Let’s state the obvious: The U.S. taxpayer funds far too much in the way of foreign military and civilian aid. And though foreign aid constitutes a small percentage (sometimes as low of 1%) of the federal budget, it consistently ranks as one of the least popular things that the federal government funds.
This widespread sentiment is justified, on the merits. It is possible that there is no more quintessential “Drain the Swamp” issue than the notion that we should be far more judicious in how we dole out taxpayer-funded foreign aid to venal and restive foreign countries. Indeed, there is actually a compelling argument that we ought to cut off foreign aid for everyone. But we should at least start cutting off aid somewhere, and there is no better place to start than the Hezbollah-overrun Levantite state of Lebanon, which U.S. taxpayers subsidize to the tune of $250 million per year.
This is not exactly a new battle for fiscal and anti-Islamist conservatives — or really, anyone who opposes the U.S. taxpayer funding of an erstwhile sovereign nation that that has been thoroughly taken over by a transnational criminal and jihadist outfit. As Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has painstakingly demonstrated for years now, there is no longer a tenable distinction between “Lebanon” and “Hezbollah.” Militarily and politically, they are one and the same — and they have been for years.
Bear in mind that Hezbollah currently maintains scores of Iranian-funded, precision-guided missiles currently stationed in southern Lebanon and aimed straight at the hearts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel’s next war — and it is a matter of when, not if — with Hezbollah is going to be a long, bloody mess. And foreign aid to Israel aside, the U.S. taxpayer presently also funds the horrifically wrong side of that inevitable war.
Recently, grassroots anti-government uprisings in Lebanon have given U.S. policymakers ample room to pause and reflect upon why taxpayers are still funding an Iranian satrapy on the Mediterranean with a military and government that are both dominated by a leading transnational jihadist organization. “[M]ilitary aid to Lebanon has been a bipartisan failure for more than a decade, and reconsidering it is overdue,” Badran wrote in the Washington Examiner last week. He elaborated:
Sending money to a failed state run by a terrorist group is absurd on its face, which is why advocates of the policy must continuously adjust their talking points. They cannot run with the argument that the aid works against Hezbollah’s military buildup and political dominance in the country, as the aid has done nothing of the sort in the 12 years since it began. In fact, Hezbollah’s power has grown exponentially during that period. …
The reality is that Hezbollah took over Lebanon years ago. For the past seven years, as Hezbollah prosecuted its war in Syria, Lebanese forces coordinated closely with it and protected the group’s rear and logistical routes. During battles in eastern Lebanon against Syrian militants in 2017, the Lebanese military deployed jointly with Hezbollah and provided it with fire support, using U.S.-supplied munitions and systems. …
Hezbollah’s power is manifest in Lebanon’s political order as well. Hezbollah’s coalition currently holds the majority in parliament. The executive branch of the government, to which the Lebanese military answers, has been dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.
Again, why on Earth are U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing into this failed and terrorist-overrun nation? Free Lebanese civilians are flocking to the streets of Beirut to decry their Hezbollah-dominated political order. Why would we ever take affirmative steps to boost that jihadist-overrun political order?
A high-ranking Trump administration official spoke with The Daily Wire and described the behind-the-scene machinations that have engulfed various wings of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development over recent weeks. While there are some clear-headed minds on this issue within the decision-making echelons of the bureaucracy, the overwhelming State Department consensus has remained in favor of maintaining the perverse status quo. And of course, as far as distinctly military aid is concerned, the sclerotic Pentagon apparatus fears nothing more than it fears the nefarious bogeyman of “supply chain disruption.”
To that end, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the unusual step yesterday of personally intervening to release about $115 million in non-military, civilian aid that had been held up for about a month. The Bloomberg piece that broke the story is also unusually personal, singling out by name some who had been closely involved in embargoing the funding: USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick and Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates. The piece also smears purported “hard-liners” in Congress — by which it all but assuredly means Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for whom Coates just coincidentally happens to be a former national security underling — for having the temerity to question whether U.S. taxpayer dollars should freely flow to a jihadist-dominated “state” entity.
As Badran tweeted, the anonymous Deep Staters upon whom Bloomberg relied to tar Glick and Coates by name are cowards, pure and simple. The Bloomberg piece stinks of an orchestrated hit job by State Department apparatchiks against would-be reformers, centered around Cruz’s broader D.C. orbit, who are trying to defund a de facto terrorist state. The fact that such a no-brainer issue as this is ginning up such intra-executive branch squabbling is, quite frankly, nuts.
Indeed, Pompeo’s unilateral decision to continue the aid flowing into Hezbollah’s coffers is naive and woefully misguided, at best — and downright shameful, at worst. The continuation of any and all foreign aid to Lebanon, as long as Hezbollah retains any influence over the country, ought to be wholly and unequivocally halted. It is absolutely bonkers to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to prop up a Hezbollah-overrun Iranian satrapy with scores of precision-guided missiles aimed straight into the heart of Israel. To that end, Cruz’s “Stop Sending American Taxpayer Money to Governments Controlled By Terrorists Act,” which the Bloomberg piece references, “would block assistance to any Lebanese government that’s unduly influenced by Hezbollah.” Good.
But it is a travesty that legislation is needed, in the first instance. And a GOP congressional aide closely involved in the fight over Lebanon assistance, speaking to The Daily Wire, was blistering in his criticism of the fact that we are now at this unfortunate crossroads: “The Deep State is in full-blown panic mode. They’re leaking the names of individual staffers to reporters, which in Washington is nuclear war. You can understand why. There has never been a serious challenge to their policy of sending billions of dollars to Lebanon, but in recent weeks there have been two serious challenges from inside the administration and now this Cruz bill that will force them to explain why they’re sending American taxpayer funds to a Hezbollah-controlled government.”
The Trump administration had the opportunity here to do the right thing. Indeed, it still has the opportunity to do the right thing, going forward: Defund every single penny of U.S. foreign aid to Lebanon unless and until we can authoritatively verify that Hezbollah no longer maintains military or political influence in the nation. And, for goodness’ sake, do it yesterday.