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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 16-Feb-05
Massive Beirut explosion killing Rafiq Hariri puts Lebanon into state of shock

Web Log - February, 2005

Massive Beirut explosion killing Rafiq Hariri puts Lebanon into state of shock

Washington recalls its ambassador to Syria, as both Lebanon and America blame Damascus for the terrorist assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In following this story, I've been struck by the fact that everyone seems to have liked Hariri. He was charismatic, a successful businessmen, and one of the richest people in the world. Following the Syrian-Lebanese war that ended in 1989, Hariri brought in investors from around the world to rebuild the country, and especially its capital, Beirut. He was a moderate Sunni Muslim, committed to the peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. He was welcome in the capitals of countries throughout the Mideast, and he was a good friend of French President Jacques Chirac.

Hariri's fatal flaw may have been his firm opposition to Syria's continued political and military influence in Lebanon. Syrian forces continued to occupy Lebanon after the war, bringing a period of relative peace, but Hariri resigned as prime minister in October in order to join to the opposition to the Syrian-supported Lebanese government and to continued Syrian occupation.

Shocked and infuriated Lebanese people are blaming Syria for the assassination of Hariri. Without directly blaming Syria, Washington withdrew our Ambassador to Syria today, indicating that Syria bares "some responsibility" for the assassination. Lebanese newspapers are expressing concern of a return to war with Syria, and some analysts are expressing concern that such a war could destabilize the entire region.

The Generational Dynamics view


Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries
Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries

As so often happens, Generational Dynamics provides important policy-related information that cannot be obtained any other way.

Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are all on the World War I timeline, having all been part of the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire centered in Turkey. The Ottoman Empire was destroyed in the aftermath of WW I. As regular readers of this web site know, genocidal crisis wars tend to come in 70-90 year cycles, and all of these countries have had their next crisis wars. I've discussed the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s many times on this web site. [Corrected 21-Nov-06]

A crisis civil war began in Lebanon in 1975, and it became a war with Syria in 1976. Israel was an off-and-on participant, and the war reached an explosive climax in 1982 when Christian Arab forces, allied with Israel, massacred and butchered hundreds or perhaps thousands of Palestinian refugees in camps in Sabra and Shatila.

When a crisis war ends, every society and nation goes through predictable phases. Immediately following the war, the nation goes through an austere period where the highest priority is to impose any rules or compromises necessary to prevent anything so horrible from happening again.

Thus, Syria's decision after the war to maintain a military occupation of Lebanon as peacekeepers makes perfect sense. However, now that a generation has passed since the war, Lebanon is entering a "generational awakening" period. This is always an intensely political period, when college-age students who grew up after the war rebel against the austere rules and compromises imposed by their parents.

For two years I've been saying that there can't be a crisis civil war in Iraq, despite frequent warnings by pundits that there may be one, and despite repeated attempts by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to ignite one.

For the same reason, there will not be a major new crisis war between Lebanon and Syria, just one generation after the end of the last one.

However, if the people of Lebanon are so outraged by Syria's alleged complicity in the death of Hariri that a war becomes a matter of national honor, then a non-crisis war is possible. Crisis wars come "from the people," while non-crisis wars come from the politicians, and it's possible for Lebanese politicians to lead the country to a new war against Syria. Such a war would receive little support from the people, and would not last long.

One thing seems certain: The political pressure on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon will now become overwhelming. France, America and the United Nations have demanded a withdrawal before the current crisis, and the Lebanese opposition to Syrian occupation has been growing as the generational awakening period has progressed, and now the political pressure may well be irrestible.

What happens next?

If Lebanon and Syria were on an island by themselves, there would really no major cause for concern, beyond the concern we all feel when people are killed in brief wars or low-level violence.

But Syria and Lebanon are adjacent to Jordan, Palestine and Israel, regions on the World War II timeline, regions which have not yet had a new crisis war, and which are currently in a "generational crisis" period.

There seems to be little doubt that death of Hariri is a major historical turning point in Lebanon, and will cause major changes of some kind. But whether there's a non-crisis war with Syria, or if the Syrian forces are made to withdraw, then a power vacuum will be created, providing a climate for Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians to join in the violence. This could indeed be the trigger for a major regional Arab-Jewish crisis war.

Who's responsible?

Finally, who's responsible for the assassination of Hariri?

Syria is suspected, but Syria strongly denies it, and so far there's no "smoking gun" evidence.

If I had to take a guess, my vote would go to the same insurgents who have been setting off car bombs in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may be the mastermind, though he's issued a statement denying it. But there's a strong Baathist minority in Lebanon, and so the assassination may be linked to the same Baathist insurgents operating in Iraq.

What would be the motive? What many people don't understand is that a significant minority of Islamists want a war. In the map of the Mideast shown above, there's a tiny red dot, representing Israel, in the middle of a vast sea of green, representing Islam. These Islamists have failed to trigger a major war in Iraq, and so Lebanon would be another logical place to take a shot. These Islamists believe that if they can trigger a major war, then that tiny red dot will be eliminated forever, and the old Ottoman Empire will be revived as a new Muslim empire centered in Jerusalem. (16-Feb-05) Permanent Link
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