Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Holding Aid to Lebanon is a Bad Idea

JPost's Hillary Krieger reports that Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Aid, is withholding aid from Lebanon after last week's border debacle. The hold itself is unlikely to be sustained given the administration's high priority on Lebanon. But the move is a classic example of the difference between smart politicking and smart policymaking. Witholding aid to Lebanon is a bad idea in the long run for two reasons:

1) The Lebanese Government is a deterrent to Hizbullah. In fact, the U.S. strategy up until now has been to build up the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in order to increase the power of the government and check Hizbullah's power in the Shia south. Additionally, Hizbullah's participation in the political process of a strong, U.S.-supported Lebanon puts political responsibilities on it which conflict with its original aims of attacking Israel. That's why despite its 12,000 katyusha rockets, Hizbullah's weapon of choice today was a glorified powerpoint presentation. However, the weaker the Lebanese government gets, the more enticing a return to military action will look for Hizbullah.

2) Witholding aid highlights special treatment of Israel. Any call by Congress to withold U.S. aid to Israel would be a drastic, radical step. Yet the fact that lawmakers are threatening to withold aid to Lebanon after an incident which is, by all accounts, an anomaly, is a fact which will not be lost on the Arab world. Threats by lawmakers to withold aid will be percieved in the Middle East as a blatant double standard. From a policy perspective, this is damage that could easily be avoided.

UPDATE: U.S. support for Lebanon also wedges out Iranian support for Lebanon. See today's Haaretz.

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