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February 24, 2005

The unasked question

Everyone probably has seen this already, but I think it's interesting as a starting point for thought. David Ignatius, in his Washington Post column, talks with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze Muslims:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Consider this in conjunction with the discussion on Nightline with Malcolm Gladwell, author of a book about the notion of a tipping point, and Tom Friedman of the New York Times. FrontPage magazine provides a transcript of the program. The discussion with Ted Koppel shows two observers cautiously optimistic that the Iraqi elections may have been a "tipping point" toward changing the way people view the situation in Iraq and maybe more than that. Friedman says:
I would simply add, also, we've seen two nearby tipping points, as well, which are both triggered by Iraq and will reinforce Iraq. In Lebanon, we've seen Lebanese stand off and say for the first time ever, "Syria did this." Referring to the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister. Lebanese, as Malcolm said, privately they may have spoken that way. But now, we see them step out of what was a private dialogue and make it a public dialogue. And in Palestine and Israel, we see an Israeli government agree to uproot Jewish settlements and evacuate the Gaza Strip and turn it over to a Palestinian authority and what will be a Palestinian state. Again, a whole new tipping point there. And each one of these three are now reinforcing each other in a virtuous cycle. And I think in some ways, even strengthening each other. So, you could get more tipping points as this goes along.
Gladwell then responds:
It's a wonderful illustration of how powerful fully contagious these kinds of changes are. You know, I can't help thinking in all of this back to the example of what was going on in Eastern Europe, particularly East Germany, in the month leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. 'Cause you had a similar kind of -- many different aspects of society, this kind of contagious element. And the notion, the idea that there could be a different future for people in that region spread so quickly from one area of society to another, that you had change happen far more quicker than you would ever have imagined. And, you know, I wonder when I see all of the things that Tom just described, there does seem to be a kind of contagious phenomenon at work here. That this notion that people of this region can powerfully reshape their futures seems to be spreading. You know, it resembles a spread of a virus. A kind of uncontrolled -- in this case a positive spread, though. An uncontrollable phenomenon whereby an idea spreads from one person to another.
The unasked question here is how much credit they think Bush deserves for these developments. Bush isn't mentioned at all, except briefly regarding his statement that major military operations were over. I'm happy to see some optimism among liberals, and I'm just curious about how far they are willing to go in admitting what seems to me to be obvious.

Final thought on this point: Tom Maguire quotes Lefty Gomez. "I'd rather be lucky than good."