Romney is lucky the press has been kicking around Obama this week – otherwise his statement below about Hezbollah would be receiving A LOT more attention. “At a town hall meeting in Iowa last Friday, Mitt Romney offered an eye-catching twist on his usual stump speech when he held up Hezbollah as a model for the effectiveness of using social services as a way to win hearts and minds. ‘Did you notice in Lebanon what Hezbollah did? Lebanon became a democracy some time ago. And while their government was getting underway, Hezbollah went into southern Lebanon and provided health clinics to some of the people there and schools. And they built their support by having done so,’ Romney said. ‘That kind of diplomacy is something that would help America become stronger around the world and help people understand that our interest is an interest toward modernity and goodness and freedom for all people of the world.’”
Hmmm. My two cents: first, Romney's made a really stupid, novice error in thinking you can say "hey, check out Hezbollah, they did some cool stuff" and get away with it, no matter what your intentions were (and, as is usual when Romney sticks his foot in his mouth, his team have had to provide "context" for this remark). Second, from my experiences living, working and traveling abroad extensively (and in the latter case, in the Middle East, including Lebanon which, as to my knowledge, Romney has never visited), while there may be a point that people like groups that do nice things for them, I have a strong suspicion that had the US decided years ago to go into unfriendly bits of the Middle East and build hospitals and give away TVs and toaster ovens, that wouldn't have done the trick. Because, you see, a lot of people in that region have a problem with Israel, in some cases because they don't trust Jews, and in some cases because they don't like things like what looks like land-nicking that was done in the context of the SiX Day War. So, methinks that no matter how benevolent and nice we are, unless we start influencing Israel to make concessions to its hostile neighbors, many people living in neighboring countries, and the Middle East as a whole, aren't going to dig us very much.
And, clearly, with a couple of exceptions, we're unlikely to be doing that-- since, well, like it or not, Israel is our ally and Syria is not.