Friday, November 24, 2006

Bruising Op-ed from Ignatius

Here and right on the money imo (WashingtonPost).


A disease is eating away at the Middle East. It afflicts the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, even the Israelis. It is the idea that the only political determinant in the Arab world is raw force -- the power of physical intimidation. It is politics as assassination.

The sickness must end. The people of the Middle East are destroying themselves, literally and figuratively, with the politics of assassination. So many things are going right in the modern world -- until we reach the boundaries of the Middle East, where the gunmen hide in wait. Those who imagined they could stop the assassins' little guns with their big guns -- the United States and Israel come to mind -- have been undone by the howling gale of violence. In trying to fight the killers, they began to make their own arguments for assassination and torture. That should have been a sign that something had gone wrong.

This is a time of convulsive change in the region, and many doors are being pushed open. Syria has an opportunity to leave behind its drab Cold War trench coat and become a modern, prosperous Mediterranean nation; Hezbollah, the militia that represents Lebanon's dispossessed Shiite population, has a chance to lead its followers into political power and prosperity. But they won't realize these opportunities so long as the politics of assassination rules the region. If Syria and Hezbollah keep brandishing their power like a grenade, it will ultimately blow apart in their hands.

The Middle East needs the rule of law -- not an order preached by outsiders but one demanded by Arabs who will not tolerate more of this killing. Any leader or nation who aspires to play a constructive role in the region's future must embrace this idea of legal accountability. That is what the United Nations insisted this week, with a unanimous Security Council resolution demanding that the murderers be brought to justice.

The idea that America is going to save the Arab world from itself is seductive, but it's wrong. We have watched in Iraq an excruciating demonstration of our inability to stop the killers. We aren't tough enough for it or smart enough -- and in the end it isn't our problem. The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen. What would be unforgivable would be to assume that, in this part of the world, the rule of law is inherently impossible.


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