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“The People of Lebanon”

What about the people of Lebanon? Or of Egypt? Don’t they deserve support too? ~Max Boot

These are maddeningly stupid questions.

For one thing, the outgoing Hariri government didn’t represent the majority of the “people of Lebanon.” Thanks to the rigged way that Lebanese elections work, the March 8 coalition received far fewer seats than the 2009 results would have merited in a more balanced system. In 2009, the March 8 coalition received 55% of the vote and 45% of the seats. I won’t pretend that a more representative and majoritarian Lebanese government will be a better one, but then I’m not the one throwing a fit over our government’s lack of overt support for the “people of Lebanon.” In the days before the fall of Hariri’s government, the administration stated its support for Hariri’s government, and we can see how unimportant that was.

Now that Hariri’s government has fallen thanks to the defection of Hizbullah and Jumblatt’s PSP, the administration is supposed to lend support to a political opposition that represents a minority of the population and has just been driven from power by legal parliamentary means? On what grounds? The administration is supposed to state publicly that the only acceptable government of Lebanon is one governed by the March 14 coalition? In other words, they want Obama to tell the Lebanese that elected governments are all very well, so long as the elected government has the right foreign patrons. On the other hand, the critics want the administration to embrace the Egyptian protesters because the Egyptian people “deserve support” regardless of the possible damage to U.S. interests that could come from undermining Mubarak. Neither criticism makes much sense on its own, but together they are incoherent nonsense.

Let’s also consider that the Egyptian “day of rage” was scheduled for yesterday, and the large scale of the protests was an unexpected development that happened on the same day that Obama was giving his address. Assuming that he and his advisors had nothing better to do yesterday than re-write the speech to tack on some reference to Egyptian protests, what should he have said that the government wasn’t already conveying through official channels? For that matter, the Obama administration officially supports the current Egyptian government, just as the five administrations before it did. Critics of Obama’s relative silence on Egypt either want him to undermine an allied government, or they want him to engage in meaningless happy-talk in which he professes support for protesters without any intention of providing them actual support.

Mind you, if Obama had said something about Lebanon and Egypt, the same crowd would be asking why he didn’t say something about Belarus, and if he had included Belarus they would have demanded that he throw in Bahrain, too.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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