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03 April 2009

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Abu Sinan

Once again we support some really bad people because we think it is in our best interest.

March 14th, with cash from the Saudis, is funding some serious bad guys for not much more reason than that they hate the Shi'a. These same well funded and armed groups dont always follow the game plane and what we get then is armed uprisings and the leveling of Palestinian refugee camps.

Our cash and arms helped fund the precursors of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who knows what evil our cash and arms is starting up in Lebanon now.

Ga'Ga' (GeaGea) was best known for heading up fascist militia who used to perform an off sort of ID check at the road blocks in Beirut. They'd have you drop your pants. If you were cut, you were a Muslim and they'd kill you and cut off your penis and keep them.

These are the sorts we are dealing with now.

J

Colonel,

Sec-O-State Clinton would be better served to place an 'impartial' party in charge of the Near East division, instead of Feltman who is hardline pro-Israel at every turn. Notwithstanding his 'meddling' in internal Lebanese affairs during his tenure there on station.

I see Feltman as one of the worst picks possible in his current posit as head over Near Eastern affairs at State. Feltman is an 'Israeli filter' that neither Sec-O-State Clinton or the Obama administration in general need at this critical juncture.

jon

Sounds par for the course - in the former administration. And it also doesn't strike me as being calibrated in order to be the least bit useful as criticism, threat, or encouragement to change.

It is indeed similar to the behavior over Palestinian elections - and similar to the Eastern European 'Color Revolutions' of a few years ago. There's a reflexive insistence on observing the forms of democratic and open elections, followed by even larger efforts to nullify election results if the 'wrong' guys get elected.

This doesn't reflect well on the US, and it doesn't encourage others to embrace democracy, elections, or US assistance in their internal affairs. I had thought that the Palestinian elections represented and enormous opportunity - Hamas had previously been criticizing from the outside, then they had the privilege of trying to make government work - and found it harder than it looks. It also started them to explore the wisdom of revising their more inflammatory policies, mature as an organization, and build a workable coalition.

Democracy didn't sprout fully formed in the US one day, and it hasn't worked perfectly and seamlessly since then. We need to be a great deal less idealistic when we encourage others to embrace democracy, particularly when it hasn't had a strong tradition in their country. You can't force someone to be democratic. You can't expect prior traditions and habits to evaporate because there might be a political change. You can't expect another country's democracy to look identical to the US'. etc.

Will

JaJa, aka the Hakim, although he never completed his medical studies at AUB spent some ten years or so in solitary confinement- deservedly so. According to a recent Forbes article, he devoured a book a day concentrating on Hegel.

Hitchens visits Beirut

He still strikes me an unreformed thug.

IMHO, he would have been better off reading Aristotle.

David Habakkuk

Abu Sinan,

I think it is even worse than you suggest.

I think Ambassador Feltman and his ilk, both in the United States and my own country, Britain, really fool themselves. They convince themselves that the people they think it is in 'our best interests' to support are as pure as the driven snow -- or at the worst, have a few minor peccadilloes.

The natural corollary of this fantastic view of the world is a deep-seated conviction that those they prefer to oppose -- like Hizbullah -- are demonic figures, whose horns and tail should be visible to everyone.

One consequence is that people like Feltman simply cannot factor into their calculations the possibility that those they think it is in 'our best interests' to support are almost inevitably bound not to follow the 'game plan' -- and, if may use a little British understatement, are liable to blot their copybook with the odd spot or two of blood.

Another is that the fact that many Lebanese may actually vote for Hizbullah, and some Sunnis and many Christians much prefer them to Geagea and his friends, is for Feltman and his ilk an utterly incomprehensible anomaly -- which endless lectures and the odd spot of bribery can somehow be counted on to correct.

Kieran

Nicholas Noe has written a thoughtful and supremely informed report for the Century Foundation outlining a saner US policy towards Lebanon. He has repeatedly met and talked policy with the various leaderships.

http://www.tcf.org/publications/internationalaffairs/Noe.pdf

David, it is difficult for me to tell whether people like Feltman are really living in a delusional bubbleworld or merely acting in bad faith. Although the often comical ineptness of their efforts point to the former, the abject hypocrisy of championing 'democracy' while blatantly undermining democratic elections in Lebanon and Palestine force me to lean towards the latter.

Geagea is certainly an interesting figure -- far from the 'son of somebody' profile of so many Lebanese politicians. Perhaps alone among the March 14 crowd he is truly loved by his followers. The LF has a kind of underground cell vibe from years of operating under Syrian occupation. Many of its members enthusiastically compared themselves to the IRA when I mentioned I was half-Irish. Ironically, in organizational culture, Geagea/LF are probably closer to Nasrallah/Hezbollah than to any of their M14 allies.

However, unlike Nasrallah, who comes across as a bit of a roguish uncle when he is not dispensing dire threats or commemorating martyrs, Geagea is not a reassuring figure to non-devotees. What is often said of Hezbollah is certainly true of him -- he requires tension and conflict to thrive.

LeaNder

Many, many conspiracies. ;)

Have you noticed this:

http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/04/mearsheimerdebate.html#comments>American Jewish Committee and Mearsheimer agree on debate

Looks like good news to me.

curious

Sometimes I really don't understand how state department set their priority.

Why do we spend so much time, money and man power in Lebanon? There is nothing in there except trouble. no oil. no geopolitical interest. no money, nada. Except helping Israel beating up Hezbollah. (spare me the freedom and democracy sweet talk) Not even the British cares that much about that ex-colony. There is nothing in it for them.

I can understand misadventure in central africa (Uganda/Zaire) or Iraq and afghanistan even. (massive natural resource, multinational interest, cold war unfinished business, the usual inane stuff)

But Lebanon? Everybody has gun, ready to shoot, and we got nothing except getting shot at.

I want to hear how the higher up meeting sounds like. (Hey, Ive heard Beirut is nice this time of the year. Let's test drive that new armored car, see it it can withstand rpg.) The Lebanon politics is so muddy, not even the lebanese status quo has a grip on its flow. So, we are pouring money to play in there like we know what's going on?

Really, between mexican drug lord and hezbollah, I'd put the former way up in threat scale.

David Habakkuk

Kieran,

Thanks for the reference, and the interesting remarks about Geagea.

It is indeed difficult to be clear as to whether people like Ambassador Feltman are living in a delusional bubble, or are simply in bad faith. What compounds the difficulty is that there is the intermediate possibility -- that something like Orwell's 'doublethink' is at issue. And indeed very often when Americans speak about promoting democracy, there is a marked Orwellian flavour: as also with their British counterparts.

I really do not know enough about Feltman to have a considered judgement in this instance. The reason I am inclined to assume that there is an inordinate amount of sheer delusion mixed in with doublethink and duplicity is that I have great difficulty seeing any kind of coherent Machiavellian strategy underpinning recent American and British policy in the Middle East.

Commenting on the 'shooting oneself in the foot' aspect of attempts to marginalise Hamas, despite its having won national and local elections, the Conflicts Forum director and former MI6 official Alastair Crooke wrote that the United States and Britain had:

"busied themselves in training a Palestinian 'special forces' militia around Mahmoud Abbas, which has been used to suppress political activity by Hamas, and to close-down welfare and social organisations that are not aligned directly with Abbas. A policy of political 'cleansing' of the West Bank, cloaked in the rhetoric of 'building security institutions', predictably has been met with an equivalent counter-reaction in Gaza. The paradoxical consequence of this has been to create such a schism within the Palestinian body politic that no Palestinian leader now enjoys the legitimacy to bring a political solution before the people: The West has sacrificed its wish for a political solution to its ideology of 'moderation' versus 'extremism'."

(See http://conflictsforum.org/2009/why-the-gaza-calm-crashed/.)

Of course the fact that the strategy of bolstering the so-called 'moderates' and isolating the so-called 'extremists' has very patently come unstuck in regard to the Palestinians does not in itself imply that it is unworkable in relation to Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran. I am deeply sceptical, but lacking expertise in the Middle East, am hardly in a position to make a confident judgement.

I would be interested to know whether you, and others on the blog who have real expertise, think there is a coherent Machiavellian strategy underlying Feltman's humbug. And if you do, I would be interested to know what you think it is, and what prospects of success it has; and in particular, what prospects there are for mobilising Sunni suspicion of the Shia in general, and Iran in particular.

Charles I

David H. I see the answer to "I would be interested to know whether you, and others on the blog who have real expertise, think there is a coherent Machiavellian strategy underlying Feltman's humbug"?

Might not be Feltman's, even.

But by applying the Occamesque lens of cui bono, to your point that

"The paradoxical consequence of this has been to create such a schism within the Palestinian body politic that no Palestinian leader now enjoys the legitimacy to bring a political solution before the people: The West has sacrificed its wish for a political solution to its ideology of 'moderation' versus 'extremism'."


one can divine the usual suspects.

And its not a paradox. There is an ideology of extremism.

It is, in practice, Zionism. This is the obviously intended result. Hezbullah was the result in Lebanon. The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza whilst backing the hopelessly discredited PA led to predictable results, the felicitous divison you bemoan, giving rise to the scorpions in a bottle allusions. Lebanon itself was just collateral damage, though it has some bits of water, convenient battlespace. They were stopped when they seized the Suez canal. If they wanted peace they would leave the West Bank, insist it be occupied by Nato. We bombed the Balkan's, right under Russia's nose fer chrissakes. But democratic terrorists, who offer a 10 year deal, these are serious people well, I dunno, starve 'em out I guess.

And its not Machiavellian. Israeli statesmen/women, Tsipi or Avigdor, are not shy about professing their position. No land for peace, but peace for peace, Syria is now told. The latest building or demolition permit issued,(or, in Gaza, just destruction and slaughter from on high) or funding announcement for new settlement construction in the Occupied Territories is the blatant yet mundane bureaucratic evidence of intentional, ongoing colonial criminality by the state.

Which, having just bloodied "the terrorists" with complete impunity and then undergoing democratic renewal, declares itself no longer bound by previous commitments it honoured only in the breach.

That's no paradox. That's chutzpah.

curious

mucking around with election ....agaaaiiiinnn? next thing we now it's another round of shoot out and assassination attempt.


http://www.metimes.com/Security/2009/03/26/us_envoy_links_aid_to_lebanese_elections/ec55/

U.S. envoy links aid to Lebanese elections

Former U.S. envoy to Lebanon and Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Lebanese political developments remain a top concern for Washington.

Feltman praised developments in Lebanon following the easing of Syrian dominance as well as the country's preparations for the June parliamentary elections.

"The institutions of the Lebanese state have been set back in motion, and the yoke of Syria's dominance over Lebanon has been cast off," he said. "Lebanon must now take ownership of its own future."

William R. Cumming

PL attn: What did you think of WAPO article document that 2006 effort by Israel and HEZBOLLAH as having implications for US force structure?

david

David H,

Coherent policy (snort-chuckle-snort)?

I recommend you have a look at the American policy debates over UNSC Res. 1559 back in 2004 and 2005 and you will get a flavor of the 'thinking' behind some of the US policies in Lebanon.

Discussion quickly devolved into two camps: one preferring a 'maximalist' approach in Lebanon and the other preferring a path more in line with traditional US policy in Lebanon (at least post-Taif).

Ironically, it was DOS that preferred (with some important exceptions) the less ambitious route, but for inter-bureaucratic reasons, Lebanon became State's 'baby.' And thus, we have Feltman's antics.

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