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Standing By

George Ajjan did yeoman’s work in actually suffering through the Sunday GOP presidential debate.  He offers some excellent commentary on that and recent events in Lebanon here [1].  He quotes a priceless Romney answer on promoting democratisation:

I think when there’s a country like Lebanon, for instance, that becomes a democracy, that instead of standing by and seeing how they do, we should have been working with the government there to assure that they have the rule of law, that they have agricultural and economic policies that work for them, that they have schools that are not Wahhabi schools [bold mine-DL], that we try and make sure they have good health care [bold mine-DL].   

Those universal mandates aren’t just for schlubs in Massachusetts anymore–now the Bekaa Valley can also benefit from Romney’s grand vision!  “Great Society on the Mekong” ring any bells, Willard? 

George makes many fine points about Lebanon in particular.  For starters, he notes that representative government in Lebanon did not begin in 2005, and U.S. support for the government did not seem to extend to defending it when it opposed the Israeli bombing campaign of Lebanon last summer.  U.S. acquiescence in the Israeli attacks on all of Lebanon contributed directly to the weakening of the Siniora government and the wreckage of major infrastructure.  We “stood by” all right, but in such a way as to ensure that the forces within Lebanon that the government supports would be harmed the most and those the government loathes would be strengthened.  Also, if huge numbers of your people are refugees who have been driven from their homes or into neighbouring countries, “economic policies that work for them” are not quite as important as they might otherwise be.  After watching the appropriate outrage over the I-35 bridge collapse this past week, it occurs to me that Americans might be even slightly more agitated if a foreign government blew up the port of Long Beach, knocked out the runways at O’Hare, took out multiple bridges across the Mississippi, bombed some of our military installations and displaced 25% of our population in the name of self-defense and helping the American government with its internal security.

I would have thought that Romney’s remark about Lebanon having schools that are “not Wahhabi schools” would have merited some comment from George.  I’m not saying that Saudi/Wahhabi influence in Lebanon doesn’t exist, but it is a rather strange thing to focus on in a country where Sunnis make up perhaps 25% of the population [2].

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1 Comment To "Standing By"

#1 Comment By GAjjan On August 8, 2007 @ 8:23 pm


Thanks for the link. I have made an addendum to my post to account for your remarks.

I think Romney may have made that wahhabi remark to compensate for the fact that he was accused in the week prior to the debate of praising Hezbollah for its social service network particularly as it relates to health care. Romney seems to have a vision for an American technocrat army dressed in button-downs and khakis to promote democracy, with particular focus on health care.

But I think your remark about Wahhabi influence as it relates to Lebanese demographics is far more sophisticated than the level of discussion common in the debates. As you have well documented, Romney lumps together Sunni, Shia, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. So to me, his mentioning the word “Wahhabi” is just showing off vocabulary, like he previously did with “caliphate” and “worldwide jihadist effort”. Expect to hear “salafi”, “sufi”, “mehdi”, and more before the 9-ring GOP circus ends its glorious tour.