Game Plan - Friedman on Lebanon and SyriaI just watched 30 minutes of Tim Russert interviewing Thomas Friedman about Lebanon. Interestingly, I agree with much of what he said [There's currently a certain amount of vaccum out there currently sucking out the hot air in liberal brains, allowing sense to restabilize itself - though I predict this phenomenon won't last very long. Soon enough the status quo will return. After all, the same phenomenon occurred after 9/11. For a different take on this issue, see Powerline's critique of the current status quo liberal position. And just to prove that this phenomenon is not occurring to "liberals" everywhere, check out the first two paragraph of this.]
And in this case, the reaction is heightened, at least among serious analysts, because no one appears to like the Iranians.
Speaking of which, Friedman covered a lot about the Shi'ite/Sunni axis I've previously below.
But the key to his "thesis" is that right now, the Bush Administration has to flip Syria from an Iranian ally to one willing to help the other side. Actually, this is how he phrased it. What would Henry Kissinger do in this situation? Picture a Republican with a big brain, and enough of a commitment to real politik that the ethics question is - to some extent - negligible. In other words, he perfectly understands the European position.
Nevertheless, the thesis makes sense. To a limited point.
First of all, Friedman forgot to mention that the leader of Syria, Bashir Assad, is an Allawite Shi'ite, and that is what cements the alliance with Iran, which keeps him in power. Nor Tim did mention this salient fact, which would have problematicized his analysis.
Neither did Tim bring up the obvious counter question. Which is how in h**l would anyone trust Syria to play a straight enough game right at this moment?
Nor did he address the concern that Josh Bolten mentioned to Tim Russert on MTP this morning; that the Administration had often spoken to Syria in the first term, and they had never followed through on any of their commitments.
As these are simple follow up questions, it shows a certain lack of engagement in the subject, that Russert was unable to think of them.
Note, in its postscript, Powerline post cited above is also extremely sceptical about riposting against Iran by turning Syria.
Related, this story is interesting:
SYRIA is prepared to tell the US the whereabouts of al-Qaeda cells in Lebanon, Britain's Sky News television reported today.
We do know that insurgents trained with Hizb'allah in Lebanon; but note, Al Qaeda is Sunni, so I imagine the current Syrian Government feels perfectly happy to sell out the Sunnis right now - despite the fact the majority of Syria is made up of Sunnis.
Also, they are not offering to give up any ties that will harm Iran's interests.
Finally, Friedman also addressed the point that Judith raised on Kesher Talk, that Hizb'allah has thoroughly wounded the hopes of Palestinians on the West Bank for an independent state, because, given the range of these rockets and missiles, which government is now going to suggest unilateral disengagement?
Only a suicidal one.