Friday, August 10, 2007

Part II: Walkin' the Walk

Politicians will be politicians, whether they are Lebanese, American, Swedish, or South African. And when it comes to talking the talk, one would be hard pressed to take away - from PR-contests such as these - anything more than a general doling out of lip service from the candidates to their respective interest groups.

But one has to wonder how long the Democrat front-runners in the race to the White House will get away with paying lip service to a PR strategy intent on making the administration's current Middle East strategy for dealing with Syria look bad, while their own co-partisans take measures to ensure that their country's Middle Eastern interests are not compromised by said talk.

The most recent of these measures being the Ackerman Resolution on Lebanon, authored by U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ackerman himself is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Along with Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), the resolution's co-sponsors also included Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), both of whom accompanied Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on her last attempt at walking the walk entailed by the talk (i.e. visiting Syria and meeting with its dictator, Bashar el Assad).

But even while consciously contradicting their talk with their walk the Democrats must equally know that the Bush's administration's walk on Syria had at one point looked, and maybe even sounded, much like the Democrats' walk today. A walk that led this Republican administration to conclude, just as any future Democratic one will invariably conclude, that talking to a regime that has no interest in bringing to the table effective changes in its policies - as they pertain to Lebanon - is an embarrassing waste of time.

If you're still unconvinced, consider the numerous forays of the likes of Colin Powell and Dick Armitage into the lion's den* in an attempt to present the Syrians with a viable alternative to today's status quo. More specifically, during his May 2003 trip to Damascus, and prior to the institution of the Syria Accountability Act in December 2003, it was rumoured that the Secretary of State had personally approached Bashar el Assad with a proposal on a redefining of American-Syrian relations.

Of the Syrians, the proposal asked for a complete withdrawal from Lebanon, a severing of the Syrians' close relationship with Iran, and an end of that regime's support for Hizballah, Hamas, and the handful of other terrorist organizations funded, trained, and controlled by Damascus, coupled of course with support for the US position in Iraq (if not publicly then privately). In return the US would provide support for a comprehensive Syrian-Israeli settlement, including a return of the Golan Heights, followed by massive economic aide packages aimed at bolstering that state's economy, as well as the regime's long-run sustainability in the aftermath of the end of the state of emergency in place since 1963 and through which the autocratic regime there has implemented severe restrictions on its citizen's civil liberties.

The proposal, as we all know by now, would come to be rejected by a regime intent on maintaining its choking hold on its smaller neighbor to the west, and unwilling (or unable) to unlock itself from its bondage to the east.

Whatever the case maybe, however, come November 2008 - and January 2009 - when a new administration takes over, those continuing to rehash old mantras, whether they be Republican or Democrat, will have a hard time reconciling their talk with the Syrian regime's walk (or lack thereof). But then again, talk is cheap and come time to act the American voting public might just find themselves relieved to have Bush-Cheney-light dealing with Syria's Saddam-light.

In either case, we can only hope enough of our country's anti-Syrian politicians will have survived (assassinations, not skewed votes) to have seen this latest chapter of the country's troubled history through. A task made that much harder given all that damned talk of talk.

*"Significantly, the Syrian national anthem written by another Damascene nationalist, Khalil Mardam, did not sing the virtues of Syria as a nation-state standing by itself, but as the 'lion's den of Arabism', its glorious historical 'throne', and its sacred 'shrine'. By contrast the Lebanese national anthem, written by the Maronite poet Rashid Nakhleh, sang of the old men of Lebanon and the young, in the mountains and the plains, responding to the call of the historical fatherland and rallying around the 'eternal' cedar flag to defend 'Lebanon forever'." (Source)


  1. fubar6:15 AM

    "talk is cheap and come time to act the American voting public might just find themselves relieved to have Bush-Cheney-light dealing with Syria's Saddam-light."

    BJ, are you serious?

  2. Haha, yes very serious!

  3. fubar7:01 AM

    Well, BJ, when the time comes to act, if we have to count on Hillary, I am pretty sure that relieved is not one of the first twenty words that would come to my mind. = )

  4. And I wouldn't blame you! :)

    Looking at some of the other runners in the race, however, I do think she's seasoned even to handle international crisis.

    But yeah, thats not to say that she's my personal pick of the litter.

    For a while now I've been following John McCain's presidential campaigns. Of course his 'maverick' 2000 (and prior) platforms - of which I was a fan - have very little in common with the 'establishment' platform he's running for 2008. Specifically, it seems clear that his decision to heavily court the Christian-right in the run-up to the Republican primary (in which they have an over-proportionate voice) has led to something of a blur on his positions on...well anything (especially when compared to his past positions).

    On the Democrats' side, there are a number of 'good-on-paper' candidates, but again, all the cheap is off-putting...maybe after the primaries are out of the way and the presidential countdown is that much closer the talk will match some of the realities in the region...maybe not.

  5. fubar7:25 AM

    Most everyone liked McCain in 2000. But now he doesn't have a hope in hell of winning the GOP primaries. Not sure how closely you follow US politics but McCain is no longer trusted by many mainline Rupublicans (myself included) for a variety of reasons, all of which have occurred in the past several years. No matter how far to the right he moves, we all know it is just posturing for the primaries. Too bad, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, you don't get to make a first impression a second time.

  6. you turns out our positions have more in common than you might've first thought :P

    PS - I edited my previous comment at the same time as you posted yours, not sure if you managed to catch the edits before ur last comment. In either case, they're in the same vein).

    (Correction above: all the cheap *talk* is off-putting)


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