Jay Reding.com

The Gordian Knot

Michael Totten has another excellent piece from Lebanon, this time interviewing Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt. It’s interesting to get the perspective of someone who’s been on the consummate survivors in Lebanese politics — not an easy task when one considers it. It’s also interesting that Totten compares him to the American “neocons” that have been so derided over the years. For all the talk about how Middle Eastern democracy is impossible, there some to be quite a few true believers in the region, even if they’re unable to go forward with their plans.

What is also interesting is just how interconnected everything is in the region. Not in the sense of an interconnected network in which each connection has some rational reason, but interconnected in the sense of being a jumbled mess. It’s the classic Gordian Knot, although there’s no Alexander willing to take the bold move required to unravel it. While the US invasion of Iraq was supposed to do exactly that, the lack of follow-through has prevent the progress that was promised.

The problem — for Iraq, for the US, and most of all for Lebanon is the axis between Iran and Syria. There could be a very efficient solution to this crisis — regime change in Tehran in Damascus. Unfortunately, that solution isn’t really all that efficient as nobody has the will to do it, and the US has learned all the wrong lessons from Iraq. Instead of keeping the pressure on, the American left seems to put more trust in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rather than in George W. Bush — just look at the left’s typically hysterical reaction to the claims that Iran is arming Iraqi insurgent groups. Despite the fact that we very literally have found the smoking gun for Iranian involvement, it’s unlikely that the Bush Administration has any political capital that can be called forth to make any substantive progress against the Iranian regime. As much as the left fears an Iran strike and some of the right demand it, it simply isn’t going to happen.

So long as the West remains paralyzed with doubt in indecision, men like Walid Jumblatt remain trapped in an intractable situation. We cannot win this larger war without doing something to counter the pernicious influence of Iran and Syria in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the world. Yet, it seems as though it would take another 9/11-style attack directly traceable to either for people to awake to the danger. So long as Iran and Syria content themselves with killing Iraqis or Lebanese people, the rest of the world sees it as just another sign that the Middle East is hopelessly dysfunctional.

That is what is so maddening about this situation. There’s a rush to turn the region into a write-off. That isn’t viable geopolitically: we need oil, the Middle East has most of it, and we can’t change either in the near future, no matter how hard we might try. It’s also not morally viable: we can’t let an entire region of the world resort to anarchy because we don’t have the strength of will to do what is right. The wrong question keeps being asked about Iraq: not what we can do to fix the situation, but a sense of fatalism has come about in which it’s assumed there is no fix to the situation.

The only way we truly can lose is if we show hesitation, indecision, and a lack of will. By that account we are losing, and sadly, brave men like Walid Jumblatt cannot get the support that they need, and Lebanon will remain a nation held hostage.