May 11, 2008

The Tea Boy

By Lee Smith

The other day the Obama campaign distanced itself from Robert Malley for his dealings with Hamas. Never mind the disingenuousness of a campaign that up until the day before yesterday when he was fired from the campaign said Malley was not with the campaign, even though a New York Times defense in his behalf said he was with the campaign. What is manifestly clear however is that Obama and his banished adviser/non-adviser share the same worldview. Consider this passage from a press release expressing his "support" for Lebanon.

It's time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

Yes, the problem with Lebanon is not the militia backed by Damascus and Tehran that who have squared off against almost every US ally in the Middle East. No, in the Obama worldview, the issue is about "the corrupt patronage system." What is more corrupt than the issues that instigated the current crisis: Hezbollah's efforts to, a, build a state within a state and, b, undermine the sovereignty of the Lebanese government? And what is a more unfair distribution of services than an armed party at the service of foreign parties?

Obama's language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it's essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! – and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

Abu Kais over at From Beirut to the Beltway has a takedown of the half-term Senator from Ilinois' statement on Lebanon that is a must read.

Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago.

As Tony Badran wrote me this morning: "I think Obama's statement is counterproductive in that it will be read by Syria as confirming their hope that there might be a chance with an Obama presidency to get back Lebanon.

"And so, there's a good possibility that the first thing the Syrians will do in 2009 is to coordinate Hezbollah launching an attack on Israel. Syria would then present its services promising to 'deal' with the situation. Obama would be pressed by the foreign policy luminaries to send a delegation to 'negotiate' with Syria, the way many were urging President Bush to do in 2006, but he wisely resisted. Simultaneously, Syria would push a return to a peace process with Israel, and presto, the rules of the 1990s, which the Syrians have been desperately seeking after, are reinstated, whereby Syria would be able to pursue proxy war and a peace process simultaneously while restoring its control on Lebanon, which is the primary objective."

The number of Western journalists, academics and policymakers who have bartered their minds and souls in the political bazaars of the Middle East for blandishments real and imagined is too mind-numbing to contemplate. Like tourists in the souq, they are too flattered by the hospitality to suppose that the man who stands in between them and the beautiful chessboard they want to take home with has already exacted his price just by seating them. And how would you like your tea, President Obama?

Posted by Tony Badran at May 11, 2008 10:10 AM
Comments

Shame on the Obama campaign for acting in a Hilary-Clinton-esque way, distancing themselves from a smart, respected, sober foreign policy analyst who does great work for a smart, respected institution, the International Crisis Group, because - like any relevant analyst group, they've had him talk to relevant actors to better understand them, including, yes, Hamas.

Shame on them for not standing up to fundamentally shallow, bullying punks, and standing behind their people.

Hey, hero, solutions proposed by "leftists" for "diplomacy" hope to not have tens or hundreds of thousands of Lebanese fed into a meat grinder known as civil war, where as "solutions" proposed by people like yourself - never directly - involve similar tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths. Yeah, us crazy leftists and our lack of enthusiasm for starting civil wars on the backs of other people's sons and daughters. Boy, what a shameless dislike of massive, civilization-wrecking violence!

Or maybe you've got the magic plan to "disarm" Hizballah with neither negotiations nor an enormous military campaign that kills football fields full of innocent Lebanese. Let's hear it! Maybe you'll call Hizballah a lot of nasty names, and then they'll dissapear! Looking forward to it.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 11:04 AM

Tony is right. Why on earth would anyone believe at this point that any sort of diplomacy is going to eliminate the threat that Hizballah poses?

International diplomacy is the only doctrine whose record of failure is as consistent as the doctrine of socialism. It's not an accident that Obama is pitching both.

Posted by: Michael Smith Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 11:42 AM

Glasnost: Or maybe you've got the magic plan to “disarm” Hizballah with neither negotiations nor an enormous military campaign that kills football fields full of innocent Lebanese. Let's hear it!

See here.

It will never happen, of course, but it doesn't fit your caricature, so you can calm down now.

Tony is Lebanese. Lee and I have lived in Lebanon. None of us want to kill "football fields full of innocent Lebanese." Your comments today are extremely obnoxious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 1:08 PM

This sounds an awful lot like the explanation for why rural Pennsylvanians cling to God and guns instead of voting for Obama - everything is about politico-economic issues and an oppressed proletariat in need of Obama's guidance in order to achieve self-liberation and gain a place at the table.

I've got to wonder, though: Is Obama suggesting that if conservatives and libertarians try to create a state within a state, the Democrats should negotiate with us on earmark reform as opposed to calling in the National Guard?

Posted by: gbarto Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 1:33 PM

Nicely put, gbarto.

Posted by: Lee Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 3:00 PM

Why on earth would anyone believe at this point that any sort of diplomacy is going to eliminate the threat that Hizballah poses?

1) Because at this point all Obama has is belief: no experience, no knowledge, no ideas, and no power.

2) To get elected by appealing to the ingrained prejudice of your target electorate. Many politicians make it a point never to teach their electorates anything.

BTW, Michael, I gotta hand it to you: I haven't heard anyone else daring to refer to Obama as "Boy".

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 4:27 PM

Oops, sorry Mr. Smith, I guess it was you who titled this post.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 4:37 PM

What Obama prescribes for Lebanon has long been needed in Chicago. So maybe he should start there.

Posted by: Bennett Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 7:22 PM

Michael;
a relevant lift from your ref'd 07/02/07 piece:
"There is no way Assad will sign a peace treaty with Israel, ever, unless his choice is to sign or be destroyed."
But remember, Assad "sells the water and doesn't deliver." Signing or not signing a treaty is entirely a near-term contingent decision. Non-delivery is the one certainty.

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:13 PM

a relevant lift from your ref'd 07/02/07 piece:
“There is no way Assad will sign a peace treaty with Israel, ever, unless his choice is to sign or be destroyed.”
But remember, Assad “sells the water and doesn't deliver.” Signing or not signing a treaty is entirely a near-term contingent decision. Non-delivery is the one certainty.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:28 PM

Oops, sorry Mr. Smith, I guess it was you who titled this post.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:29 PM

What Obama prescribes for Lebanon has long been needed in Chicago. So maybe he should start there.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:30 PM

What Obama prescribes for Lebanon has long been needed in Chicago. So maybe he should start there.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:31 PM

"Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions."

Right, because clearly the decades of fighting them in military combat has been so much more successful.

Lebanon is a mess. Nobody has a magic bullet solution. Diplomacy alone won't solve anything. Military action against hezbollah alone won't solve anything - Israel's invasion didn't accomplish anything in the long run.

Obama is not being as naive as you make him out to be. It's convenient that you cut off the previous sentences where he says: "Hezbollah's power grab in Beirut has once more plunged that city into violence and chaos. This effort to undermine Lebanon's elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately."

I think it's pretty clear he blames Hezbollah first and foremost for the problems and that getting them to stop the violence is the most important thing. The stuff about reforming the political system was secondary to this.

Posted by: elduderino Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 9:03 PM

Mr. Obama is what we in Utah call "rustic".

Too bad the stakes are a bit higher than a poker game with the guys from work or a county fair three card monte pitch...

He is not ill equipped for the post he pursues. He is unequipped.

I have come to accept that an out of control country, like an alcoholic, needs to hit bottom before it can get better. I think we're just now beginning to notice how funny the walls look as they rush by.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 9:03 PM

The west (and the South Korean government) has been negotiating with North Korea for several decades now. We can hardly stop them from testing missle satellites over Japan or supplying Syria with nuclear material. North Koreans either live on tree barks or spend 6-7 hours singing songs about the Kim Jong IL deity in brain washing class. We're probably "negotiating" with the #@!$#@!$ing Burmese government right now over foreign aid. I wouldn't be surprised at ALL if their government diverts what little shipment they allowed to feed the military. Or even make DEMANDS before the aid enters their country.

Because the war in Iraq was plagued by some unilateral decision making, candidates have to tout their diplomatic skills and the willingness to hear "all sides". You don't want to appear like maverick George Bush, which is understandable. But it's not likely to get anything done. Who would vote for Jimmy Carter now, if he was a candidate?

A community of different world leaders promoting human rights or ending oppression through debates or exhange of ideas is a noble concept. If that was always plausible, there wouldn't be protests over the torch and the sequel to hurricane Katrina would not be taking place in Burma.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 12:26 AM

TmjUtah: I have come to accept that an out of control country, like an alcoholic, needs to hit bottom before it can get better.

If you're referring to the U.S., might I recommend a holiday in Lebanon and Iraq? The U.S. looks extremely high-functioning and sane when I return from those places. I'm in the Balkans right now (with little time to write, but I'm trying) and the same goes for this part of the world for pretty much the same reasons.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 2:37 AM

Why did Donald Rumsfeld never have to apologise for his first hand dealings with Sadam Hussein?

Will George W have to apologise for dealing with mass murderers like Jumblatt in the future? How about inviting the head of the Iranian backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution to the White House?

All political leaders in DC have ties with some pretty bad people in the Middle East so it is completely unfair to just target one.

It is completely likely that in the future the US could be at war with some leaders it has invited here to the USA in the last few years, yet no one says a thing.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 7:39 AM

Michael -

We are high functioning because of it takes a lot to disassemble machinery that works well, but imperfectly.

We are poised to elect majorities and a president who are committed to getting to perfect over the corpse of what we have now.

Let us take a brief look at Democrat positions and objectives:

Increased regulation of energy producers and providers based on the Global Warming hoax and as panders to the green fringe. Refusal to support speedier licensing or nuclear plants, refusal to even address existing engineering requirements to handle existing waste. Refusal to allow permitting of new refineries here, without which we are incapable of addressing even current demand WITHOUT the added load if we were to open ANWR or the Florida or LA coasats. Tax increases on companies and individuals, penalizing savings, estates, and entrepreneurs, reenacting the fairness doctrine, socializing health care, abandoning immigration reform, expanding benefits programs, bailing out shady mortgage lenders thus amplifying the depth and duration of the housing bust (but guaranteeing fat checks from those same lenders at election time), selling our childrens' futures to teachers' unions, and finally , abandoning Iraq, abandoning any pretense of confrontation of fundamentalist Islam, and finally formal surrender to Islam.

... because there's not single Democrat candidate who doesn't think that we deserved what we got on 9/11.

How many planks need stick before wheels fall off, Michael?

We are a nation of loan processors, shipping Chinese money to Arab oil exporters. We live better than we can afford to, but our taste for McMansions, new cars, and credit debt absolutely disappears against our desire to burden ourselves with the absolute worst people possible where government is concerned.

Thanks for the good work, Michael. I'm putting something aside for you as soon as I'm sure we've covered this quarter's preparedness stuff. Be careful out there.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:48 AM

Your comments today are extremely obnoxious.

Hmmm. You're entitled to your opinion. Here, now you can listen to mine. I find the things being said about Robert Malley.... extremely obnoxious.

I see red when pundits start trash-talking professionals. Over at National Review, they're cheerfully throwing around bon mots like "Robert O Malley is palling around with terrorists". Engaging in dialogue with relevant parties in a conflict is an obligation, not an expression of friendship, it's slander to knowingly suggest otherwise.

Now, I was pretty hard on Smith, here, who manages to avoid calling O'Malley nasty names. Maybe I should have scaled to that level of civility.
However, when - as every word of this piece implies - politicians and professionals who raise alternatives to the "destroy Hizballah" track are treated as radioactive dupes and fools to be ostracized,
then there will be nothing left but to fire up the F-16's.

I think calls for unspecified people to ride out and conduct unspecified campaigns of unspecified destruction on "Hizbollah", as if you could remove them from the country with surgical lasers and leave everyone as cheerful Western capitalists, to be irresponsible and stupid. Period. And encouraging of half-hearted military escalations that will certainly make things worse and end up killing Lebanese people. Look four steps east to Iraq and draw conclusions.

So, I find your heavily implied policies as obnoxious as you find my big mouth.

Any serious campaign to military remove Hizballah is going to kill a very large number of ordinary Lebanese people. If you'd like to disagree with that, do so in a straightforward manner, don't just carp at me. I'm sure you don't want to see football fields full of Lebanese killed - so in order to be consistent with that point of view, you can't advocate for war in Lebanon. But it sure seems like you are.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 9:39 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/12/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 9:48 AM

See here.

That is a pretty good plan.

Ok, I apologize for getting on your nerves.

What can I tell you, I don't like the implications of the recent writing at all, it all sounds like calls for massive military intervention - by the US, pro-Western Lebanese, someone.

Pack in enough sneering at the peacemakers and veiled suggestions that we have no choice but to shoot our way out of the problems in Lebanon, and someone may misinterpret you. Maybe you don't intend to be saying that, but that's how I've been reading it.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 9:51 AM

Glasnost: I don't like the implications of the recent writing at all

That is precisely the reason American liberals and leftists plug their ears and refuse to listen whenever bad actors in the Middle East threaten and kill people. And it is precisely the reason so many others have a hard time taking the left seriously on the subject of terrorism.

that's how I've been reading it.

That's your fault, not mine.

Until I say "it's time to start shooting our way into Lebanon," you can assume that is not what I'm saying in some sort of code. I am not going to write "I don't want war in Lebanon" every time I mention Hezbollah so that your nerves can be calmed. I am not responsible for the mental baggage you bring to my material.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 11:16 AM

Glasnost,

"to not have tens or hundreds of thousands of Lebanese fed into a meat grinder known as civil war"

How do you suppose Mr. Obama feels about the hundreds of thousands of Americans that went through that same meat grinder to end slavery?

Sometimes, you can have a diplomatic solution and sometimes you can't and it's fairly easy to tell the difference. Hezbollah fires rockets into northern Israel on a regular basis. This tells me they're not the negotiating type.

Posted by: Kafir Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 5:18 PM

TMJUtah;

Global Warming Hoax

Since only scientists really understand the science and since within science there is a majority peer-reviewed consensus that human-caused climate change is occurring, then climate change deniers need to address the meta-issue of why such an amazingly efficient scientific conspiracy is taking place and how climate scientists are managing to pull it off. Only once they’ve come up with a reasonable answer to that - preferably without sounding really angry, crazed and/or bitter - should they start proposing alternative theories that have yet to appear in peer-reviewed climate-scientific research.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at May 13, 2008 11:40 AM

boojum -

The only solid science data out there that explains the macro of tempeture trends for the last few centuries is pretty simple: solar output.

Which makes sense, since there aren't any SUV's on Venus or Mars to cause global warming on those bodies.

And the latest news in... cough climate change cough (new buzzword, almost forgot to use it) is that there will be a twenty year time out BUT THAT'S JUST AN INTERMISSION, AND WE'LL ALL BE FUCKING WADING IN OKLAHOMA AFTER THAT!

I would dig up some links, but there's no point. Any public campaign headlined by Al Gore is a racket, and even a cursory examination of his business holdings would make that crystal clear to anyone but a True Believer.

Look, kid... I survived the end of oil back in the eighties, okay? The ice age that peaked in 78 was a bitch but my number never came up for the soup lottery and thank goodness the glaciers never reached Texas. The population bomb? A simple matter of total market ignorance and several misplaced decimal points...

I'm only bitter because at most ripoff carnivals, the bystanders have a choice whether they have to buy tickets and actually get on the rides. Looks like the next eight years or so that will not be the case.

Yah. You'd be bitter, too, if you could pour piss out of a boot.

Have a fine one. O! le!

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 13, 2008 10:25 PM

I have to agree with eldurino on this; if you read the whole thing, it does not come across as someone trying to curry favor with Hezbollah, Iran or Syria. It does come across as someone who knows it will be several months at the earliest before he's able to do something about it.

Posted by: Michael Author Profile Page at May 19, 2008 10:08 PM
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