A strange reaction. The good news:

The defeat of Hezbollah has regional significance. It will undoubtedly affect the Iranian "elections," since one of Ahmadinejad's major claims has been that his tough line has produced success after success. The Lebanese have given him a spanking, and this will not be lost on the Iranians.


But the bad news:

I cannot help thinking that the Lebanese learned something from Obama's Cairo speech (and Bush's second term), namely that they cannot rely on the United States to confront terrorists like Hezbollah. They, and others all over the area, are going to have to do a lot of their own fighting, and take their own chances, even though they know they cannot count on American support.


But isn't a greater recognition among moderates in the region that they need to fight Islamist extremism a good thing?


Everywhere Hamas or Hezbollah or, to a far greater extent, al Qaeda and the Taliban, actually get a chance to reveal themselves, and their capacity for governance, the people turn away. Al Qaeda lost Jordan, and there are hopeful signs that Hamas may be losing the Gazans. The Taliban has overplayed its hand in Pakistan, just as al Qaeda did in Iraq. If America is constantly out front targeting extremists throughout the region, a dependency can grow, and the extremists can claim some legitimacy merely by resisting the hegemon. This is a tricky balance - but nonetheless worth attempting.

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