Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lebanon: Democracy In The Arab World

Micheael Totten has an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal. (Hat tip:

The protests that happened last year in Lebanon are a distant memory to most. Totten reminds us that:
No one thinks Lebanese freedom is a sham. This country would not be even a ramshackle sort-of democracy if the people who live here had not demanded that much for themselves. The March 14 revolt, in which almost one in three Lebanese demonstrated in Martyr's Square for freedom and independence, reverberated powerfully throughout the Middle East. Iraq still makes most Arabs shudder. Lebanon, though, is genuinely inspiring.
While the particulars of the system of democracy that has developed in Lebanon are not without their flaws, they are also an example of how democracy is starting to take hold in a place that "democracy can never work".
By tradition, the president is always a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, and the speaker of Parliament a Shiite. Parliament decides who fills the top three government posts, and members of Parliament are elected by the people of Lebanon. Each sect's parliamentary bloc keeps the others in check. The result is a weak state and a de facto near-libertarianism. Syria and Iraq, which also are composed of rival ethnic-religious sects, may do well under a similar system.
Some who criticize the efforts in Iraq claim that they are doomed to failure. They feel that the Iraqi people are too fractured and that civil war is inevitable. Lebanon, perhaps, gives a counter-point to that argument.