Lebanon

"When the elephants fight, the grass suffers." Or so went a variation of the Third World lament during the cold war. The lament clearly applies today in Lebanon. But it also applies in Washington, where the administration views the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah as a classic case of great-power brinkmanship--in this case, pitting the United States against Iran. The paradigm that the Bush team has drawn on in its response to the Lebanon crisis isn't the war on terrorism.

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War Old and New

It would be too charming to suggest that the Jewish state has now emerged as the protector of Sunni Islam, but there is no denying that the events in Lebanon have furnished a strategic illumination. Many people have observed with delight the varying degrees of solidarity with Israel's war against Hezbollah that have been expressed by Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even the Arab League, which has now broken its perfect record of being on the wrong side of every crisis in the region. There is nothing pro-Zionist about this solidarity; not at all.

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Roll Back

If you buy this reading of events, you must accept a certain irony. It is fashionable in some quarters to say that U.S. identification with Israel produces hostility against us in the Islamic world. But, in actuality, Israel may be paying a price for the U.S.-led effort to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations. Those who view the Israeli offensive in Lebanon as counterproductive to U.S. foreign policy miss an emerging reality: Iran is waging a struggle to achieve regional dominance that threatens the United States and all its friends in the Middle East.

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Danegerous Liaision

I’ve had close calls working in the Middle East (rocket attacks, roadside bombs, food poisoning), but nothing beyond the usual occupational hazards of an American journalist—until Sunday, when I was mistaken for a Dane.   I HAD RECENTLY RETURNED TO BEIRUT from an assignment in northern Iraq and was thinking of spending the morning in my pajamas, when my friend Katherine, a reporter for a U.S. newspaper, calls. There’s an angry demonstration forming a few blocks from your apartment, she says. They’re heading for the Danish Embassy to protest the cartoon defamation of the Prophet.

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Wilted Rose

AS THE HELICOPTER crossed the Black Sea coast and began descending toward the airfield in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, I could see the telltale aftermath of war through the window. Against the incongruous backdrop of lush vegetation and citrus groves were abandoned, burnt-out houses and farms, untouched since Georgians and ethnic Abkhaz fought for dominance of the region in 1992-1993. Since the end of the fighting, the conflict has remained frozen in place. Abkhazia has declared independence from Georgia, but Tbilisi remains intent on reasserting its control. Abkhaz officials and i

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Early Sex

Lila Says (Samuel Goldwyn) and My Summer of Love (Focus) Sex can be very helpful. For a screenwriter who wants to treat a subject that might seem insufficiently interesting to some viewers, a strong sexual element can serve as hook and medium. As multiple instances have shown, that sexual element can bring along the background material that may have been the first reason for making the picture. The latest example is Lila Says. The screenplay of this French film is by Ziad Doueiri, who is Lebanese-born and has done a lot of technical work in Hollywood, particularly for Quentin Tarantino.

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When the Rose Revolution began in the fall of 2003, there was little reason to hope for a happy ending. Twelve years earlier, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia had stepped from communism into civil war. The old Communist eminence Eduard Shevardnadze may have brought greater stability when he took over the government in 1992, but his corrupt rule also generated huge new pools of ill will among the populace. Some of this disgust manifested itself in small, peaceful street protests.

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If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold—perhaps even somewhat reckless-—instincts to pursue the task as he did.

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Mirror Image

TO AMERICANS DESPERATE for good news from abroad, the Beirut Spring is the apotheosis of a Middle Eastern perestroika. To the White House, and many American pundits, the crowds in Martyrs’ Square have vindicated the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. The image of Iraqis voting freely, so the narrative goes, struck a chord in other Arabs that finally gave them the courage to reach for the prize.

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Grudging Respect

GIVE LIBERALS CREDIT. Rather than churlishly dismiss signs that the White House may have jump-started Middle Eastern democratization, most liberals have taken the responsible course and applauded recent developments in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq. “The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances,” wrote the granddaddy of liberal opinion, The New York Times editorial page. Ted Kennedy seconded that sentiment on ABC’s “This Week”: “What’s taken place in a number of those countries is enormously constructive.

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