Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Going Long Gone
The superficial parallels between Lebanon and Iraq are striking. Both countries have experienced or are in the midst of multi-factional, multi-sectarian civil wars. Both have a neighbor (Syria in Lebanon's case, Iran in Iraq's) intent on integrating the country into its sphere of influence. Both have another neighbor (Israel in Lebanon's case, Turkey in Iraq's) that reserves the right to conduct cross-border military operations in response to terrorist attacks.
So anyone who buys into the "going long" strategy in Iraq, whereby a massive American occupation over twenty years would eventually lead to a stable power-sharing agreement in Baghdad, would do well to take a look at what's going on in Lebanon these days: seventeen years post-conflict, and that country's complicated power-sharing mechanism is deadlocked, with the very real threat of armed conflict as a result.
There's still a few days left to avoid a constitutional crisis, and there's no guarantee that the worst-case scenarios will play out. But what's significant is how persistent the factional, sectarian and political rivalries that tore the country apart remain, how fragile their resolution is proving to be, and how easily manipulated they are by regional rivals (Syria, Iran, the US and Israel) who don't hesitate to interfere in Lebanon's domestic affairs to advance their strategic interests.
Something to think about when considering the costs of stabilizing Iraq.