Obama and the Media Get It Wrong on Mideast Elections

When it comes to the Middle East, false narratives are the norm, not the exception. President Obama and the mainstream media that lionizes his every word have seriously misinterpreted recent developments in the region -- specifically the Lebanese elections and the sham election in Lebanon's mothership-state, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah was subjected to a crushing electoral defeat at the hands of U.S.-allied secularists and moderates. The international press was quick to credit Obama's charisma -- particularly, his unprincipled speech in Cairo -- for this welcome news. The Associated Press proclaimed, "President Barack Obama's outreach to Muslims lingered in [Lebanese] voters' minds." Cynthia Tucker credited the speech too, asserting, "Obama changed Lebanese minds," namely because his speech was "a much-needed step away from the Cheney-Rumsfeld 'just bomb 'em' doctrine."

Thomas Friedman at the New York Times quoted Paul Salem, the starry-eyed analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "People in this region have become so jaded," Salem explained. "And then here came this man [Obama], who came to them with respect, speaking these deep values about their identity and dignity ... and this person indicated that this little prison that people are living in here was not the whole world. That change was possible."

These misperceptions about Lebanon recall an old Arab proverb: "When shooting an arrow of truth, dip its point in honey." Leg-tingling about the president aside, Hezbollah lost the election in Lebanon for several reasons; chief not among them was Obama's amoral speechifying in Egypt.

For starters, domestic Lebanese politics played a substantial role. The breaking news that a pending UN investigation would purportedly blame Hezbollah for the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, the popular former premier, certainly had a large part in Hezbollah's defeat. In addition, these were just the second elections since the occupying Syrian forces, Hezbollah's patrons, were kicked out of Lebanon in 2005, and the first elections since the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006. For the people of Lebanon, both events reinforced how detrimental Hezbollah's presence in Lebanon truly is, and both events were proactively supported and encouraged, explicitly and implicitly, by the previous administration -- yes, George W. Bush -- to the hesitation, trepidation, and even chagrin of realists and doves in Congress.

To credit President Obama's speech in Cairo for the continued democratization of Lebanon is as far of a stretch as feasibly possible. In his speech, Obama never mentioned the upcoming Lebanese elections, Hezbollah, or "terrorists" in general. He mentioned Lebanon precisely one time, in the context of respecting the Maronite Christian minority. But Lebanon has always reserved the presidency for Maronites and Lebanon's top Maronite leader, General Michel Aoun, is one of Hezbollah's sole Christian allies. Obama has even gone so far as to once proclaim that Hezbollah has "legitimate claims." This is a nihilistic and ideologically medieval group that has killed more Americans than any organization in the world not named al-Qaeda. "Legitimate claims." What should we make of that?