Syria is able to control Lebanon with 14,000 soldiers

Syria and Lebanon have been in the news latelyLebanon has a population of 3.7 million.  Syria is able to control these people with just 14,000 soldiers, according to the latest articles, and to judge by the tens of thousands of supporters who rallied today in Beirut, Syrian control of Lebanon is just fine with most of the Lebanese.  This is a remarkable achievement considering that the U.S.-led coalition has roughly 150,000 troops in Iraq for their 25 million people and Iraqis don’t seem to be turning out in any great numbers to show public support for the foreign soldiers to continuing hanging around.  One wonders if we should not have outsourced the Iraq occupation to Syria…

14 thoughts on “Syria is able to control Lebanon with 14,000 soldiers

  1. Well, the story is more complicated; Syria did not really enter Lebanon as an invading army; Syria’s army entered Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese president to stop the civil war that had exploded in Beirut. The original force was appointed by the Arab League, and included troops not only from Syria, but from Egypt and some other country whose name I forget.

    The syrians basically put a stop in Beirut to the killings amongst the different factions. Their effect on the rest of the country was more limited.

  2. Why not? For all its denunciations of Syria as a junior member of the Axis of Evil(tm), the Bush administration had no qualm about outsourcing torture to them (google for “maher arar” for more details).

    The big difference is that Syria has the support of a significant proportion of the Lebanese population, 20-30% or so, in a very fragmented and polarized society, whereas in Iraq the US only has the support of exiles like Ahmad Chalabi with limited credibility among the population, and who masterfully told the President’s entourage what it wanted to hear, much as two millenia ago the Herods leveraged Roman politics for their own advantage.

  3. I’m an American expat living in the Middle East for the past 18 months. I’ve found the Lebanese-Syrian confilct a major issue in the region, especially as I have both Lebanese and Syrian co-workers at my company.

    My Lebanese friend tells me that the 14,000 Syrian troops don’t really control Lebanon. Syria controls Lebanon thru the secret police and the pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians. This is why the Lebanese are not demanding *only* troop pullout, but also the removal of all outside influences. They hope to replace the current government with one that is basically neutral.

  4. I’m lebanese.
    First, Syria went in Lebanon as part of an Arab peacekeeping force in 1976, theoretically to help the Christian Lebanese against the extremely well-armed Palestinians. A few months after they went in, the Syrians started switching sides and and working on taking control of the country through a divide-and-conquer strategy. Obviously it worked very well, and the peacekeeping force that came in to stop the war stayed in there for 14 of the 15 years of the ‘civil’ war. Great peacekeepers!

    Over the years Syria has very effectively taken control of the Lebanese army, secret services and politics through mostly intimidation. For example, Syria killed the leader of the Druze barely a year after it came into Lebanon to foster dissent. And Syria kept doing it, killing whoever didn’t fit its plans.

    Here’s a very simple example of the power of Syria in Lebanon: last October, we were supposed to have presidential elections. Syria decided that keeping its puppet Emile Lahoud in power would be better. So its secret service simply contacted all parliament members and told them to amend the constitution to extend the president’s term, or their lives would be amended.

    So yes, the US could be as ‘effective’ as Syria is, but it would have to stay in another 10 years in Iraq, continuously sapping the political infrastructure and replacing it with pro-US puppets, and killing anyone who doesn’t agree. Do you want that?

  5. The numbers are not that different actually Phil.

    At the peak of the occupation the Syrians had 25,000 soldiers (a soldier to population ratio of 148:1) . After nearly 30 years the numbers are down to 14,000 (264:1). The US today has a ratio of 208:1 (there are actually about 120,000 US troops in Iraq, not 150,000*). This is a mere two years after an invasion and they have a ratio which is significantly better than Syria at a similar stage and nearly as good as the Syrians after 30 years!


  6. I challenge your premise: the Kurds would be at least as willing to turn out a huge crowd for American soldiers as the Shia were for Syria.

    Furthermore, a Syrian soldier has a bit more pacification leverage than an American soldier because of the Hama precedent. We make a tradeoff of additional inconvenience and American lives in exchange for maintaining the American value of not flattening Fallujah completely indiscriminately without regard to civilian consequences. Don’t get me wrong: I’d pick 1000 American soldiers over 10000 Syrians in a second, but it takes more boots on the ground if one is going to obey the rules of war, which Syria doesn’t.

  7. Well, sounds like Phillip is running with Bill Joy. It’s amazing when competence in one area leads one to believe they know everything everywhere. Honest to goodness. You ought to retract this.

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