Friday, November 12, 2010

"We're still paying for Bush's cave-in to Hezbollah"

By an AIPAC guy, who 'hearts' Lebanon:
"... These days, however, the country looks headed for a frightening crisis. The March 14 coalition, as the ruling group is known, has been unable to capitalize on its popular mandate due to the overwhelming force wielded by Hezbollah, which is funded, trained, and armed by Iran and Syria. But it's not just Hezbollah's fault. U.S. policy toward Lebanon is significantly to blame for being unwilling to back up bold words with actions. Far from protecting America's allies, consecutive U.S. administrations have not only failed the pro-Western government but also empowered its worst enemies..... It's difficult not to lay the blame for this dire situation at the feet of former U.S. President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The Bush administration was eager to hold up Lebanon as an example of its successful Middle East policy: "We took great joy in seeing the Cedar Revolution. We understand that the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the street to express their desire to be free required courage, and we support the desire of the people to have a government responsive to their needs and a government that is free, truly free," Bush said in April 2006. However, when push came to shove, the president did little to help his Lebanese allies when they needed him most. Judgment day came May 7, 2008, when an emboldened Hezbollah, alarmed that the government was moving to control the group's illicit private communications network, invaded the streets of Beirut and the Chouf mountains to the south, forcing Lebanon's democratically elected leaders to concede to a power-sharing agreement at the point of a gun. The result was yet another capitulation by the Bush administration, which signaled its acquiescence to the Doha agreement, signed on May 21 of that year, formalizing Hezbollah's veto over any government decision -- including its own disarmament. But if the Bush administration opened the door to Hezbollah's takeover of Lebanon, President Barack Obama's administration is holding that door ajar, doing little to support the United States' erstwhile allies in the March 14 coalition out of fear that such a move would damage any chance of engaging with Syria..... For its part, the administration continues to focus on reaching out to Damascus and has done little more than indicate that there are limits to America's patience.... The Obama administration must decide to resist the "resistance" and lead the West in a program to further empower Lebanese civil society and aid the dormant democratic forces in the country. ....
'Hobbled by Saudi patrons?'
Obama should look to Lebanon's pro-democracy media, which has largely been silenced over the last year, intimidated not only by pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian, and Hezbollah foes, but hobbled by Saudi patrons who mistakenly thought they could pull Syria away from Iran's influence. That strategy, like the United States' outreach to Syria, has proved a disastrous failure. The Obama administration can help take the muzzle off of these Lebanese patriots whose courageous voices are the first defense against Hezbollah.... 
The United States must be willing to work with its allies in Europe and the Middle East to support those democratic elements who want to save their country. This policy will not be easy. It may require making the tough decision to give up on forces and programs that have failed to serve as a bulwark against Hezbollah, or it may require a deep reform of the same, but tough choices are what we face....."

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