Amazingly, there still exists a blog of hyper-optimism called Iraq the Model. But in a recent Salon article, Charles Freeman, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia under Bush I, sums up what the phrase really means:
The irony now is that the most likely candidate to back Hezbollah in the long term is no longer Iran but the Arab Shiite tyranny of the majority we have installed in Baghdad.
Indeed. As I noted repeatedly back in the early days of this now-year-old blog,* the Iraqi political system created under the botched US occupation of that deeply divided country is, at best, a majoritarian system. And, in the context of such societal divisions, that is just a polite word for tyranny of the majority. When the main political parties of that majority also happen to have militias, the emphasis goes on tyranny.
And that pretty well describes the situation Hezbollah has created in Lebanon. The Shiite community in Lebanon is not yet the majority, but it is the plurality. And demographic trends will make it a majority before long.
The current Lebanese political system–such as it is–remains conscociational. The declining Christian community is no longer guaranteed an effective majority of the important political positions, as it was before the civil war, but it is still guaranteed 50% of the cabinet and legislature. This is not sustainable in the longer run. The emerging political-system model for Lebanon looks a lot like Iraq: Majority rule for the dominant Shiite parties, with some subordinate power-sharing with the various other groups–in both cases a Sunni Arab minority and a major “other” in the form of the Christians in Lebanon and the Kurds in Iraq–and armed militias all around. In Lebanon, the other organizations aside from Hezbollah disarmed, but is that sustainable as the Shiite population grows and inevitably agitates for Lebanese institutions that reflect that reality?
And that’s what the “democratic” scenario for each country looks like. Some model indeed.
* If you missed the discussion, click on Iraq above and scroll. You won’t have to scroll far: There are few posts after the elections of January that empowered SCIRI, DAWA, and the Sadrists under the constitution ratified the previous fall.