May 19, 2005

The U.S. and Lebanon

Yesterday I linked to a post at the Lebanese Political Journal that briefly mentioned how U.S. foreign policy intersected with the Cedar Revolution. Today the lead writer at the site, who uses the psuedonym Lebanon.Profile, wrote a longer essay that focuses specifically on this very question.

Read it. Read the whole thing. Whether you're politically left, right, dovish, or hawkish, I can almost guarantee you'll be surprised by at least part of what he has to say. Things look different in Lebanon than they do in America. But don't take my word for it. Get it straight from the source.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2005 05:03 PM
Comments

Works for me.I think GWB would be perfectly content not only with this analysis but with his perceived place in Lebanon's history.Saving many lives and creating the international 'atmospherics' is a very worthy historical legacy.

Who after all can return Lebanon to freedom except the Lebanese people?

Posted by: dougf at May 19, 2005 05:22 PM

I particularly like near the end where L. Poli notes how Bush I sold Lebanon to get Syria support to save Kuwait in '90.

He doesn't mention it, but Bush II just apologized for the Yalta sale of the Baltics to mass murderer Stalin. (Done by Michael's hero FDR.)

And Bush II has been a friend of the murdering dictator in Uzbekistan, in order to get an airbase to beat the Taliban in Afghanistan. I'm still not sure what "more" the US should do in disapproval there, but bigger cuts in aid, at least, seem called for.

Also not mentioned often is how, while the US "sold out" one or another state, it's actually the rule by Stalin or another dictator that is really the problem.

Recent defenders of Newsweek are, finally, starting to say the real problem is the reaction of the Islamists. It would be really ironic if defense of Newsweek's Toilet Koran lie would make the news really look at who DOES have most responsibility -- the adult moral actors actually doing the deeds.
(and I just wanted to check in before sleep. 2:49am)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 19, 2005 05:50 PM

The really awful selling out of Lebanon in 1990 to Syria deserves apology. More than that, it deserved our help in setting right-- and I think we've done some of that now, 15 years later.

It also brings up another point-- opponents of the recent invasion of Iraq often like to point to the Gulf War as an example of what we should have done, of the advantages of diplomacy and the UN and multilateralism. It's good to remember that we got Syria to support us (a fact celebrated by many who love multilateralism) by selling out the Lebanese. We could've gotten the Turks to go along with us this time, by offering promises to sacrifice the interests of the Kurds. We could've even gotten the Syrians again, possibly, by selling out the Lebanese... we certainly could've tried to by their help recently by doing so.

Countries have interests. Sometimes multilateralism and diplomacy means selling someone else out. I'm proud that we supported the right side in Ukraine, even though he pulled out troops from Iraq that Kuchma put in there. I'm glad that we've cut our aid to Uzbekistan and are providing aid to pro-democracy groups there; I'd like to do more there, though, than we have been doing.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 19, 2005 06:01 PM

I didn't know about that Syrian sell-out. The urging of southern Iraqis to rise up against Saddam then leaving them high and dry was bad enough.

But about this sudden Syria liberalism, don't kid yourself Michael. When political theorists like Wolfowitz said that deposing Saddam and instituting democracy in Iraq through war would have positive, pro-democratic reverberations in other Arab authoritarian states, they were ridiculed as lunatics. Attacking Iraq was described as 'destabilizing', as if destabilizing corrupt authoritarian states which support terrorism is a bad thing.

It's not just Lebanon that has felt these changes, but now Syria, Gulf States, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and hopefully Iran. Maybe some of this talk of reform is just for show, but for centuries, there was no progress in this region politically, except maybe the Islamic revolution in Iran and that was in the wrong way. Now, mysteriously, the Arab Islamic world is warming to modern democratic political systems after the deposing of Saddam, and this is just a coincidence?

We're seeing what the neo-cons predicted would happen. It's much like how when Reagan got tough with the USSR; the same sort of critics of Reagan's policies feared war, annihilation, misuse of tax money, or souring of diplomatic relations. But when the USSR fell almost immediately after Reagan left office, it was chalked up to coincidence or inevitibility the critics themselves never predicted.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at May 19, 2005 07:11 PM

Who would argue that self-determination is not helped by the support of some big friends?

Wouldn't it have been better for us in Iraq if we had taken a more diplomatic course with Syria? Especially in light of the understanding that some of the Iraqi insurgency emanates from there. Wouldn't things be easier in Iraq if we softened our rhetoric and policy toward Iran?

George Bush is a principled man and his Administration develops policy and action based on those principles. Not to say they are always right, but on Lebanon they sure are.

Posted by: too many steves at May 20, 2005 07:12 AM

“Wouldn't it have been better for us in Iraq if we had taken a more diplomatic course with Syria?”

Taking “a more diplomatic course” only makes sense when dealing with those possessing good intentions. A win-win strategy works only when both sides are honest with each other. Syria’s Baathist leadership is similar to the Mafia. It has no interest in seeking a viable compromise. These thugs only understand brute force. It is no exaggeration to compare the morals and mindset of the Baathist Party to those of a mugger or rapist.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 20, 2005 10:22 AM

Too Many Steves: Wouldn't it have been better for us in Iraq if we had taken a more diplomatic course with Syria?

Not for the Lebanese. Diplomacy with thugs has its costs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 20, 2005 11:36 AM

Diplomacy with thugs? No such thing. That is only diplomacy as defined, I believe by Will Rogers, as soothingly saying nice doggy while you pick up a rock.

Posted by: Zacek at May 20, 2005 12:29 PM

Sorry folks, I wasn't arguing in favor of diplomacy with Syria, just trying to point out that doing such a thing was common in the history of our dealings in the Middle East and, likely, would have been the easy way to go - and an approach Bush refused not take.

Posted by: too many steves at May 20, 2005 01:23 PM

UGH! "refused to take"

Posted by: too many steves at May 20, 2005 01:24 PM

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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn