I asked him what he meant with all this emphasis on electoral and patronage reform. He said the U.S. should help the Lebanese government deliver better services to the Shiites “to peel support away from Hezbollah” and encourage the local populace to “view them as an oppressive force.” The U.S. should “find a mechanism whereby the disaffected have an effective outlet for their grievances, which assures them they are getting social services.”
The U.S. needs a foreign policy that “looks at the root causes of problems and dangers.” Obama compared Hezbollah to Hamas. Both need to be compelled to understand that “they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims.”
Brooks might not have noticed, but Obama just doubled-down on the message of his initial Lebanon statement. Samantha Power may no longer be with the campaign, but Obama articulated precisely her prescription for combating Islamic supremacist groups, who, in the Obama/Power worldview, rise to power and retain political saliency because they seek to address the legitimate grievances of a “disaffected” (Obama’s word) people.
There are several assumptions at work here: that Hezbollah is popular among the Lebanese Shia because of its provision of material benefits, like medical clinics, instead of a compelling ideological message; that Hezbollah will peacefully acquiesce to western social-services projects in Lebanon; that the Shia will be inspired by promises to improve their standard of living, rather than Hezbollah’s promise of religious glory and political dominance; that Hezbollah is a manifestation of domestic Lebanese conditions, and can thus be addressed by solving domestic Lebanese problems. None of these premises comes close to being true.
Obama’s mention of Hamas was appropriate, but not in the way he thinks it was. Hamas slaughters Israelis on behalf of the “legitimate claims” and “grievances” of a group of people whose plight has rarely in history been more thoroughly salved with social services. The West Bank and Gaza are awash in UN- and EU-funded schools, medical clinics, and sinecure jobs programs. Even the trash in the West Bank is collected by large white garbage trucks with the letters “UN” stenciled on the sides. If social services “peel support away” from groups like Hezbollah, as Obama insists, why has Islamic radicalism become more and more popular in the Palestinian territories precisely while outside social services have gotten ever more expansive?
Make no mistake: Obama is not backing down from his promise of a dignity-promotion foreign policy. In its first act, he will insist on recognizing the legitimacy of the “grievances” of Iran’s proxy terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. The message is clear: terrorism and savagery will win an audience with the American president. Please pardon me for calling this appeasement.