created. Any withdrawal will be a sign of weakness, with far-reaching consequences down the road; people like Ben Laden drew many lessons from the American withdrawal from Beirut in the 1980's, with far reaching consequences down the road.
The Iraq Study Group was right to remind the President that Syria matters in sorting out the Iraqi mess. But while the diagnosis was correct, the prescription was dead wrong. For all the merits of the members of the Baker-Hamilton commission, their work looks far more like recycled cold-war thinking, and does little to address the underlying causes of the mess. When she closed her jar, Pandora did not "unrelease" the misfortunes her curiosity let loose on mankind, and only imprisoned hope. Hope was only released when Pandora, having screwed up once, persisted and opened the jar again. Baker-Hamilton's worthies could have done well to reflect on this myth; by running away now, the United States will keep this hope prisoner of Iraq's morass, and may even store more trouble for the future. By "engaging" enemies without demonstrating a willingness to use force, they would only be turning their defeat in Iraq into disgrace. They have to persist; Iraq may not be completely mended, but there is still a longing for better times among ordinary Iraqis...
I am not being excessively “biased” in this regard; the facts do justify skepticism towards Syrian intentions. For all the show at the Arab summit, the Syrians did not change their way. The Assad's cannot change their way, even if “realists” are willing to pursue a “Pyrrhic Peace” that would allow Syria back into Lebanon. In spite of all the treasure invested in the military, Syria remains too weak to afford any confrontation with its neighbors, except for Lebanon. Since the Syrian army’s main function is to secure the regime's power base, Peace is out of the question either, since it will force in economic reforms the regime is ill-adapted to benefit from. Some Israeli Bitkhonists may advocate a "Syrian Solution" to the "Hezb problem", but they fail to realize that, much like Orwell’s “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace”, the present regime in Syria can only afford to keep on exporting terrorism to its neighbor's, thanks to willing help from Iran.
At this stage of the country’s mismanagement and under-development, the Syrian Regime’s interest in the peace process is limited to the process itself. They will jaw-jaw with Pelosi, and draw some comfort in their growing isolation. Then they go on hunting for more Lebanese politicians. And we'll pay the price, again.
At least, Miss Pelosi would have had the satisfaction of being, for a day, the most important woman in Syria... Miss Syria.
Jeha on April 2nd, 2007