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Toward a New Foreign Policy.

The U.S. remains committed to its commercial, economic, military, and political interests, which are often defined in ways that run counter to support for human rights and democracy in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. Washington's policy toward Lebanon (and the Middle East as a whole) is based, contrary to the misconceptions of many Arabs, on firm principles of realpolitik and is not designed by a small group of lobbyists and contributors. U.S. foreign policy in the region has been institutionalized and has largely remained unchanged even with the passing of different political administrations.

A new foreign policy toward Lebanon should, at minimum, include supporting the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 425. The U.S. cannot continue to press for the vigorous enforcement of UN resolutions dealing with Iraq while ignoring similar resolutions against Israel. Along with U.S. tolerance of human rights violations by Israel and its allies in South Lebanon, such duplicity poisons U.S. relations with the Arab world as it underscores what Arabs see as U.S. "double standards." Support for an Israeli withdrawal would no only be popular with Lebanese and other Arabs but--based on recent public opinion polls--with Israelis as well.

A new U.S. foreign policy should also be based on universal support for human rights and democracy. This would encourage a process of democratization in Lebanon and the region, one that allows for genuine self-determination for the Lebanese without interference by Israel, Syria, France, the U.S., or any other outside power.

Washington's fixation with a peace process that has failed to deliver in its basic promise of peace, ignores the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere, and acquiesces to Israeli settlement drives in the West Bank and Gaza cannot hope to gain Lebanese support. U.S. policy toward the Palestinians and Israel must include support of basic Palestinian rights--including the right of refugees to return to their homeland--if the U.S. is to expect friendly relations with Lebanon and other Arabs.

The United States also needs to redefine its relationship with Islam and with what is identified as "political Islam." The inappropriate association between terrorism and Islam remains firm in the West. Recent conflicts in Lebanon have helped fuel this trend, and a more balanced and rational policy toward Lebanon could help reverse it.

Due to America's warped view of Islam and given deep-seated Arab suspicions of American motivations, real peace cannot be achieved through unilateral U.S. initiatives but only through international organizations and regional players. Lebanon has too long been the victim of unilateral moves by great powers and would be far more open to multilateral initiatives. As part of a shift toward a more multilateral approach, Washington should allow the UN to play its logical role in implementing its own resolutions. The U.S. should also allow France, and other powers more trusted by the Lebanese, to play a more prominent role.

Economically, the United States should revise its foreign aid priorities. In contrast to the Canadian government, which determines its foreign aid policy purely on the basis of need, Washington continues to apply reward-and-punish standards, often to the detriment of Lebanon's economic development. By contrast, Israel, one of the world's wealthier countries, is still the largest recipient of U.S. aid. Foreign aid based on need, rather than politics, would go a long way toward addressing the deep problems of poverty, underdevelopment, and hunger.

The U.S. also needs to encourage the World Bank and the IMF to reverse their policies and start supporting initiatives that facilitate wider public access to food, education, and health. Finally, U.S. aid to the region should shift away from military hardware to support for sustainable development. Until now, Lebanon has been on the receiving end of too little American economic assistance and too many American weapons.

Unfortunately, the end of the cold war has seemingly only hardened American unilateralism toward Lebanon and the Middle East. Unless there is change, most Lebanese--like many others throughout the world--can only look forward to an aggressive and often violent imposition of American economic and political will.

Key Recommendations

* The U.S. should support all UN Security Council resolutions, including UNSC 425, which calls for immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory.

* Washington should change its foreign aid policies, which are currently determined according to political criteria, to ones based on need in order to address the serious problems of underdevelopment, poverty, and hunger.

* The U.S. could improve the political climate in the region by promoting democracy and human rights universally rather than targeting only regimes the administration opposes.

As'ad AbuKhalil is an associate professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus, and a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
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Article Details
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Author:AbuKhalil, As'ad
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
Previous Article:Problems With Current U.S. Policy.
Next Article:The U.S. and the Israeli-Syrian Peace Process.

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