Lebanon: Winners and Losers

Poor Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "Liberated" Iraq’s chief government official came to Washington hoping to shore up the precarious position of his regime as it teeters on the brink of civil war, and all he got was this:

"Mr. Maliki’s refusal to condemn Hezbollah has created an awkward situation for the White House. ‘His statements are troubling,’ Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, said today. ‘They raise serious questions about whether Iraq, which is supposed to be our ally, can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East.’"

“I want the prime minister to denounce what Hezbollah has done,” said Reid. “I will lose a lot of confidence in al-Maliki if he does not denounce what Hezbollah has done.”

Doesn’t Mr. Maliki know which side his bread is buttered on? Of course he should pay more attention to what a single American senator thinks than what they’re saying back home about Israel’s rape of Lebanon. A puppet trying to cut his strings is bound to fall on his face. Pinocchio, however, thinks he’s a real boy, and even began acting like one last week at a news conference held in the "Green Zone":

"The Israeli attacks and airstrikes are completely destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure. I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression."

This was said in answer to a question from a reporter about the Iraqi government’s plans to evacuate Iraqis trapped in Lebanon. Rumor has it that a more extensive expression of his stance will come out in a Wednesday speech to Congress – that is, if it ever takes place.

What Maliki said in the Green Zone is verboten in the Zionist Zone that is Washington, D.C. That city, as Pat Buchanan quipped, is "Israeli-occupied territory." A memorable phrase, that, and particularly evocative of what is happening today, as Congress ratifies Israel’s brazen blitzkrieg without even mentioning, let alone condemning, the targeting of Lebanese infrastructure and massacre of civilians. As John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt averred in their Harvard University study of the Israel lobby:

"The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that U.S. policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’"

The idea is to control the terms of the debate – that is, to make sure that there is no debate, and that nary a word against Israel or its inordinate influence over American foreign policy ever gets uttered in a major public forum. As if to illustrate the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis in the most dramatic terms imaginable, we read that a gaggle of prominent Democrats is demanding that Maliki be silenced, and have published an open letter to this effect:

"In recent months there have been extensive reports indicating that al-Maliki and many in the Iraqi leadership are increasingly influenced by the government in Iran. Further, they have expressed support of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the latter of which was responsible for the death of 241 United States Marines in Beirut. The House should not allow an address from any world leader who has taken such action. We are unaware of any prior instance where a world leader who actively worked against the interests of the United States was afforded such an honor. We urge you to cancel the address."

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert wisely rejected this advice. What is incredible about this letter, however, is that these people are complaining about the leader of the very government they have funded and supported. Now they are saying that he isn’t acting enough like a sock-puppet for their tastes.

Well, tough – you made your bed, gentlemen (and gentle-ladies), and you sleep in it.

How dare these hypocrites decry Iran’s growing influence: it was their votes that made it possible, their silence as we were lied into war, their complicity in the making of a foreign policy that serves everyone‘s interests but America’s.

The Americans wanted to export "democracy" to the Middle East, and now that they’ve succeeded they don’t much like the results. Maliki is not alone in facing their slings and arrows. Hamas – elevated in a free election to become the ruling party in Palestine – is a "terrorist" organization, and failure to condemn it marks one as an untouchable. Hezbollah, for its part, represents southern Lebanon in the Lebanese Parliament, and yet they are now depicted as al-Qaeda in Shi’ite drag. Instead of hailing their own alleged achievement in constructing functioning Arab democracies, the West is now turning its guns on them – with Israel leading the charge.

This is Bizarro World behavior, once again seeming to confirm my thesis that the 9/11 terrorist attacks tore a hole in the space-time continuum, and we slipped into an alternate universe where up is down, right is wrong, and naked aggression is "self-defense." In line with this, it makes perfect "sense" that a crusade for electoral democracy in the Middle East requires a ruthless war against the winners of those elections. It’s Bizarro World "democracy promotion": spark "a fire in the mind," then rush to stamp it out.

Israel’s invasion of Lebanon serves the interests of two major players in the Middle East, and America is not among them. First, obviously, Israeli interests: I realize that antiwar commentators are telling us that the invasion doesn’t really serve Tel Aviv’s long-term interests very well, but this is not based on any military analysis of the country’s security needs. Israel is a sliver of Mediterranean coastline that is not at all defensible in its present form: expansionism is built into its objective predicament, as well as the history of the Zionist project.

As the authors of the 1996 policy paper "A Clean Break" argued, Israel has little choice but to expand its power and sphere of influence, or die. The Jewish state, an artificial implant in the region, has from the beginning lived on life support from abroad – and could not long survive without U.S. aid. The authors of the paper, including Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, recognized this expansionist dynamic and urged Israeli leaders – specifically, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to make a "clean break" with the failed defensive policies of the past, and go on the offensive, vowing to end Israeli dependence on America by freeing up the economy and launching a preventive war against neighboring Arab states. The idea was to make Israel independent both economically and militarily.

While not much progress has been made on the economic side – Israel is still among the most socialistic countries on earth, where the state holds decisive power over every aspect of industry – we’re seeing the first signs of "progress" on the military front in Lebanon. Events seem to be unfolding pretty much as the Clean-Breakers recommended: "regime change" in Iraq, followed by a blow against Syria and the "securing" of the northern border:

"Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:

  • … paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
  • striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper."

Damascus has always been the focal point of Israeli efforts to finally achieve security and stability. Get ready for air strikes on "select" Syrian targets. If I were Bashar al-Assad, I would abandon the summer palace and go to the French Riviera for the season – although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the IDF buzzed him on the beach.

The other major Middle East player who benefits from the Israeli invasion is Osama bin Laden. The cedars of democratic Lebanon are burning, and the West embraces the arsonists. As Michael Scheuer puts it, this amounts to:

"[V]alidation for Muslims of bin Laden’s assertion that the West considers Muslim lives cheap and expendable. They will see that three kidnapped Israeli soldiers and several dozen dead Israelis are worth infinitely more to the West than the thousands of Muslims held for years in Israel’s prisons, the hundreds already killed in Lebanon, and the eradication of Lebanon’s modern infrastructure.

"So bin Laden wins without lifting a finger. The G-8 leaders, their Arab allies, and Israel have behaved in a way that will burn bin Laden’s words deeper into Muslim perceptions and push more to accept jihad as the only recourse. Western leaders can argue forever that they are honest brokers but, because perception is reality, it will be bin Laden’s words, not theirs, that echo long and tellingly in Muslim ears."

If al-Qaeda and the Israelis are the big winners in this game, then their worst enemies are the big losers – first and foremost the United States. Washington is stuck with the thankless task of trying to keep together a rogues’ alliance of Israel and the Arab autocrats, while losing credibility in the Arab street and even provoking skepticism from our closest allies, such as the Brits.

Lebanese liberals are also big losers: the American green light for the assault sent a clear and unequivocal message to the "Cedar Revolutionaries," one they will not soon forget. The Arab monarchs – the two Abdullahs and Pharoah Mubarak – are also losers, and they have much to lose: their heads, perhaps, or at least their thrones.

American soldiers in occupied Iraq may wind up being the biggest losers if the Israeli rampage is allowed to continue much longer. After all, these guys and gals are smack dab in the midst of a Shi’ite sea: for an American president to personally sanction the slaughter of Shias, which is shown on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya day after day, is to place our GIs in mortal danger.

Our super-"patriotic" leaders in Washington never fail to invoke the courage and security of "our troops," but somehow this is lost sight of when it really matters. One has to wonder what country is the object of their patriotic fervor – because it sure isn’t America.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].