I’m taking a minute during lunch at America in the World to share a question I had during today’s insightful panel on the Middle East. The panel consisted of Helene Cooper (moderator), Daniel Kurtzer, Ellen Laipson, and Daniel Levy.
Lots of good stuff from these folks, who are each very articulate and, in my view, on point. However, the conversation revolved around Israel, Palestine, and Iran.
The panel didn’t have time to take my question, so I’ll post it here (and editorialize a bit more than I would in real time). Hopefully we’ll get some good reader responses.
We’re all recognizing that peace, stability, moderate politics, and democracy promotion are enduring U.S. interests in the Middle East. Yet, one country is absent from this discussion.
You may be thinking I’m alluding to Iraq, but I actually want to bring our attention to Lebanon.
In the past five years, we’ve allowed Syria and Israel to undermine Lebanon – perhaps because we’ve been distracted or had misplaced priorities, perhaps because of the unintended consequences of different elements of our foreign policy, perhaps both.
I cannot escape the thought that the energy we have spent trying to install democracy in Iraq through military means would have been much better (maybe even best) spent on supporting the fragile – but existing – democracy in Lebanon.
So here’s my two-part question. First, looking forward from, say, five years ago, how might the Middle East be different if supporting Lebanese democracy had been a top U.S. priority?
Second, what might the U.S. do to constructively support democracy and moderation in Lebanon today?
I have thoughts on these topics, but I want to hear others speak to these questions. What say you?
— Scott Paul