Ghanem the Eighth
A huge car bomb killed an anti-Syrian MP and at least three others today in Beirut, a week before the Lebanese Parliament was to due meet to elect a new president. Antoine Ghanem, the eighth prominent anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since 2005, died in the blast in the Christian Sin el-Fil neighbourhood of the capital.
That's how the UK Times describes the latest incident in undeclared conflict between parties whose identities are officially unknown but which are common knowledge. Joshua Landis at Syria Comment notes that Antoine Ghanem's death is an operation of subtraction in a deadly game of arithmetic for control of the Lebanese government. The participation of organizations like Hezbollah in the "democratic space" means that bombs are as legitimate as ballot boxes.
This is significant because Presidential elections must be carried out before the end of November and March 14th's majority is only held by a few deputies. The immediate impulse of journalists will be to tie the killing of Ghanem to Syria. They will see it as Damascus' pay back for Israel's bombing raid on Syria.
Ghanem's death may also be a signal to France, which is said to be trying to diminish Syrian influence in Lebanon through its connections with Maronite Christian political allies. Ghanem was a Maronite.
It's difficult to speculate on what the "Western" response should be largely because all conceivable ripostes are illegal, with the exception of sending Syria a diplomatic protest -- which would be rejected anyway because they will not officially acknowledge any role in events. A declaration of war is out. Military action would legally require an application to the UN. Covert action is liable to denouncement by the New York Times. Counter-assassination is probably a criminal act which no Western politician could authorize without fear of being tried by a Human Rights Tribunal in the future. So what's left? A futile trek to the UN made all the more compelling by the fact that every liberal pundit will clamor for it. The fact that no such constraints bind Syria, Hezbollah or Iran is irrelevant; and they will be the first to denounce and reject the Western pleas at the UN.
The employment of the Israeli Air Force to bomb an unspecified target funded by unknown other countries passing through the airspace of an unmentioned allied Muslim Nation for reasons that are still mysterious shows how total this legal paralysis is. Despite the third-rate military capability of Syria, none dare act against except it but an "outlaw nation", which by definition, can operate outside international law. With Syria and Hezbollah knocking off one opposition politician after the other what can the moral mandarins of the West Left do, except hope the despised Jew will do their dirty work? They may have even arranged for it, because even if Syria succeeds in obtaining a "democratic majority" by tearing up all the rules of democracy, by employing the car-bomb and the machinegun, the West will be forced to play by the formal rule book anyway and accredit their diplomats to the Syrian puppets. A call to Jerusalem may have been easier. We all know how this works. The enemy can torture Americans but Americans must always abide by the Geneva Convention. Dura lex, sed lex.. And one way, too.
The alternative of course, is for Europe and America to forthrightly declare their intention to stop Syria themselves. And if any provisions of International Law prevent it, then International Law should be amended where appropriate and action proceed forthwith. But that's too honest a course for a political elite too clever by a half. They've manacled themselves and can't even muster the gumption to unlock it with the key between their fingers.