The Levantine Crucible
Modern terrorist attacks, Régis Debray has argued, are “manifestos written in other people’s blood.” In the winter of 2005, one such manifesto was inscribed in the blood of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 of his associates. Its drafters were bent on subjugating Lebanon to the will of their Syrian and Iranian paymasters. More important, they sought to prevent Hariri from moving his compatriots beyond the failed ideologies that had defined Lebanon for more than a generation. But rather than cower in fear and submit, a majority of the Lebanese—usually notorious for their sectarian fractiousness—united around the March 14 movement, calling for political freedom and the withdrawal of Syria’s occupation force from their country.
In The Road to Fatima Gate, Michael J. Totten offers a masterful account of this Cedar Revolution, as it came to be known, and its tragic aftermath. Totten, a frequent contributor to Commentary’s blog, practices journalism in the tradition of George Orwell: morally imaginative, partisan in the best sense of the word, and delivered in crackling, rapid-fire prose befitting the violent realities it depicts. An unabashed classical liberal, Totten brings his political commitments and emotional intelligence to bear on the dramatic events he witnesses. As a result, he ends up far more clear-sighted than the many analysts who claim objectivity but share neither his love of the region and its inhabitants nor his concern for its future. Totten’s Lebanon is a Mideast crucible, foretelling the promise—and peril—of the democratic uprisings that would rock the region in 2009 and then again last winter.
About the Author
Sohrab Ahmari is coeditor of Re-Orient, Palgrave Macmillan’s forthcoming anthology of essays by young Midest reformers.