Monday, July 24, 2006

Does Lebanon Have Any Strategic Value for the Midterm Elections? --
I'm working toward the hypothesis that the answer is "little, if any." What is going on in Lebanon will probably have no impact on the midterm elections.

Help me flesh it out.

I believe that what is going on in Lebanon will not impact voting in the 2006 midterm elections so long as it doesn't affect U.S. troops. Most Americans don't care about the nuts and bolts of foreign policy so long as the general thrust seems okay. Most Americans have generally warm feelings toward Israel and support Israelis against Arabs. If you travel in circles where you don't know people who are pro-Israel, you're living in some bizarro echo chamber. Given the strong regard that Americans generally have for Israel, there is a high threshold to overcome before U.S. public opinion turns against Israel. You would need stark visual images such as video footage of IDF forces shooting children in the back of the head execution-style to turn public opinion.

Since U.S. troops aren't currently involved in what is going on, most Americans will have opinions with weak to no influence on their 2006 votes. Those who consider Israel an important issue are probably already strongly aligned with the party that best fits their views.

I don't really see how this would affect most races unless the situation devolves into World War III or inspires an act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

I admit that this is all supposition right now. I haven't figured out yet how I could examine data to test this hypothesis.

What has happened is that discussion about Lebanon (along with Joe Lieberman) has dominated talk on the left blogosphere. The media, too. And I can't help but wonder if that works to the Republicans' advantage. With something more interesting to talk about, it is harder to spotlight the growing Iraqi civil war, the Republican culture of corruption, domestic spying and other less "sexy" topics.

(Before you start thinking about it, I want to emphatically deny any suggestion that the Bush administration somehow engineered an Israeli attack on Lebanon for domestic political purposes. Let's not poison the discussion with nutty conspiracy theories.)

"Vote against Republicans because Israel is wrong" doesn't seem to have any value for the midterm elections. At best, it serves to energize already-motivated people who see what is going on in Lebanon as more evidence that either Bush foreign policy is severely screwed up or that there is a clash between western and Arab civilizations that can only be resolved by violence.

I am not saying that the situation in Lebanon is unimportant, just that it has little importance relative to the upcoming elections and that those who are most concerned with the midterm elections should be sidetracked.
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