Michael Totten

The Tea Boy

_By Lee Smith_
The other day the Obama campaign “distanced”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article3897414.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=2015164 itself from Robert Malley for his dealings with Hamas. Never mind the disingenuousness of a campaign that up until the day before yesterday when he was fired from the campaign said Malley was not with the campaign, even though a New York Times defense in his behalf said he was with the campaign. What is manifestly clear however is that Obama and his banished adviser/non-adviser share the same worldview. Consider this passage from a press release expressing his “support” for Lebanon.
bq. It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.
Yes, the problem with Lebanon is not the militia backed by Damascus and Tehran that who have squared off against almost every US ally in the Middle East. No, in the Obama worldview, the issue is about “the corrupt patronage system.” What is more corrupt than the issues that instigated the current crisis: Hezbollah’s efforts to, a, build a state within a state and, b, undermine the sovereignty of the Lebanese government? And what is a more unfair distribution of services than an armed party at the service of foreign parties?
Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! — and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.
Abu Kais over at From Beirut to the Beltway has a “takedown”:http://www.beirutbeltway.com/beirutbeltway/2008/05/obama-time-to-e.html of the half-term Senator from Ilinois’ statement on Lebanon that is a must read.
bq. Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago.
As Tony Badran wrote me this morning: “I think Obama’s statement is counterproductive in that it will be read by Syria as confirming their hope that there might be a chance with an Obama presidency to get back Lebanon.
“And so, there’s a good possibility that the first thing the Syrians will do in 2009 is to coordinate Hezbollah launching an attack on Israel. Syria would then present its services promising to ‘deal’ with the situation. Obama would be pressed by the foreign policy luminaries to send a delegation to ‘negotiate’ with Syria, the way many were urging President Bush to do in 2006, but he wisely resisted. Simultaneously, Syria would push a return to a peace process with Israel, and presto, the rules of the 1990s, which the Syrians have been desperately seeking after, are reinstated, whereby Syria would be able to pursue proxy war and a peace process simultaneously while restoring its control on Lebanon, which is the primary objective.”
The number of Western journalists, academics and policymakers who have bartered their minds and souls in the political bazaars of the Middle East for blandishments real and imagined is too mind-numbing to contemplate. Like tourists in the souq, they are too flattered by the hospitality to suppose that the man who stands in between them and the beautiful chessboard they want to take home with has already exacted his price just by seating them. And how would you like your tea, President Obama?