Nearly 500,000 pro-Syrian protesters waved flags and chanted anti-American slogans in a central Beirut square Tuesday, answering a nationwide call by the militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group for a demonstration to counter weeks of massive rallies demanding Syrian forces leave Lebanon.

Organizers handed out Lebanese flags and directed the men and women to separate sections of the square. Loudspeakers blared militant songs urging resistance to foreign interference. Demonstrators held up pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and signs saying, “Syria & Lebanon brothers forever.” ~MSNBC

Just recently Charles Krauthammer abused us with another tired lecture about siding with “the people” against dictators, and today Amity Shlaes (sorry, subscription required for full article), reliable echo for the War Party over at the Financial Times, chimed in with more condescending remarks against those who did not believe in the power of “the people” in various instances, citing such dubious examples as the Ukraine and, of course, the current mess in Lebanon.

Hizbullah’s rally was, of course, no more “spontaneous,” “populist” or “democratic” than the rally of the opposition forces, and just as the insipidly-named “Orange Revolution” was the reflection of the interests of a narrow group of politicians and apparatchiks the demonstrations in Beirut serve the interests of the Hizbullah elite. That being said, Hizbullah and its allies represent the majority in Lebanon, and it is perhaps understandable that in a country with an already-functioning representative system of government, however flawed or constrained it may have been, the majority had grown weary of being dictated to by foreign-backed minorities who were being given the mantle of “the Lebanese people” by all and sundry in the West. Imagine the fury of the typical neoconservative or Republican if an Arab or, worse yet, a Frenchman lectured Americans that “the American people,” as represented by such a figure as, say, Michael Moore, were being oppressed and deprived of their rights. They might well point out that Mr. Moore does not represent most Americans, and that his frame of reference is so utterly skewed and self-serving that his observations are not to be trusted.

Of course, other nations do not usually presume to tell us what “the American people” really believe–indeed, they tend to assume the worst about the entire country from whatever small, negligible information they have about certain parts of it. This is not unlike the typical American response to politics in the Near East, which has all the intellectual subtlety of a sledgehammer: if something terrible has happened or if there is some conflict, no matter what it is, blame one of the Arab regimes, threaten and cajole the regime and pretend to know what “the people” in that country wants better than the people themselves seem to be interested in wanting. Yesterday, it was the certainty that the Iraqis would welcome us, and today it is the certainty that “the Lebanese people” want ‘democracy’ (as if they were lacking in it) and that ‘we’ must stand by ‘them’, as if there were some obvious groundswell of support for our meddling.

This is real lesson from the Lebanese mess that our government is daily trying to incite and make worse: powerful factions and states are using their respective mobs as props to lend legitimacy to their utterly cynical and largely obnoxious maneuvers to gain advantage over one another. The mobs are equally democratic, which is to say the willing tools of some demagogue or other, and they are all probably equally unrepresentative of what the ordinary Lebanese wants for his country. Our government stands condemned of having encouraged and incited this mess to entirely unnecessary lengths. What does America gain from destabilising another Near Eastern country, except creating more vacuums of power into which the very sorts of anti-American fanatics we purportedly oppose can thrive and flourish more readily than they do now? Now that all factions in Lebanon have gotten into the business of playing at representing the interests of “the Lebanese people,” the situation is that much closer to ending in violent confrontation, as one or the other side of the conflict will insist on proving that it is the force that truly has Lebanon’s best interests at heart. We have turned Iraq into a failed state, and we seem interested in helping the Lebanese to do the same to their country–why? We need only look to who benefits, and it is not “the Lebanese people.”

As for Krauthammer’s tiresome prediction that the “road to Damascus goes through Beirut,” let’s all remember that he and his comrades were using the same sort of language about Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict. There is perhaps slightly more logic behind this latest statement, since there is at least a connection between Syrian and Lebanese politics, but this is only because there was none in the earlier one. Moreover, we should be very worried for the stability of Syria if the dictatorship does fall. Unlike in Iraq, there will not even be the pretense of a new authority taking control, but it will degenerate into various squabbling factions; the winner will be whoever can command the loyalty of a sufficient number of military units, and the government of Syria will not be notably different in structure or interests than before.

However, in undermining the government in Damascus Krauthammer and his ilk have no concern for the prospect that it will lead to a Syrian civil war, the endangerment of the Christian population there or a mass exodus of refugees fleeing a civil war should one begin. Their concern is to weaken Israel’s last immediately neighbouring adversary, and if a number of ordinary Lebanese and Syrians must get killed to achieve that they will be perfectly at peace with this prospect.