From the Lebanon, ctd.
We have calls for the return of Aoun and amnesty for (or relaese of, depending on your viewpoint) Samir Geagea in this AP piece in the Seattle PI. (No calls yet for the return of Dyab Abou Jahjah, at least from the Lebanese themselves.)
An AFP article in the Daily Star tries to estimate the amount of money the Syrians are funneling out of Lebanon.
Also in the Daily Star, this opinion piece by Massoud A. Derhally.
Freedom in the Middle East has been assailed on several fronts. The Arab world isn't merely fragile politically, but also economically and socially. Economic growth in the region has stagnated since the 1980s. Why is that? Because despite the presence of oil, the region has been unable to tap adequately into the integrated world economy or attract foreign direct investment. These are the conclusions of the Arab human development reports published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and of reports published by the World Economic Forum.
They show that poverty, gender inequality, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, increasing unemployment, a deficiency in human rights, religious extremism, lack of innovation and the implementation of education curricula that encourage nothing but rote learning is what the Arab world is all about today.
These documents, which should have galvanized Arab governments to do more to empower their people, have, instead, largely been ignored. There is still no conscious drive in the region toward pluralism or establishing full-fledged democratic systems, where people can credibly participate in governing themselves. Yes, Arab governments have implemented bits and pieces of reform of late, but this has been cosmetic and used to deflect criticism and avoid dealing with the real issues. Bush is right when he speaks about the need for Arab leaders to address fundamental deficiencies in their countries.
This month, the UNDP is expected to release its third report on the Arab world, in which it addresses the pervasive lack of good governance throughout the region. The dynamics on the ground are changing, but the impotence that has pervaded the region for so long and continues to hold development hostage can no longer be attributed to U.S. hegemony or to Israel. Arab societies are in an evolving tug of war. That's why what is happening in Lebanon is historic by all proportions. America is right to encourage the emergence of a strong, democratic, free and independent Lebanon. But it should leave it to the Lebanese people, who have thus far exhibited more courage than any of their Arab brethren, to decide their own future.