U.S Assistant Secretary of State Slams NY Times / Prof.B.Rubin

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Slams NY Times for Championing Hizballah Apologists; Ignoring Truly Heroic Journalists

Regarding my critique of the New York Times amazing article lionizing a Hizballah-Syrian front newspaper as independent and courageous, it is worth reading this letter to the newspaper by the current U.S. assistant secretary of state for the region:

New York Times/Letters to the Editor/January 8, 2011/Heroic Journalism in Lebanon? Ex-Envoy Disagrees

To the Editor:

As ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 to 2008, I was the person whom al Akhbar’s editorial chairman, Ibrahim al-Amine, hoped to upset every morning with his newspaper’scoverage (“A Rarity in the Region, a Lebanese Paper Dares to Provoke,” news article, Dec. 29).

Mr. Amine did get my attention, but not in the way he intended. The hilariously erroneous accounts of my activities reported as fact in his newspaper provoked morning belly laughs.

While posted to Lebanon, I met with the editorial boards of Lebanon’s lively media, even stridently anti-American ones, for off-the-record, two-way conversations. Of all the requests I made, only Al Akhbar’s editorial board refused to receive me.

Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

One of the curiosities I discovered as ambassador to Lebanon was the number of Western journalists, academics and nongovernmental representatives who, while enjoying the fine wines and nightlife of Beirut, romanticized Hezbollah and its associates like Al Akhbar as somehow the authentic voices of the oppressed Lebanese masses. Yet, I don’t think that many of those Western liberals would wish to live in a state dominated by an unaccountable clerical militia and with al Akhbar providing the news.

Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni, who worked for the newspaper An Nahar and were killed by car bombs, and the grievously mutilated but courageous television journalist May Chidiac paid the price for real journalism in Lebanon — not the writers of Al Akhbar.

Jeffrey Feltman/Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs/Washington, Dec. 30, 2010
Jeffrey Feltman/Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs/Washington, Dec. 30, 2010

Now That's How Diplomacy Works! George Kennan Explains It All To You

Martin Kramer has written a brilliant article about Iran and diplomatic practices in general. Before going further, I should add that I''ve never read anything by him that wasn't brilliant.

The story in brief is this: George Kennan was one of the greatest diplomats in American history. He is also the father of the containment strategy on the USSR during the Cold War. Recently, an Iranian-American scholar wrote an article saying that if Kennan were alive today he'd favor a soft policy on Iran.

Kramer cites what Kennan actually did say regarding Iran, which was the exact opposite. In fact, Kennan favored a tough line against the Mossadegh government (a nationalist regime that seized British oil interests, became increasingly infiltrated by Communists, and was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup) in the early 1950s and a very tough strategy in response to the Islamist revolution and the seizure of Americans as hostages in the late 1970s. On both occasions, he even proposed war with Iran if necessary to secure U.S. interests.

The article is quite interesting but I want to cite here one statement by Kennan with more general implications. I think you will see how it applies to 2010 by the time you finish reading it:

"The idea that the appetites of local potentates can be satiated and their deep-seated resentments turned into devotion by piecemeal concessions and partial withdrawals is surely naïve to a degree that should make us blush to entertain it. If these people think they have us on the run, they will plainly not be satisfied until they have us completely out, lock, stock, and barrel, and then they will want to crow for decades to come about their triumph, in a way that will hardly be compatible with minimum requirements of Western prestige. The only thing that will prevent them from achieving this end is the cold gleam of adequate and determined force. The day for other things, if it ever existed, has now passed."

I think Israel has learned this message through sad experience. Since Kennan is regarded as one of the great diplomats in American history and the author of the successful U.S. strategy in the Cold War perhaps the U.S. government might think about that wisdom in dealing with the current conflict.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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