A make-it-up-as-you-go-along Middle East policy

One frustrating element of US (Bush/Neocon) Middle East policy is that it is painfully unstable. Once upon a time (actually, only a year ago) we feted Lebanon and its Cedar Revolution as the model for a new, democratic Middle East. Here is what Bush said at the time:

“Across the Middle East — from the Palestinian territories, to Lebanon, to Iraq, to Iran — I believe that the advance of freedom within nations will build the peace among nations. We support the spread of democracy in the Middle East — because freedom leads to peace.”

That peace is in tatters. One moment Lebanon is the future of peace, the next we tacitly support the wrecking of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure. The question is, what changed? I imagine that the answer from the White House would be “Hezbollah and its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers,” but there’s the rub: Hezbollah is not some new thing, and the Lebanese government has never had any control over them. That is the case now, and it was also the case when we cheered Lebanon’s expulsion of Syria last year. If the policy was to support Lebanese democracy in spite of Hezbollah (as Bush suggested in 2005), it is a monumental betrayal that the policy shifted — without warning — to destroying Lebanese democracy because of Hezbollah.

And now for today’s scary quote:

If Israel believed that by bombarding Lebanon it would provoke the rival communities here to turn their anger on to Hezbollah, then the plan appears to have misfired. Even sworn enemies of the Shia militia in the Christian community are heard supporting Hezbollah’s stand against Israel’s invading tanks. Michel Araj, a doctor and former university lecturer, cannot remember having a good word for Hezbollah before, but says: “They are our only resistance. We don’t want to be over-run again.”

The face of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, is on TV more often than that of Mr Siniora. If there was little prospect of the Government disarming Hezbollah before, it surely has no chance now.

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