January 12, 2011

On America in Lebanon (Updated)

Okay, this is the kind of thing that drives me crazy:

In contrast to 2005, Hezbollah’s adversaries — gathered around Mr. Hariri — have fewer options and less support than they once did, emblematic of the vast changes in Lebanon’s political landscape the past few years. While the Bush administration wholeheartedly backed Mr. Hariri and his allies then, President Obama has not pledged the same kind of support. Syria, whose influence was waning in 2005, has re-emerged in Lebanon, and even its detractors here have sought some kind of relationship with it. Most Lebanese also vividly recall the speed at which Hezbollah and its allies vanquished their foes in just a few days of street fighting in Beirut in May 2008.

How, pray tell, is March 14th weaker with an Obama Administration than they were with a Bush Administration? I ask this because it is now an article of faith that March 14th was once riding high when they had the support of the Bush Administration but that they are now weaker because of tepid support from the Obama Administration. This is crazy talk. The May 2008 events, in which Hizballah and its allies crushed March 14th on the streets of Beirut, took place while George W. Bush was still the president. And our response to that unrest? To park the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Lebanon, only underlining our impotence: in a tough spot, the United States has very few things we can do short of direct military force. So the levers available to policy makers basically amount to a car with two gears: first and fifth, with nothing in between. Unless we want to intervene militarily (like we did in both 1958 and 1983), what else are we going to do? This has nothing to do with the occupant of the White House. This has to do with America's limited influence in a tiny country north of Israel that is peripheral to U.S. interests. I'm all about criticizing this president when he deserves it, but mark my words: opportunists will seize on these events to talk about how America has abandoned her allies without offering ideas for what Obama should do today (or what Bush should have done in 2008) short of intervening directly with military force. In the meantime, shame on the New York Times for reporting on articles of faith and popular perceptions rather than hard facts.

Update: I complain, the New York Times listens. That's the way it happens, readers. I write a critical blog post and BOOM! This happens. Much better, Bobby.