Democracy in Lebanon; Syrian Withdrawal Helps Repave the Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Walid Phares, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The sight of Lebanon's youth in Beirut's Martyr Square stunned many in the West and emboldened many more in the Arab world. The revolution was deeply rooted in the country's long traditions of pluralism and democratic expressions, despite past wars.

There is no doubt about it, the Arab world and its surroundings are feeling the shock of Afghanistan and Iraq's elections. Without hope, the peoples of the region won't be able to sustain change and progress on the road to freedom. The Middle East needs a project for democracy, established in its own midst, by its own cultures and aimed at its own future.

This launching pad has to speak its languages and understand its problems. It must have an experience in democracy and a capability of exporting it within the region. The basis for Mideast and Arab democracy has to be able to teach it, broadcast it, model it into art, technology and culture. It has to be a bridge with the rest of the world, and it has to be able to extend around the world as well. It must be from the East but relate to the West. It needs to have understood the dangers of terrorism, but yet capable of renaissance after being liberated.

Lebanon's institutions produced democratic elections for half a century before the war ravaged its institutions as of 1975; before it lost them to terrorism, Syrian occupation and jihadism.

For 50 years, its democratic strength came not only from its institutions, but because of its political culture. Without an advanced educational system, Lebanon's democracy wouldn't have taken off. Simply put, it was Lebanon's human resources that produced a viable democratic experiment.

What made this small country into the cultural capital of the Arab world, the banking center of the region and a main educational pillar didn't vanish. True, Lebanon is occupied and ruled by an elite in decline, but nevertheless it has a vivid and thriving civil society.

Despite the political and security oppression, universities are still producing generations of free men and women. Against all odds, its cadres are developing the most attractive artistic and cultural programs of the Arab world. This society remains after all, the nervous center of Arab-speaking intellectual life. It is precisely from that tip of the iceberg that one can witness Arab and Mideastern democracy re-emerging. …