by Anna Borshchevskaya,
As Michel Suleiman visits the White House, it's time for Obama to rethink his foreign policy.
From his first day in office, President Barack Obama has made engagement the cornerstone of his foreign policy. "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," the president declared in his inaugural address. It has not always worked as Obama hoped. When Lebanese President Michel Suleiman visits the White House on Monday, the unintended consequence of embracing unfettered engagement will be clear.
Obama prides himself on engagement, but too much can be a bad thing. By allowing any item on the agenda, the White House encourages partners and adversaries alike to take maximalist positions. Once on the agenda, any position can gain diplomatic legitimacy, and flexibility and compromise often rewards adversaries. Pro-democracy leaders and advocates who look to the U.S. for leadership and support for their cause will perceive such compromises as legitimizing demands of authoritarian regimes, taking away the hope for change and the belief in the ideals of freedom and democracy for which America stands.
While Suleiman will not say as much, his visit will highlight how Obama's desire to engage
Obama, however, reversed
According to a joke circulating in
How appropriate, then, that Hezbollah is at the top of Suleiman's agenda. A former head of the Lebanese army during the period of Syrian occupation, Suleiman will lobby Obama to reverse U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which two years before the outbreak of war called for the disbandment "of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militia." Instead of disbanding Hezbollah, Suleiman will argue that the Lebanese Army should simply integrate it. Rather than eliminate a group responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against American targets, Obama will be asked to acquiesce to its existence.
Suleiman will also seek military aid, hoping he will have better luck under Obama than he had under Bush, who, while active in support of
If President Obama truly understands that there is "evil" in the world, as he said when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize last week, he must recognize that sometimes dialogue does not work. Engagement with
Anna Borshchevskaya is a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
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