June 08, 2009

Arguing Lebanon

Rob Satloff made a claim on Hahvahd's Middle East Strategy blog that Vice President Biden's one-day visit to Beirut was decisive in swinging the election to March 14th.

Really, Rob?

Rob thinks the United States should take a hardline stance in the Middle East against Islamist parties, which is fine as far as it is a perfectly reasonable policy option about which we can have a healthy discussion. But let's not let our policy preferences cloud our analysis. There are a lot of factors which moved the elections in favor of March 14th, and Biden's visit is probably far down the list. How all those Sunni Muslims came out to vote in Zahle is probably a better question to be asking, as is how Hizballah -- whose message to its constituents is consistently pitch-perfect -- got it so wrong with respect to the signals it sent to the Christian electorate. I respond to Rob here.

In general, it might be healthy to admit that what we did and did not do in Washington had a far smaller impact on these elections than what the Lebanese did and did not do in Lebanon proper.

Update: Rex Brynen, who knows more about Lebanon than Rob and I put together, piles on.