Monday, January 24, 2011

The US is Heading for the Exits in Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is about to find himself facing Hezbullah alone in Lebanon, as the United States heads for the exits.

Now comes the next phase of this prolonged race between a legal process and an armed resistance. If the indictments so long in coming go long unfulfilled, if they leave untouched those widely believed to have instigated the assassination, then the region will conclude that the victims and their friends have little will left for this fight.

This will mark the final success of the perpetrators’ strategy. They will have understood well the lands against which they plotted. Pursuing these indictments will bring violence, or even civil war, Western experts on the politics of the Levant say, adding with knowing resignation that few there want more violence now. That, as far as it goes, may be true enough. But the judgments of the democrats in Beirut are based on the forces they have come to know for six bloody years. They have no cause to suspect that those who killed in 2005 have abandoned their goals. By contrast, Western support will seem to have brought but temporary solace to our friends; the Cedar Revolution, which began with a bang, may leave only smoke.

The finely tuned ears in the region have not failed to catch the sounds of Washington edging toward the door. Just last week, before sealed indictments were filed, Secretary Clinton, echoed by the State Department spokesman, already pronounced our readiness to treat charges as limited to “individuals,” not “the groups to which they belong.” This must strike oddly Middle Easterners, who have long heard us call Hezbollah a “terrorist organization” and repeatedly proclaim that the U.S. is determined to end impunity for political murder in Lebanon.

Ironically, even as the Saad Hariri government fell, Secretary Clinton lectured the region on the virtues of political courage and the strength of American will. In Doha, she urged Arab leaders “to put away plans that are timid and gradual” and make bold, democratic reforms. “This is a test of leadership for all of us,” said Clinton. “I am here to pledge my country’s support for those who step up to solve the problems that we and you face.” Did some in the chamber think, “Lebanon?”

The Hezbollah leader, in his first public comments since toppling the government, mocked America’s empty promises of support. He publicly warned Hariri that the West had promptly turned on its former ally, the recently toppled leader of Tunisia, by denying him sanctuary.

In days to come, the region will recall Hariri’s fate, much as the assassins intended. If your friends can neither protect you nor deter attacks to come, then you best curb your course or face your fate. There is nothing exotic in this wisdom of Beirut; it sounds the same coming from the streets of old Chicago.

I hope all those Israelis who want to give all our strategic depth to the 'Palestinians' based upon American guarantees are listening.

Labels: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Land for peace, Lebanese government collapse, Special Tribunal for Lebanon

posted by Carl in Jerusalem

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