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Neocons Dream of Lebanon
Jordan Green - July 23, 2003  -  (As appeared on ZNet)

They are a prominent group of Washington conservative intellectuals who helped incubate the ideas behind the Bush administration's war in Iraq. Now, they are pressing for regime change in neighboring Syria and Iran. At the center of their passions is Lebanon, a country once riven by sectarian violence, where pro-Western, Christian, and free-market forces hope to rise again.

In his January 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush declared, "The gravest danger facing America and the world is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons." Building to his point, he offered a grim reckoning to the people of Iraq: "Your enemy is not surrounding your country - your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation."

It is no secret that many of the ideas that launched the war in Iraq - intertwining weapons of mass destruction and terrorism as evil twins, scorn for the sovereignty of disgraced governments, and belief in the transforming force of American power - have been nurtured and refined at the American Enterprise Institute, a 60-year old Washington think tank. Shortly after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, AEI Vice President Danielle Pletka gave a blunt summation of the institute's neo-conservative philosophy: "The question of whether we have the right to go in and remove a dictator ought to be a part of our thinking."

Now, nearly a month into the American occupation of Iraq, many neoconservatives have set their sights on Syria and Iran. The government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in particular, has felt the ire of the Bush administration in the wake of allegations that it provided Saddam Hussein with night-vision equipment and allowed volunteer anti-American fighters cross its border to join the war in Iraq. American officials and neoconservative intellectuals have also charged that Syria is pursuing a chemical and biological weapons program.

In recent days, the administration has tempered its hostility, allowing Secretary of State Colin Powell to pursue diplomacy in Damascus. But Syria remains noncommittal on one key U.S. demand: ending support for Hezbollah, an Islamic militia in southern Lebanon that Washington regards as a terrorist group.

One of the most enthusiastic proponents of Syrian regime change is Michael Ledeen, an AEI scholar. In 1985, as a consultant to the National Security Council, he set up meetings between Israelis and a group of international arms dealers to help broker the arms-for-hostage deal with Iran. In an article posted to AEI's Web site on April 30, Ledeen warned that Syria and Iran will try to implement a "second Lebanon strategy" in Iraq by sponsoring thousands of suicide bombers ready to carry out attacks against U.S. and British soldiers. In an op/ed article in Canada's National Post in early April, Ledeen wrote, "It's time to bring down the other terror masters. Faster, please."

"Hezbollah is the world's leading terrorist group," charges Ledeen. "They're an Iranian-created group housed in Syrian-occupied Lebanon."

Animosity towards Hezbollah - thought to be responsible for the deaths of 241 American marines killed in a 1983 suicide bombing operation - runs deep in the current administration. "They have a blood debt to us," Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage is reported to have said last year. "We're not going to forget it."

Lebanon, it turns out, is something of a pivot point for the neoconservatives' hopes and fears for the Middle East. Near the end of the Clinton presidency, a group of intellectuals, business people, and retired military officials who called themselves the Lebanon Study group signed their names to a 48-page document called "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role - May 2000."


Military force. Finally, the use of force needs to be considered. The Vietnam legacy and the sour memories of dead American Marines in Beirut notwithstanding, the United States has entered a new era of undisputed military supremacy coupled with an appreciable drop in human losses on the battlefield. The Gulf War of 1991 and the war over Kosovo of 1999 represented watersheds, not only in the annals of military history, but also because they demonstrated that the United States can act to defend its interests and its principles without the specter of huge casualties.

This opens the door to a similar decision to act for Lebanon's endangered freedoms and pluralism. But this opportunity may not wait, for as weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities spread, the risks of such action will rapidly grow. If there is to be decisive action, it will have to be sooner rather than later.

SIGNATORIES - Ziad Abdelnour - Elliott Abrams - Samir Bustany - John Castle - Angelo Codevilla - Raymond Debbane - Paula Dobriansky - Alan Dowty - Leon Edney - Nabil El - Eliot Engel (D-NY) - Philip Epstein - Douglas Feith - Frank Gaffney - Richard Hellman - Jesse Helms (R-SC) - Jeane Kirkpatrick - Habib Malik - Steven Merker - Daniel Nassif - Richard Perle - Daniel Pipes - Nina Rosenwald - Steven Rothman (D-NJ) - William Rouhana - Michael Rubin - Charles Sahyoun - Jim Saxton (R-NJ) - Donn Starry - David Steinmann - David Wurmser  

Report of the Lebanon Study Group - May 2000 - Daniel Pipes and Ziad Abdelnour, Co-Chairs

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

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by Oui (Oui) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:13:31 PM EST

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