Toward a New Foreign Policy

By AbuKhalil, As'ad | Foreign Policy in Focus, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


AbuKhalil, As'ad, Foreign Policy in Focus


The U.S. remains committed to its commercial, economic, military, and political interests, which are often defined in ways that run counter to support for human rights and democracy in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. Washington's policy toward Lebanon (and the Middle East as a whole) is based, contrary to the misconceptions of many Arabs, on firm principles of realpolitik and is not designed by a small group of lobbyists and contributors. U.S. foreign policy in the region has been institutionalized and has largely remained unchanged even with the passing of different political administrations.

A new foreign policy toward Lebanon should, at minimum, include supporting the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 425. The U.S. cannot continue to press for the vigorous enforcement of UN resolutions dealing with Iraq while ignoring similar resolutions against Israel. Along with U.S. tolerance of human rights violations by Israel and its allies in South Lebanon, such duplicity poisons U.S. relations with the Arab world as it underscores what Arabs see as U.S. "double standards." Support for an Israeli withdrawal would no only be popular with Lebanese and other Arabs but--based on recent public opinion polls--with Israelis as well.

A new U.S. foreign policy should also be based on universal support for human rights and democracy. This would encourage a process of democratization in Lebanon and the region, one that allows for genuine self-determination for the Lebanese without interference by Israel, Syria, France, the U.S., or any other outside power.

Washington's fixation with a peace process that has failed to deliver in its basic promise of peace, ignores the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere, and acquiesces to Israeli settlement drives in the West Bank and Gaza cannot hope to gain Lebanese support. U.S. policy toward the Palestinians and Israel must include support of basic Palestinian rights--including the right of refugees to return to their homeland--if the U.S. is to expect friendly relations with Lebanon and other Arabs.

The United States also needs to redefine its relationship with Islam and with what is identified as "political Islam." The inappropriate association between terrorism and Islam remains firm in the West. Recent conflicts in Lebanon have helped fuel this trend, and a more balanced and rational policy toward Lebanon could help reverse it.

Due to America's warped view of Islam and given deep-seated Arab suspicions of American motivations, real peace cannot be achieved through unilateral U.S. initiatives but only through international organizations and regional players. …

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