Boy oh boy is the Axis of Evil the place to be these days. To witness the envoys tripping over each other in an effort to court Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah is to realize that the birth pangs of the New Middle East have been replaced by the death throes of the Bush doctrine. Being “against us” is so de rigeur these days that one wonders what the point of being “with us” was in the first place.
Still, some folks refuse to read the writing on the wall. Alice Fordham has a piece in NOW Lebanon this week (“If March 8 Wins”) in which she argues that a win for the opposition will spell trouble for Lebanon inasmuch as it would “change Lebanon’s relations, particularly with the US, dramatically.”
Europe is singing a different tune. The British, the French, and the EU Parliament have all said that they will deal openly with any government that comes to power in Lebanon. And, when push comes to shove, so too will the Americans.
Why? Because a win by the March 8th alliance will bring several parties into power, and Hizbullah will probably not even hold a plurality among them. Actually, Hizbullah can’t win, if winning means what most people think it does. Lebanon’s electoral law stipulates that Shiites are only entitled to 27 seats in the 128-seat parliament (or 21%). Therefore, in order to reach a 65 seat majority, the rest of the coalition, which includes the largely Christian FPM party (whose leader has received plenty of White House Christmas cards in his time) will need to win somewhere on the order of 35-40 seats.
Boycotting a Lebanese government in which: (a) Hizbullah alone is not a plurality; (b) Hizbullah has few (if any) more seats than it did in the last government; and (c) the pro-American opposition is guaranteed a veto in the cabinet, would represent a foolish and deeply hypocritical move by an administration eager to repair America’s bridges with the Arab and Muslim world. Rather, engaging Hizbullah through its empowered parliamentary allies and America’s own European partners seems much more in line with the rolled-up-sleeves approach of this State Department.