Friday, March 04, 2005

Syria and Lebanon put in Perspective

Juan Cole illuminates the current situation in Lebanon with some historical context here. It seems that both Israel and the Americans had an interest in actually keeping the Syrians in Lebanon as a check against militants operating from the Southern part of the country. Of course you don't hear anything like that on the news. All you hear about is how Syria's presence is disruptive. By the way, has anyone definitively linked Syria to the assassination of Hariri? Sure they seem a likely suspect, but so far nothing concrete. In a region with so many different conflicts and subplots intertwining, sometimes it isn't always the most obvious suspect is it? But I digress...

What I want to talk about here is the idea of context and history in understanding current events. Professor Cole's post reminds me of how sorely lacking our sources of information are when it comes to providing this sort of information. It reminds me of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting in which Milan Kundera returns again and again to the idea of official forgetting. His context is Czechoslovakia under communism, where enemies of the state are deleted from pictures among other things. The West is under its own spell of forgetting though. In this state the governments and their media enablers (Fox News et al) simply overlook the past. We are not presented with any perspective, all we are told is that those dastardly Syrians have occupying forces in Lebanon and that something must be done! (For what it's worth, terming the Syrian regime dastardly is not something I do facetiously, I have not forgotten what they did to Maher Arar, nor that it was done with American help.) When the media is so eager to acquiesce to the official government narrative it is, to say the least, disconcerting.