On January 5, 2012, The Institute of World Politics (IWP) hosted a launch event for the new book, The Road to 1559: Lebanon at the Core of the George W. Bush Administration. The book’s title refers to a key UN resolution which helped prompt the Cedar Revolution and the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The book describes the passage of the resolution from Walid Maalouf’s unique vantage point as a US Alternate Representative to the United Nations and the perspectives of other officials in the Bush Administration.
After a brief introduction by IWP founder and president John Lenczowski, Walid Maalouf opened the panel discussion. Mr. Maalouf spoke of his great hope for democracy and peace in the region. He spoke of Lebanon’s “unique opportunity” in 2003, when the interests of the United States, France and the George W. Bush administration’s Freedom Agenda aligned to support the passage of the resolution at that particular moment. Mr. Maalouf also credited those who made the passage of the resolution possible, including John Negroponte, who was on the panel. He concluded his remarks by stressing two key issues for Lebanon’s future peace. The first was to call for the territorial neutrality of Lebanon, including the disarmament of militias. The country ought to be allowed to exist as Lebanon, and not as an arena for conflict between foreign powers, he said. The second major issue is the matter of the Palestinian refugees, which Maalouf called a “ticking time bomb.” He urged that the UN help the Palestinians emigrate from Lebanon and integrate into the world community. Maalouf also thanked Dr. Lenczowski, the Institute, and the staff of the Institute for setting up the event.
Then Secretary John Negroponte took the podium. Ambassador Negroponte’s public service record extends back decades, and he was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations at the time when the critical resolution 1559 was being planned. He praised the role of public delegates like Walid Maalouf at the United Nations. UN public delegates are political appointees, not career diplomats, and they can bring in a perspective from outside the Foreign Service. Turning to the matter of the resolution itself, he said that in 2003 he had thought that a resolution causing an exit of Syrian troops from Lebanon was “tilting at windmills.” He also described part of the value of the resolution as getting the other powers “on the record.” Ultimately, China and Russia did not veto the resolution, and this makes it possible to hold them to its provisions later on. Looking towards the future, Negroponte said that though 1559 was a watershed, it is not the end of the road. For Lebanon to prosper there is a need to resolve the situation with Syria and ultimately Iran.
IWP’s own Senior Diplomat in Residence, Thomas Melady, then spoke. Ambassador Melady focused on the history of Lebanon and its historic importance to Christendom. He recalled his first meeting at the Vatican in 1989 with Pope John Paul II and the strong focus given to Lebanon. Although he lamented that the country had seen “a lot of sadness in our lifetime,” he admired the country’s history of pluralism and dialogue between different faiths.
Ambassador Andrew Natsios was the next panelist. Natsios is a professor at Georgetown, and had previously served as Administrator for USAID. Natsios began by quoting Mitch Daniels, a former OMB Director and current Governor of Indiana, advising political appointees, “Don’t be custodians, be activists.” This is what exactly Maalouf did, he said. Natsios then zeroed in on the implications of great power politics in the Middle East, particularly the power vacuum caused by the United States withdrawal from Iraq. Other powers in the region will seek to assert themselves, especially the “Persian Empire,” i.e., Iran. Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has allowed it to have a sort of occupation of Lebanon, he said. Natsios looked forward to the end of the Assad regime, and hoped that it would also end the meddling of Syria in the affairs of its neighbors. Natsios concluded his remarks by talking about the great success of the Lebanese Diaspora; indeed, Lebanon is one of the only countries where there are more Lebanese outside the country then in the country. Natsios took this great prosperity as evidence that Lebanon itself would be one of the extremely wealthy and prosperous nations if it has a stable political situation.
The final panelist, Dr. Marius Deeb the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, made the panel’s closing remarks. He commented that the current “Arab Spring” started in Lebanon, and that resolution 1559 empowered the Lebanese to start it. He lamented, however, that the Cedar Revolution was incomplete because the disarmament of militias hasn’t happened. He discussed three previous revolutions that had impacted Lebanon. The first was the nationalist wave of Baathist revolutions, the second was the Palestinian revolution, and the third was the Iranian revolution. He contrasted the Iranian revolution with the Cedar revolution and the Arab Spring, describing the first as authoritarian and anti-democratic. Iran fears what has happened in Lebanon and Iran’s actions in the region seem like a kind of counter-revolution for the Arab Spring, he said. Deeb finished by emphasizing the importance of Lebanon for the region as a “trendsetter,” and discussed its role as a model for divided countries.
The event was concluded by a reception hosted by IWP and LARP, and was attended by current and former Ambassadors, former Bush appointees, leaders of Lebanese American organizations, former and current officials from the Department of State, USAID, the Pentagon and Congress, including Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of Macedonia and Ambassador Francisco Altschul of El Salvador. Mr. Fabrice Aidan represented Ambassador Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special envoy to UNSCR 1559. Also in attendance were Mr. Ed Fox, former Assistant Secretary of Home Land Security, Dr. Hiam Saker, President of the American University of Science and Technology and many former generals and representatives of the think tank community in Washington, D.C., as well as students and faculty members from IWP.