Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Problems with Current U.S. Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Problems with Current U.S. Policy

Article excerpt

America's foreign policy toward Lebanon still suffers from a number of problems and cannot be divorced from the history of U.S. interference in Lebanon's internal affairs and U.S. support of Israeli policies detrimental to the Lebanese people and interests. Washington has demonstrated indifference toward the plight of the Palestinian refugees, who still languish in squalid refugee camps, subject to Israeli bombardment and Lebanese army and security harassment. The Clinton White House is the first administration to openly oppose their right of return. In addition, Washington, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has also supported (directly or indirectly) Israeli attacks against Lebanon for more than thirty years.

The U.S.--which went to war against Iraq ostensibly to force the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions--has blocked enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 425, passed in 1978, which calls on Israel to withdraw unconditionally from Lebanese territory. Indeed, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk has publicly advised the Israeli government not to withdraw its forces unilaterally from Lebanon, irrespective of its international obligations.

The Lebanese have consistently called for Israel's withdrawal and for an end to its support of the South Lebanese Army (SLA), a militia of local thugs attracted by relatively high salaries. Reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem have repeatedly documented widespread and systematic human rights violations against the civilian Lebanese population by both Israeli occupation forces and the SLA. Yet, the Clinton administration actively participated in a cover-up of Israel's 1997 massacre at the UN base of Qana--where over one hundred Lebanese civilians were killed--by attempting to suppress a report by the United Nations revealing that the attack was deliberate.

The continued Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory--amounting to one-tenth of the country--prevents Beirut from establishing peace and security throughout its territory. The Lebanese government has virtually no presence in southern Lebanon, where people live at the whim of the Israeli army and its allies. That the U.S. remains the main military and political benefactor of the Israeli occupiers only adds to the deep antipathy that most Lebanese feel toward the United States.

Similarly, many Lebanese resent the anti-Muslim tone and substance of U.S. foreign policy, especially the rush to characterize Muslim political acts as terrorist. Although armed resistance to foreign military occupation is recognized as legitimate under international law and though the resistance is officially endorsed by the Lebanese government, those fighting the Israelis in southern Lebanon are frequently characterized by Washington as a terrorist movement due to the leadership of the Hezbollah, or "Party of God." The anti-Muslim prejudice in American popular culture also leads many Lebanese to believe that there is a deliberate campaign in the U.S. to defame Islam and to malign Muslims and Arabs. Recent discourse about the "clash of civilizations" thesis of Samuel Huntington has alarmed many Lebanese, who fear a revival of a cold war directed toward Islam at Arab expense. …

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