The recent assassination of Rafiq Hariri has sparked an unusual flurry of activity in the blogosphere, as pundits try to figure out who was truly behind the assassination, and what the motives may have been. The speculation thus far seems to agree that Syria was behind the act; but why?
Regardless of that, the loss of Hariri is tragic for Lebanon, but it just might incite the Lebanese finally to take some of their destiny in their own hands, as the Iraqi people began doing last month.
Lebanon (my birthplace, I should add) may never have been as pretty as its tales. It may never have been the "Paris of the Mediterranean," and its modernism may have been skin-deep at times. But it was and remains a vibrant Arab country of open ways, a place for refugees and dissidents, a country where Arab modernity made a stand, and where Christians and Muslims built a culture of relative compromise.
There is talk nowadays of spreading liberty to Arab lands, changing the ways of the Arabs, putting an end to regimes that harbor terror. The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty ought to be one way for the Arabs to break with the culture of dictators and police states, and with the time of the car bombs. Hariri sought for his country a businessman's peace. His way was a break with the politics of charisma and ideology that has wrecked the Arab world; he believed in philanthropy and practical work. His vision may not have been stirring. But there was dignity in it, and a reprieve from the time of darkness.
It is no longer so tenable for dictatorships to hold sway in the Cradle of Civilization. It is time for Lebanon to reclaim its dignity, and in so doing, make it incrementally easier for the entire Middle East to wake up to its liberal potential.[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]