Feltman to Speak at Harvard

Apologies for the radio silence over the past week. I was in New Orleans attending the annual conference of the American Comparative Literature Association, and the lure of great music, great seafood, and great company proved more irresistible than Lebanese politics.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, will be giving a talk at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs tomorrow evening. I plan to attend and, given the opportunity, I will ask him one question on behalf of a reader of this blog.

So let’s hear it. What should I ask Mr. Feltman? I’ll select what I think is the best question and then report back with his response.

Update: I did indeed attend the Feltman talk, but apparently all of the talks in this Middle East Initiative series are off-the-record, so I won’t be able to report back on what he had to say. Sorry guys.

Some links…

  • An excellent, thoughtful review of Lee Smith’s book by Andrew Exum.
  • On the Vero-Moda-fication of Hamra Street.
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31 thoughts on “Feltman to Speak at Harvard

  1. QN –

    I think the obvious, and most important question you should ask him is whether or not he’s Jewish.

    I’m very suspicious of his last name.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 7, 2010, 1:43 pm
  2. As Supreme Leader and Spiritual Guide of the Hummus Revolution, does Ayatollah Feltman feel that his project has gone down the drain and that his work has been in vain?

    With Hezbollah more armed and more powerful than ever, Syria’s triumphant return to Lebanese politics, Walid Jumblatt’s and Saad Hariri’s prostration before Bashar Assad, the collapse of the Hummus Revolution and the March 14 front, and most importantly, the electoral defeat of Michel Mouawad, Carlos Eddeh, and Fares S’eid, Ayatollah Feltman must be feeling chagrin of ‘Ashura-like proportions at his pet project’s failure!

    Posted by Baby Jesus | April 7, 2010, 3:02 pm
  3. I don’t care what question you ask him, as long as you ask it in Arabic.

    Posted by Harold Turkoman | April 7, 2010, 3:02 pm
  4. Is this the same university which gave us the likes of George W. Bush?

    Courtesy of the Angry Arab News Service about Filtman and Smith:

    “All that Jeffrey Feltman knows about the Middle East, he read in Lee Smith’s writings on the subject. And the latter writes on Arab culture although he does not know Arabic. But Feltman is a step ahead: when he served as ambassador in Lebanon, and while the Russian, Chines, French, and British ambassadors all spoke fluent Arabic, Feltman was known for being able to say “shukran” on occasion. He was known to be so proud of himself when he would say it to Arab journalists. David sent me this on Lee Smith: “Also, would you please note on your blog that Lee Smith also does/did work for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dore Gold’s little information shop that tasks itself with “presenting Israel’s case to the world.” The JCPA is leading the charge against the Goldstone report, and is behind the odious NGO Monitor. I bring this up because during the book launch at Hudson, Feltman had a curious line: “It was always extremely important to know that the message of hope – what was actually happening in Lebanon – was getting out accurately, which Lee Smith always did.” (see: ). That strikes me as a curious thing for a government official to say about a “journalist.” I will stop here with the meek hope that your readers are familiar with the concept of “third party validation.”” And Ziad sent me this about Lee Smith’s adventures in Beirut: “It is a remarkable fact of globalization that the vast majority of the world’s female foreign sex workers are from the former Soviet Union. At an Arab “cabaret,” you can sit with a woman for $25 a half-hour, but I am much too embarrassed to do so, and I save face by asking four girls to sit with me. I am a pasha—”Lee Basha,” the waiter calls me when he brings drinks for me and my friends. All of them are from the former Soviet states, so we talk about Russian things. Only Eva from Siberia prefers Dostoevsky to Tolstoy, which is why, when the half-hour expires and all the rest get up to leave, I ask her to stay and speak some more.”


    Posted by Jihad | April 7, 2010, 3:03 pm
  5. To the Raphael Patai of “counterinsurgency,” a.k.a. Andrew Exum:

    This is a book about [US] politics, society, and culture, which is to say this is a book about some US idea and the force they have on how people live from day to day in the region. I have tried to discuss those ideas as dispassionately as possible, although I recognize that the main thesis — that violence is central to the politics, society, and culture of the [English-speaking North America, including Western Canada] — is likely to cause unease. Nonetheless, the idea that people naturally prefer the strong horse to the weak one is this part of the world seems to me unassailable; it is impossible to understand the region without recognizing the significance of violence, coercion, and repression. That doesn’t mean that I think the [Americans are brutal and racists and] only understand force — a charge frequently leveled by many critics against, for instance, the Resistance camp iun the Arab world. It just means, I think, that force is at the core of the way most [Americans] understand politics, and that therefore there is no way to understand how [successive Zionist and brutal US Administrations work] without understanding the concept of the strong horse. It is not a moral judgment but a description.

    Posted by Jihad | April 7, 2010, 3:11 pm
  6. QN,

    Ask Feltman why the current Administration seems to be gambling on the same Palestinian horse their two predecessors did, and why Obama isn’t gambling more on the Syria/Lebanon-Israeli tracks?

    Posted by Shai | April 7, 2010, 4:08 pm
  7. QN,
    Ask him if he thinks there is any chance that Hizballah will ever become a political party just like the other Lebanese ones and what is the best way to achieve such a goal if it is at all possible.

    Posted by AIG | April 7, 2010, 4:51 pm
  8. Ok, duly noted.

    Anyone else?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2010, 5:30 pm
  9. Okeydokey.

    Please ask the not Jewish Mr Jeffrey Feltman what he thinks of the Zvi Bar’el’s Haaretz report that AQ biggie Salah al-Karawi complaint that Hezbollah is:

    “nothing more than protectors of the Jews. It is the biggest hurdle delaying our activity on the ground against Israel.”

    ….and if he thinks that the nuetered LAF could provide such excellent protection for the Zionist entity.

    Posted by lally | April 7, 2010, 6:22 pm
  10. Ask him if Lebanon maybe leased again ? Hoping it is the case, as it will guarantee a peaceful southern Lebanon as long as Syria is the tenant

    Posted by Abdo | April 7, 2010, 9:26 pm
  11. ask him why the US always leave its allies stranded ? And what he think now of his friend Walid Joumblatt

    Posted by issa | April 7, 2010, 9:46 pm
  12. Ask him why essential supplies were not allowed to be delivered by the UN during the 2006 war.

    Posted by Edgard | April 8, 2010, 1:30 am
  13. After “enduring” the painful labor in giving birth to the “new Middle East”, how disappointed is he in what the child turned out to be?

    Posted by mo | April 8, 2010, 2:01 am
  14. Why ask when you can always hurl a shoe?!

    Posted by A Purple Monkey | April 8, 2010, 4:53 am
  15. Dear Mr Qifa Nabqi,

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. ANHRI, is launching a new periodical .The new publication , WASLA, publishes bloggers’ posts and articles on current issues in Egypt and the Arab world. Here is a link for the first edition in pdf format: http://wasla.anhri.net/

    Your contribution to WASLA is most welcomed if you would let us quote from your blogs after your permission. Your prompt response will be much appreciated. Please Contact on salmaelwardany@gmail.com

    Best Regards,
    WASLA Team
    wasla at anhri dot net

    Posted by Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, Wasla Periodical | April 8, 2010, 6:25 am
  16. Hi Qn, Hi all

    QN My question to you,rather than directed at Feltman, and forgive me for the impertinence, but I think you know me well enough now is “Are you going to throw your Ronald Macdonald size shoe at him”?

    Posted by Enlightened | April 8, 2010, 7:51 am
  17. Ask him if the USA remains comfortable with having a Nazi wannabee (M. Jumayyel) and a certified ethnic cleanser (Dr. Geagea)among its “brave” Lebanese allies.

    Posted by Roger | April 8, 2010, 9:16 am
  18. Wow

    So far, the only serious questions have come from the Israelis.

    Come on ya shabab. I wasn’t trying to play the straight man for a bunch of predictable jokes. How about some real questions?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 8, 2010, 9:22 am
  19. QN,

    “So far, the only serious questions have come from the Israelis.”

    Isn’t that the basis of the middle east predicament? 🙂

    Posted by AIG | April 8, 2010, 9:43 am
  20. QN. You put the choice up to your readers. I think the readers agree that you throw your shoe at him.

    Posted by Johnny | April 8, 2010, 12:11 pm
  21. While it is necessary the Lebanese government has the sole monopoly over the usage of weapons, how do we balance that with addressing the security needs of the inhabitants of South Lebanon with a complete strategy of defense in case they are threatened? That is, how do we make the constituents believe that the Lebanese government will be able to sustain the vulnerable communities’ security especially when there is a veto on the government’s ability to purchase necessary weapons for protecting its own citizens?

    Posted by Faten | April 8, 2010, 12:39 pm
  22. My question would be:

    What has changed in Bashar Assad’s regime’s behaviour to justify the USA’s change of policy towards Syria? Syria still harbours terrorist leaders (Meshaal) as well as overtly transfers munitions and guns to HA in direct violation of 1701…

    Posted by danny | April 8, 2010, 12:49 pm
  23. There really is nothing you can ask him that will provide you with valuable insight. All the relevant questions boil down to some permutation of:
    1) Are you really too stupid to realize that we deserve to hate you for what you have done to the region?
    2) Why on earth should anyone believe a word you say?

    I also vote for throwing the shoe!

    Posted by Joe M. | April 8, 2010, 1:20 pm
  24. Joe,

    Let me ask you this. What kinds of actions could an American ambassador (or any ambassador for that matter) take that would produce positive results in the region?

    What would represent a wise and productive policy?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 8, 2010, 1:26 pm
  25. QN,

    Why are you wasting your time asking such questions? A wise and productive policy would be for the US to terminate the state of Israel and send back to Europe or the US all Jews, even those that came from Arab Lands. In the place of the Jewish state, the US should then create the Palestinian state. That would be a wise and productive strategy!

    Posted by AIG | April 8, 2010, 3:59 pm
  26. Danny,

    Your question is the best one so far!


    You’re right. Luckily, we Americans have millions of Christian Zionists that are still preventing your “Leftist-Buchanan-Paul” (where Left meets Right;) doomsday scenario from ever happening…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 8, 2010, 6:59 pm
  27. Hi guys

    Alas I can’t report back on the Feltman talk because it was off the record. I’d like to keep going to these things so I don’t want to violate the etiquette. Sorry.

    ps: there was no shoe throwing.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 8, 2010, 8:01 pm
  28. I met him once before, in 2007, and I guess a lot of time has passed but he came off as a little bit less impressive than I remember… Fun anecdotes, but that’s it. And he can’t pronounce anything properly!

    Posted by Tim F | April 8, 2010, 11:21 pm
  29. QN,
    How many people were at the Feltman talk?

    Did anything he say surprise you? (answering this question is not a breach of etiquette)

    Posted by AIG | April 8, 2010, 11:55 pm
  30. Did you get to ask any questions?

    Posted by lally | April 9, 2010, 12:18 am
  31. well, ambassadors don’t really make policy. so there is not much they can do in their diplomatic role that would have positive impacts on the region. But, as a diplomat, the most i could expect is that they do not involve themselves in the domestic situation of a country.

    I believe feltman is an undersecretary, which gives him a limited (but existing) policy making role. The problem is that the American foreign policy is totally discredited. I really don’t think they can do anything, short of total realignment of their foreign policy, that will not dig the hole deeper, and that’s not going to happen.

    Posted by Joe M. | April 9, 2010, 12:35 am

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