Lebanese advisers to the US senate

Hey Abu Muqawama I took this from your blog. Because a point must be made. See the US does not need anymore home-grown policy advisers, they come all the way from Lebanon to offer their services.

Emile Hokayem (a Lebanese Expert on the Middle East) gives advice to the US senate not to engage Syria before taking into considerations a few things:

In examining whether the US should engage Syria, the Senate should consider why Syria has failed to cooperate with every attempt to obtain Syrian cooperation on Lebanon— some of which have offered attractive incentives. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states offered Syria reintegration into the Arab fold and much-needed investments; France has promised “spectacular returns” in exchange for a hands-off approach to Lebanon; the European Union has offered economic assistance and cooperation; and countless European officials have promised to support re-launching the peace process with Israel.

Damascus has rebuffed all offers because it is still hoping for a complete reversal of fortunes in Lebanon. One needs only to look at the delighted reaction of the Syrian leadership following the visits of American congressional delegations and European foreign ministers over the last year, or invitations to participate in Arab League meetings, and the utter lack of Syrian responsiveness afterwards.

So don’t engage Syria because these people are fickle!! It is important to bear in mind that when you advise the US on future policy course you must not at all include in your analysis of the politics of the region the actual US foreign policy approach that is already on the ground and how that could possibly influence state (or non-state) actors on the ground. This is a rule Emile diligently respect. Syria ‘behaves this way’ not because it perceives a threat (say US expansive military strategies in the Middle East, or US plans to change the regime, or complete Arab-state alliance with the US, etc.) but simply because the FINALITY, the ESSENCE of Syria’s foreign policy is to control Lebanon. This tautological argument (that there is no other rationale to control Lebanon but to control Lebanon) has erased all real and rigorous considerations of Syrian strategy-making in its region.

And here the ideological creeps in more visibly (my emphases):

The logic of unconditional reengagement carries other risks and costs that its proponents dismiss too easily. US engagement without Syrian concessions on Lebanon will hurt further US credibility in the region, jeopardize multilateral processes, alienate Arab allies worried about Syria’s alignment with Iran, and comfort Syria’s image as a tough resister that can force the United States to come to terms on Syrian terms.

Unconditionally reengaging Syria is tantamount to subordinating the sovereignty and future of Lebanon to the fortunes of the peace process, Syria’s cooperation on Iraq, or the fluctuations in the Persian Gulf, and this is after more than a million people turned out in the center of Beirut on March 14, 2005 to peacefully demand and obtain the end of Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon.

Emile is concerned about US credibility in the region. Emile is also concerned about Arabs getting more scared of Iran. See the real problem in the Middle East is the ‘rogue’ behavior of Syria and Iran. How best can you internalize dominant discourse? But also and this is the weakest part of his argument, how on earth if you engage Syria and find a constructive (of course assuming you dropped the idea that Syria has an ontological irrational drive to eat Lebanon) solution will this alienate other ‘Arabs’? Since when compromise and solution alienate?

But see here is the trick: there are “more than a million of people” that screamed ‘Syria out’ on March 14. These guys primordial worry is that the US show ethical integrity to them and only them. And the only thing Lebanese care about is not that the US show some military restraint, find lasting peace, stabilize, stop its warmongering activities (that in a way may probably change Syrian policy but that is not even taken into consideration as I explained above).

No the US must help in taming Lebanese paranoia vis-a-vis the Syrians, and restore our dignity (narrowly defined). You can continue doing your stuff in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine (and soon enough in Iran and Pakistan), but at the very least save your face in Lebanon, because we in Lebanon esteem your efforts.

This is why dissociating Syria’s foreign affairs from its obligations towards Lebanon is a serious mistake. It is ironical but only fair for Lebanon to constrain Syria’s policy options after Syria did so for so long.

Now this is expertise! And look how convincing! Did you notice what is the ideological charge in this argument? Please refer to previous posts on the moralistic in reasoning. Practical advice (constructive advice for the resolution of conflict) is based on the subjective idea of fairness, what ‘Lebanon’ whoever that is thinks is fair), meaning the abstract idea of a Lebanese nationalism. Forget about what the other half of the country think it is ‘fair’ for example (Hizbullah).

Now of course towards the end, Emile clumsily integrate all this in an overarching diplomatic argumentative twist. The idea is to propose a resumption of talks for a possible peace negotiation with Israel, stopping the Syria Accountability Act, etc. All that is beautiful (and certainly nice in wonderland), but if one cannot point out from the beginning the dynamics of Syrian foreign policy, which would involve not reading them from a Lebanese persecuted perspective, then I don’t think one can arrive at any piece of advice to be given to the US. And this my take on the subject: Any advice to the US government must include a full critique of current US foreign policy in the whole of the Middle East and beyond. Syria calculates according to that, nothing more nothing less. Follow the big fish.

Emile, I think I remember now that we were in the same class at school (I just checked your picture on google, amidst the ‘research fellowships’ you have accumulated, and yes it is certainly you). What a long way we have come to, you advising the Americans on tightening the screws on the Syrians, and me… well me… not much for now…

19 Replies to “Lebanese advisers to the US senate”

  1. Syria is a country which constantly tries to playthe American public opinion and its representatives. It is only fair to use all intellectual resources at our disposal, via the services of people like Mr. Hokaiem, to make sure that the American governing class remembers that the Lebanese cash cow is Syria’s #1 objective.

  2. “the lebanese cash cow”????

    The only cow i know died in an explosion back in 2005!

    You speak like a great lobbyist! one would be fooled and think that you even actually serve a purpose!

    “intellectual resources at our disposal, via the services of people like Mr. Hokaiem” woow, where did you learn that line?

    The syrian regime is out of Lebanon, the rest of the conflict is civil war with dumbasses searching for more and more fronts… for foreign powers.

  3. Mustapha, the question is not if Syria plays or not (or if Syria is good or bad etc.), the question is assessing a “Lebanese” analysis of Syria’s political agenda. The worst analysis of Syria’s policies are Lebanese because they are so moralistic about it. That was my point. I illustrated that point by taking one example: Whatever we think of Syria, one cannot understand its political agenda if one does not insert the fact that it is re-acting to US foreign policy in the region.

    More can be said. But have to run.

  4. Bon, beaucoup trop de blablabla pseudo intellectuel de part et d’autre (mustapha : syria plays the american public opinion or america fucks up the american public opinion ? Machouna ba’a)
    Et bechir, “syria is reacting to the US policy in the region”, 3al very good, but I think that the US foreign policy in the region was for a very long long time favourable to Syria, so ma3lech.
    Le probleme avec vous tous c’est que chacun a son agenda, son axe, sa conviction et incluera uniquement les arguments qui soutiendront sa thèse.
    La petite non-intellectuelle que je suis pense que oui, la syrie fait chier, oui la syrie veut bouffer le liban, bass enno akid, c’est normal : risk management et competition et resssources tout simplement.
    Donc, pourquoi ne pas voir les débiles mentaux qui sont à la tête de ce gouvernement et la merde dans laquelle, eux et rien qu’eux, foutent le pays. C’est évident que la syrie, si elle le pouvait, controlerait le liban. Bien sur que oui. Pour des raisons historiques déjà et pour contrer un début de tas de problèmes confessionnels, entre autres, qui se répercuteront sur la frontière. Et ceci n’est pas une tentative de justification de la politique de MERDE de la Syrie, c’est pour dire tout simplement que les putes au gouv sont censées pouvoir gérer cette situation. Ils ne sont pas censés s’aligner directement sur la politique américaine pour la région, parce que ça ne laisse pas trop de cartes “paisibles” à la syrie à jouer. Et evidemment que la Syrie a ce moment-là fera tout pour que ça ne marche pas au Liban. Evidemment. Ce serait la mort du régime Syrien si ça marchait pour 14 mars. C’est LOGIQUE.
    Oui, il faut profiter de la situation de faiblesse de la syrie, et il n’y aucune honte ou connerie dans ça, mais attention aux objectifs : affaiblir pour ensuite mieux négocier, tant mieux. affaiblir (le mot est trop fort aslane) pour enfoncer et vouloir la chute du régime, non merci. Quelles seraient les répercussions sur toute la région et est ce qu’elles nous seraient favorables ? Non.
    Alors on arrête les conneries et on réfléchit 2 secs : j’en ai strictement rien à battre de ce qu’une moitié soit inféodée ou pas à ce putain de régime, parce que chacun suit son agenda pour mieux se protéger. Le hezb ? Il n’existerait pas si ce n’était des états-unis et d’Israel. Et si avant ou après 2006, la politique des US et d’Israel étaient différentes, je ne suis pas sure que le hezb aie fait le blocage qu’il nous fait aujourd’hui pour le “sake” de la Syrie.
    Révisez votre logique et why not quelques bouquins et arrêtez de nous bassiner avec les relations libano-syriennes comme si c’était des relations d’un couple de putes. Quand on arrêtera de faire les cons au liban, que ce soit d’un côté et d’un autre, que ce soit pour des raisons religieuses de mon cul, qd on aura une logique purement économique et compétitive et sociale dans ce pays, alors la syrie n’aura qu’a trouver son avantage dans des partenariats, et certains arrêteront de nous bassiner avec leurs conneries à deux sous….
    intellectual resources, my ass.
    If those “intellectual ressources” c’est soutenir les thèses et les actions de hariri ou joumblat ou de cheikh tizé à tripoli, you should reconsider your position.

    S. la chieuse NON INTELLECTUELLE

  5. Ah ces douces paroles qui font fremir les plus insensibles. c’est sandrinou! Je commence vraiment a aimer tes commentaires de plus en plus. Bref, je vais passer a l’anglais vu que c’est la langue de l’empire et faut se faire comprendre.

    I am not saying that Syria (or the policy makers in Syria) do not take into consideration, indeed chose to favor, the option of ‘dominating’ Lebanon.

    My point is rather that, this is not a golden rule to understand Syrian politics, it is not an a priori axiom.

    Claiming that it is one, is making a moral claim. Usually made (in the economy of symbolic production) either by Lebanese that are self-centered, or by hawkish US (or other) ideologues.

    Re-acting to US foreign policy in the region for example is much more of a priority than staying/leaving Lebanon (or let’s say that the former guides the latter).

    Indeed, it is regime survival that is at stake in Syria (and much more), so think logically, what is more important for the Syrians? Why would they want Lebanon if they can’t even have Syria!

    Anyway, I think my point is clear. Lebanon for the Syrian is a strategic card. It can take the form of wanting to annex the country, to having foreign policy alignment, depending on the security situation in the country and how Lebanese elites agree amongst themselves.

    The example you take about the resolution of the Lebanese civil war as Pax-Americana-Syriana actually works in favor of my argument. The Syrians stayed in Lebanon because it was agreed under the general dominant actor’s (the US) rule (or political dictate) of the time that that’s best for the stability of the region (considering Iraq under Saddam, the state of Israeli-Palestinian politics etc.)

  6. moué… C’est une nouvelle tactique pour que je sois moins aggressive sur ton blog, “sandrinou” wou ossass ? 😛

    moué, moué, moué… Je vouâ

  7. Quelqu’un a vu saadoun hariri sur france 24 ? (al haqid, maybe?)
    “le libon est un miracle”
    quoting saad or the dark side of the force

    Bechir, I think we should start praying for Sainte Rita now, z time has come my good friend.
    May the force be with us

  8. hors sujet mais intéressant et très émouvant :
    Please watch the video, and bech, pourquoi t’écris pas un truc là dessus ?

    hors sujet n.2 by the way, j’ai écouté l’appel à la prière en Tunisie, et certains autres en vidéo dans d’autres pays: au liban c’est vraiment spécial, 100 fois plus beau


  9. arabic is the language of My Empire :):):)
    I just hardly got it in North Africa. I looked so silly…. And everyone kept asking me “star academy?” when they knew I was lebanese….lol
    Yalla hopefully off to create an NGO to show what arabs are made off


  10. yes abumuqawama, there is no ‘evolution’ in history only cycles of different types of human dominations.

    Sandrine, shu awlik tsobilna ahweh, w tkhabrina aktar ossas?

  11. sabbaytellak ahwé juste parce que abou mahmoud était là et que je l’ai bien aimé, sinon j’aurais pas fait de café.
    wou ce que j’ai à raconter, c’est très bien, c’est pas des conneries.

    Chedd halak

  12. au moins je prends pas le ton de pseudo intellectuelle pour faire mon intéressante, je dis les choses de manière simple.

    Wou again, chedd halak

  13. Abu Muqawama: good point

    bech: absolutely (on this point).

    i’ve been away lately due to the death of my laptop. In the last 17 months, I’ve seem to agree w/ 70% of your analysis. Even when I don’t agree, it’s always a fun exercise of the mind to read. cheers.

  14. Bech, t’aurais les détails de la lettre qu’a écrite Ahmadinejad à Sarkozy ? Selon le monde, elle contiendrait des “menaces voilées”… [comme d’hab]

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