Obama and Hezbollah
According to this story, the Obama administration apparently feels puzzled–no, worse: blindsided–by news of Britain’s decision to renew talks with Hezbollah. An American official is duly quoted as casting doubt on the British rationale (that Hezbollah has a distinct, and somehow legitimate, political wing; see my earlier post). The implication is that Washington has clearly drawn some “red lines” defining which regimes and groups that it would be wrong to associate with–and that Britain crossed one such line. Hardly.
After all, Obama’s team has shown that it has nothing against such appeasement in other contexts and with equally bad, if not even worse, groups and regimes. Witness the efforts to bring Iran to the negotiating table; the tentative outreach to Syria (which, along with Iran, backs Hezbollah); the suggestion floated by Obama that it may be time to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakistan. There’s reason to think the U.S. will try to reach out to Hamas, in due course; Hezbollah is presumably somewhere further down on that same to-do list. The U.S. demurral regarding Britain’s move is at most just a way to skirt an embarrassing episode. The embarrassment, I think, is that the administration viewed it as jumping the gun.
We should be raising substantive objections to Britain’s action–and our own policies toward Iran, Syria, etc. These are all likewise contrary to long-range U.S. interests. That’s what would occur to our diplomats, if their decisions and policies were informed by a principled outlook. Having such an outlook means, in part, seeking consistency across time and over a broad range of contexts.
But instead the common approach in foreign policy is to disintegrate issues from one another (“oh, Hezbollah is one problem, while Iran’s nuclear program is another separate issue, while Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism still another…”) and from past experience (“appeasing Hitler in 1938 was a colossally disastrous idea, but maybe this time it has a shot…”). The term I sometimes use for this outlook is “cognitive myopia.” And it is a major part of the explanation for why, over the years and still today, U.S. foreign policy is wildly incoherent.