By Barry Rubin

…that truly embodies the spirit of the era. And in this era the mainstream spirit is to ignore reality and construct a fantasyland. Case in point (as Rod Serling used to say on The Twilight Zone), an editorial entitled “The Long Pursuit of Justice in Lebanon.” The editorial deals with the fact that four Hizballah figures, one of them very senior, have been indicted by the international tribunal for their involvement in assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The editorial is six paragraphs long. It tells us that Hizballah is:

“The militant Shiite movement whose cynical mix of politics and armed intimidation helped bring Prime Minister Najib Mikati to power.”

and then it says that while Hizballah vows the men will never be arrested:

“Mr. Mikati has a legal duty to arrest them. He claims to be politically independent of Hezbollah. This is the perfect chance to prove it.”

A legal duty! Wow! Do I make the New York Times editorial board happy or do I ensure that Hizballah doesn’t kill me? Tough choice.

“Carrying out these arrests will require extraordinary political courage. Failure to do so would cost Lebanon dearly, threatening its civil peace and leaving no doubt that the real powers in Lebanon are Hezbollah and its backers in Syria.”

Now this is the kind of professorial bull-session school approach that has brought us the current mess in U.S. foreign policy.

We know that Hizballah–a fact never mentioned in the editorial!–holds 60 percent of the cabinet ministries. And we know that Mikati is not only the Hizballah candidate but also the candidate of Syria–whose own involvement in the killing is a fact never mentioned in the editorial. And Lebanon is even on the UN Secuity Council where it voted against the sanctions on Iran. There might be a state in the Middle East treated internationally as a pariah but it’s not Lebanon and it isn’t going to be Lebanon.

And we know that there is not the slightest chance of Mikati doing anything, just as we knew that Iran wouldn’t give up its drive for nuclear weapons, that the Palestinian Authority won’t make peace with Israel, that Hamas won’t become more moderate, that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad won’t make reforms or break fromIran, and that the Muslim Brotherhood will never accept a stable non-Islamist democracy in Egypt.

But we have to pretend. Pretend so the U.S. government need take no action; pretend so that the nature and composition of the enemy of Western democracy will not be identified; pretend that the radicals aren’t advancing and that the U.S. government is not countering them. Pretend that the U.S. shouldn’t be fully supporting Israel which is threatened by terrorist-using movements and regimes.

After all, why should Mikati risk anything when he knows that the West won’t help him and that he cannot depend on serious U.S. backing? Why should Mikati do anything since he is the virtual agent (or very close to being one) of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah.

Even if a fact-checker approved the wording of the editorial it is meaningless and useless.

For several years, the U.S. government, under Obama and his predecessor, had the chance to help truly moderate forces in Lebanon. They didn’t do so. And thus the moderates fell and were replaced in free elections–yes, revolutionary Islamists and dedicated anti-Americans can easily win elections–by the radicals who are clients of radical states. Then, too, the United States didn’t do anything, despite the pleadings of Saudi Arabia and others.

Nor does the editorial mention how the United States, the West, and the “international community” (that all want Israel to
risk its existence on their “security guarantees”) broke the 2006 promises to curb Hizballah. As part of the ceasefire in the Israel-Hizballah war (it’s now the fifth anniversary so the Times would have a great news peg for doing so), Israel was promised that Hizballah would be kept from returning to southern Lebanon and refortifying it (promise broken); would help block arms’ imports for Hizballah (promises broken); and would help disarm Hizballah (promise broken).

Now it is too late. But in mid-2011 is the Western discussion going to continue pretending that Lebanon is some kind of open system, that revolutionary Islamists aren’t in control, that the country hasn’t become a near-satellite of Tehran and Damascus? Is this the same basic pattern we are going to see in Egypt and perhaps Tunisia?

And these are the West’s “best and brightest?” The smug, smart people who know more than anyone else? Disgraceful.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at 

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