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June 15, 2009
Obama Deserves No
Credit for Lebanese Elections
rare piece of good news recently came out of the Middle East: An
American-backed (or, rather, Bush-backed) political coalition defeated
Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanese parliamentary elections. And ever
since, President Obama’s supporters have desperately made every stretch
to credit him – and particularly his Cairo speech – for the victory, in
an attempt to justify the less-than-impressive foreign policy route of
his young administration.
a Lebanese-born and raised columnist who, for obvious reasons, has
studied and kept a close eye on developments in Lebanon, I feel
compelled to address such claims.
is first important to indicate that between the two main sides of the
Lebanese political scene, there is a heavy dose of dirty, corrupt and
dangerous politicians and parties. That said, there is indeed a lesser
of two evils that was enthusiastically embraced by the Bush
Administration and by the rest of the Western world, and it won again
course, the Obama media, which suddenly became filled with
self-proclaimed experts on Lebanon who can so confidently explain the
situation on the ground, rushed to applaud their beloved leader for the
favorable results, yet with virtually zero evidence.
Unfortunately, empty hymns of praise were not limited to left-wing
blogs. In the New York Times, Michael Slackman
claims that “political analysts” attributed the election results in
part to Obama’s special outreach to the Muslim world. Slackman broadly
leans on the word “analysts” eight times in his piece,
but only quotes one of
them as evidence of his Obama thesis – a lone Saudi sociologist.
a piece entitled “Obama changed Lebanese minds,” Atlanta
Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker
writes: “On Sunday, an American-aligned coalition won a surprising
victory in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, pushing back a challenge
by Hezbollah, which had been widely expected to win a majority of seats.
There were undoubtedly many factors at play – Lebanon’s politics are
fractured and Byzantine – but Obama’s well-received speech has been
credited with making a difference.”
Ms. Tucker has yet to respond to specific requests for sources regarding
her statements that Hezbollah was “widely expected to win a majority of
seats” (it was not), and that Obama’s speech was “well-received” in
Lebanon (highly questionable). Most importantly, she has yet to specify,
beyond her convenient use of the passive voice, who exactly has
“credited” Obama’s speech with having an impact. Maybe it’s Slackman’s
Thomas Friedman also jumps on the bandwagon,
writing: “President Barack Obama defeated President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad of Iran,” and after at least acknowledging George W. Bush’s
actions, he adds, “Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.”
Again, Friedman presents zero evidence in support of the Obama thesis,
except for the following word from the ground: “As more than one
Lebanese whispered to me: Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians
in 2005 – and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri
killing – this free election would not have happened.”
wait, the one piece of evidence Friedman offers credits Bush with the
election, not Obama. Indeed after watching Bill Clinton look away for
eight years as Syria raped Lebanon, the Bush Administration forced the
expulsion of the occupiers and paved the path for another round of
Barack Obama, on the other hand, had nothing to do with the results. In
the days approaching the election, he danced around the issue in his
usual tip-toeing style, almost as if he was too embarrassed to pick a
side – even though the choice was quite clear.
His Cairo speech, which the Obama media hungrily seized as a
rationalization for the election results, contained nothing that could
reasonably be interpreted to have affected the outcome in Lebanon. In
fact, a speech that blurred right and wrong, while apologizing for the
Bush administration’s very democratization efforts that saved Lebanon
from vicious Syrian occupation, could only encourage those who opposed
America’s previous democratization efforts – and not America’s Lebanese
Not even Obama’s response to the election results demonstrated any
enthusiasm about working with a pro-Western majority. His official
statement praised only the fact that an election happened, and not
the election’s happy results. In fact, about one third of his statement
– 60 words – was literally copied and pasted directly from a generic
section of his
Cairo speech that didn’t even address Lebanon specifically.
How can Obama columnists credit the outcome to a man who was too scared
to take sides before the election, and was equally embarrassed to
congratulate the pro-American side once it won? How can they claim that
he cares at all about Lebanon, when he had some intern lazily write a
generic reaction statement, a third of which was insultingly taken
verbatim from another speech? Indeed, if the pro-American side had lost,
the Obama-bots would have speedily chalked it up to Obama’s decision to
refrain from taking sides in the election.
Pro-liberty forces in Lebanon spent decades trying to rid themselves of
Iranian and Syrian influence, were able to take a massive step forward
during the Bush Administration and spent many months campaigning
intensely to win the latest elections. What an insult to all of these
people (and their sometimes dead or missing families) it is to credit an
electoral victory to a mere speech by a man who wouldn’t even take clear
sides. Never mind the absurdity of claiming that an apologetic speech
aimed at Muslims favorably changed the outcome of an election where
Christians possessed the swing vote.
successful case by the Obama media necessitates more evidence than mere
chronological proximity between a speech and an election. Yet as we
should have thoroughly learned by now, facts simply don’t matter to
those intent on hiding Obama’s foreign policy fruitlessness with a faux
narrative of accomplishment.
© 2009 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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