U.S. military aid serves a variety of purposes. Sometimes – as in the case of Israel – it is intended to help a close ally defend itself; other times, it is meant mostly to keep a bad situation from getting worse.
That seems to be the case when it comes to Lebanon. The $100 million in military aid slated for the upcoming fiscal year wasn’t meant as a reward for good behavior; instead, it was requested in the hope that it would strengthen a government that is gradually losing ground to Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored terror group that continues to undermine U.S. interests in the region.
In the wake of last week’s border incident, which resulted in the death of an Israeli officer and increased jitters about a possible new war on Israel’s northern border, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington is having second thoughts about that aid.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, put a hold on the appropriation; Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), among others, are demanding more information about the growing penetration of the Lebanese armed forces by Hezbollah before money is released.
Since 2006, Cantor noted, Lebanon has received $720 million in aid – money that has seemingly done little to slow the spreading influence of Hezbollah. As Cantor said in a statement, “For the past few years, the U.S. and the international community looked the other way as the lines between Hezbollah and the Lebanese military and government became blurred.”
There’s little doubt preventing Hezbollah from expanding its influence on the Lebanese military is a vital U.S. interest. But it is far from clear whether the aid is doing what it was meant to do. And as lawmakers from both parties noted, there are growing reasons to be concerned that U.S.-supplied weapons could end up in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists bent on new attacks on Israel.
Congressional leaders are right to block the aid until these issues can be addressed. Stabilizing Lebanon and curbing the growing influence of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are critical goals for Lebanon, for the United States and for Israel. The question is, will more U.S. aid help attain those goals?