For the record, it is groups like these, the Lebanese American Renaissance Partnership, that scare the be-jesus out of me. Notice:
“In contrast with a US-Lebanon Partnership fund created in September, LARP is not sponsored by President George W. Bush’s administration.”
At least with government-to-government affairs (and even involving Lebanon where the suitcase of dollar bills remains a venerable tradition), one can rely on sufficient public sector incompetence and a modicum of accountability and transparency. Once, however, we move into the private sector (and yes include non-profits), everything goes under radar (and I get really nervous).
This group recently held a conference in Beirut, and please notice this notice (from the Reform Party of Syria, no less). While I am all for medical services for the elderly, the guest list is rather telling (I did not know that May Chidac and Joseph Nehmeh were specialists in care for the superannuated).
On the one hand, a quick look at who makes up the LARP suggests this is just another example of new age graft (in this case, USAID money), but why have a website that does not indicate its sponsors and what else are they involved in? I would guess “democracy promotion” of a very particular sort, but where exactly is the money going? (A laughable question in Lebanon, I know)
I guess what I am trying to say — not very clearly I will admit — is that just as the sunshine of a John Bolton is preferable to the shadowy world of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy and their information warriors, the black arts of the Central Intelligence Agency are preferable to the “civil society” activities of the National Endowment for Democracy and their foreign clients. Much of this may have to do with the general trend toward the privatization of government services and the growing media savvy and financial sophistication of those who survive and prosper on the government teet. Still, it makes me feel a sort of romantic nostalgia for the good old days of the CIA and its global machinations — a time when spooks had the decency to keep their affairs out of the light of day and when illicit trysts were kept secret rather than transformed into respectable relationships by babbling brigades of Karen Hughes’ style flaks.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not note that the rise of these shades suggests that the Americans have indeed taken a very hands-on interest in Lebanon, rather than relying — as popular wisdom and recent tradition would have it — on their clients in the House of Saud. Such might help explain why Mssr. Feltman has been so very busy.