I meant to mention this the other day, but it slipped my mind. Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA's counterintelligence center, thinks that if the US loves Lebanon, we should set it free.
ONCE more, Lebanon is in political crisis. This time, we are told, it pits "Syrian- and Iranian-backed" Shiite parties (Hezbollah and Amal) and the Christian faction led by Michel Aoun against the "Western-backed" Christian, Sunni and Druze groups that support the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
These very descriptions -- citing one external backer or another as a mark of political identification -- illustrate the fundamental problem Lebanon must overcome. Call it the Lebanese Disease: rather than sorting out their differences internally and addressing the fundamental injustices at the heart of their disputes, the Lebanese constantly look to outsiders to gain an advantage over their rivals.
Naturally, any advantages thus gained are short-lived, for both the Lebanese and their foreign backers. In the end, the only result is greater popular suffering and instability in Lebanon and the entire Middle East.
Only the Lebanese can cure themselves of this disease, but a bit of enlightened self-interest on the part of the "Western backers" -- primarily the United States and France ? would greatly help. It may seem counterintuitive, but the best hope for American interests in the Middle East is not to isolate and minimize Hezbollah, but to further integrate it politically, socially and militarily into the Lebanese state.
...It has long been obvious that the Shiites are under-represented in Lebanon's complicated power-sharing arrangements. In return for a greater measure of political representation for Shiites, Mr. Siniora could have insisted that Hezbollah's militia be brought under some sort of state control -- perhaps as a sort of home guard for the south, with its fighters under the command of senior officers drawn from the Lebanese armed forces.
...A far more genuine American commitment to Lebanon would focus on helping the parties to come up with a reasonable formula to redress the under-representation of Shiites in the power structure while getting greater government control over Hezbollah's war-making capacity.