May 13, 2008
Obama's Attitude on Lebanon, and the PalestiniansBy Ed Lasky
The dire events on Lebanon have given us an opportunity to discover Senator Barack Obama's worldview and how it might influence his policies towards the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Over the last few days, the Shiite and Iranian-sponsored group Hezb'allah launched a reign of terror against the Lebanese government and the nation's Sunni, Druze, and Christian populations. Scores are now dead and the hope of a free and stable Lebanon has literally gone up in smoke. Of course, the Lebanese will be the first victims. But more will follow.
The consequences are dire: Iran has expanded the Shiite Crescent to the shores of the Mediterranean; another pocket of Christians in the Middle East will be pressured; the hope of reformers dashed; Syria will be emboldened; the United Nations and the Western nations have been shown feckless and unworthy of alliance and trust; and our ally Israel will have a more formidable enemy on her borders. The risk of a new outbreak of war between Hezb'allah and Israel has just risen measurably.
A window into the candidate's worldview was opened when he issued this statement about Lebanon.
This statement has been widely criticized.
Noah Pollak has noted its otherworldly focus:
While Lebanon burns, Barack Obama talks about fiddling with electoral rules and patronage practices (f it is anyone who knows about patronage it should be Barack Obama, who learned politics the Chicago way). This sort of statement might be appropriate for a college campus but in the real world -- while people are being murdered -- it has a certain surreal and blame-the-victim tone.
He also seems to be channeling Hezb'allah, as his calls for change almost word for word echo their position ; indeed it bears an eerie similarity to the demands listed in Hezb'allah's own Memorandum of Understanding (hat tip: Gateway Pundit):
Hezbollah has projected the image that its raison d'être is to provide social welfare services for its fellow Shiites who otherwise have not received their equitable share of government services. Hezb'allah has also called for electoral reform (something that now seems to have been accomplished at the point of a gun) so it can exploit its hold over Lebanon and give itself a veneer of legitimacy. That may very well be their next step. They already have a large number of seats in the Lebanese Parliament. Now they will demand -- at the point of the gun -- that a President be chosen that suits their goals and that electoral reform be done in such a way that enhances their stranglehold over Lebanon.
Jimmy Carter, have your passport ready.
Barack Obama apparently views Hezb'allah terrorism as a response to unfair electoral rules and a failure to get enough government benefits. While Lebanon burns, he counsels fiddling with the rules and regulations. He sees terror as an expression of pent-up anger that can be assuaged through some tinkering with the Lebanese electoral system.
Not only is this naïve, he also seems to give only a passing concern to the rise of Shiite -- and specifically Iranian -- hegemony throughout the region and the role of terrorism in furthering Iranian geopolitical goals. He sees the cedar trees, but not the forest.
Hezb'allah is widely considered to be a key part of Iran's imperial designs for the region; it is sponsored, trained and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are basically a tool of terror -- one of many in Iran's arsenal. He makes only a passing reference to the influence of Iran (and Syria) but refuses to recognize them as the sources of the problem and the mastermind behind the violence raging in Lebanon. Naturally enough given this perspective, Barack Obama does not view the Guards as a terror group either. He also clearly ignores the religious component of Hezb'allah's terrorism that is at the heart of its drive for power.
How might this view be manifested in another arena-the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians?
The Palestinians have long complained that they have been mistreated by the Israelis -- this despite the fact that, until they adopted terrorism as a tactic, they enjoyed a tremendous rise in their living standards after the 1967 war. Palestinians have repeatedly claimed that they have become impoverished, their lands have been stolen, their water aquifers drained, that their towns have been on the short end of the stick when it comes to government benefits, that they are discriminated against when it comes to employment opportunities. Needless to say, they have also complained about a lack of autonomy -- that they are ruled over by the Israelis and have no or little say in running the West Bank (in Gaza they have used their autonomy to become a launching pad for missiles).
There is clearly symmetry between the views of Hezb'allah towards the Lebanese government and those of the Palestinians towards the Israeli government.
Barack Obama seems to have sympathy for the complaints and demands of Hezb'allah; indeed, he has all but endorsed their goals. As to their methods, relying on the United Nations, Syria and Iran to restrain Hezb'allah would be humorous if it was not so clueless -- and so likely to lead to continuing tragedy.
Will Barack Obama frame the Palestinian-Israeli dispute as he has the Shiite dispute with the Lebanese government? Will he back the Palestinian demands as he has backed the Shiite demands? Will he place the onus of the blame on Israel for the terrorism of the Palestinians? Will he rely upon the United Nations and the "goodwill" of Arab supporters of the Palestinians to restrain them from committing further acts of violence?
Hope might be winning campaign slogan, but as a foreign policy principle it leaves much to be desired.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.