Global Governance | Discussion Takeaways

US Policy Toward Lebanon: Stepping Back to Move Forward

July 2007


A year ago Lebanon was on the verge of an economic and political resurgence. Today, policy and security analysts assert that an escalation in violence and sectarianism in Lebanon could result in a conflict that rivals what is currently happening in Iraq and mark a return to civil war.

Averting another crisis in the Middle East seems prudent. Yet the political impasse in Lebanon, the United States’ commitments in Iraq, NATO’s endeavors in Afghanistan, Iran’s emergence as a regional power, and the challenges facing the Middle East Peace Process have limited US efforts to address the underlying factors contributing to Lebanon’s instability.

With these constraints in mind, the Stanley Center convened a workshop in June 2007 to discuss how the international community might bolster efforts to effect more sustainable stability and security in Lebanon. Participants included policy and security analysts, journalists, and former government representatives from Lebanon, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The workshop revealed that the most effective US policies will emphasize multilateralism. More specifically, the US should adopt policies that promote burden-sharing, development assistance, and roles for US civil society organizations and the private sector. This “softer” approach offers the US an opportunity to effect change in ways that align with trends within Lebanese society and with existing international stabilization and reconstruction efforts. At the same time, it emphasizes positive attributes of US culture and downplays its perceived militaristic tendencies.

The four-page policy memo summarizing the discussion and general recommendations is available here.