It doesn't matter anyhow
The U.S. dilemma is whether or not to provide up to $200 million in military aid to Lebanon over the next year. Officials said the State Department intends to determine the stability of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora before the aid is sent to Beirut, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the assassination of Trade Minister Pierre Gemayel and the resulting unrest could lead to a delay in U.S. weapons to Lebanon. "The nightmare is that we help build a military that is taken over by Hizbullah or Syria," an official said.
Senator Chuck Hagel doesn't think power shifts within Middle Eastern countries will have any impact on the US national security at all. Recently he wrote in the Washington Post that:
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans. Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.
There is one word that never appears in Hagel's opinion piece at all: Iran. There is another word which appears only in a positive context: Syria.
There will be a new center of gravity in the Middle East that will include Iraq. That process began over the past few days with the Syrians and Iraqis restoring diplomatic relations after 20 years of having no formal communication. What does this tell us? It tells us that regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States. This is the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years. The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.
Does Hagel's phrase "regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States" mean what I think it does? A euphemism for the policy of abandoning Iraq and then Lebanon to the hegemony of Syria and Iran without fear of any consequences? Bolton may be wrong about the future of Lebanon being decided in the next several days. Maybe that decision has been taken already.