Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus at Boston University and fellow at the Claremont Institution, has heard Brennan-style arguments before. He has worked in the U.S. Foreign Service, the CIA, the U.S. State Department, and President Ronald Reagan’s transition team.
“The argument is always that they [Islamist terrorists] do things other than cutting people’s throats,” Codevilla told TheDC, referring to Brennan’s view of a more “complex” Hezbollah.
“Of course the courts have rejected that argument when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood,” he explained. “That same logic applies to Hezbollah.”
Despite Hezbollah’s history of subverting democratic processes, Brennan has long argued for including Hezbollah in the democratic process in Lebanon.
“It would not be foolhardy … for the United States to tolerate, and even to encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence,” he wrote in a 2008 essay published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, an academic journal.
“[R]educing the influence of violent extremists within the organization as well as the influence of extremist Iranian officials … is to increase Hezbollah’s stake in Lebanon’s struggling democratic processes,” Brennan explained.
And increasing Hezbollah’s stake in Lebanese government, he added, would likely mean convincing Israel to abandon its “aim of eliminating Hezbollah as a political force.”
Brennan’s 2008 essay was published just two months after Hezbollah’s military wing committed a series of terrorist attacks in Beirut.
During an August 2009 conference at the liberal Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brennan said Hezbollah ”started out as purely a terrorist organization back in the early ’80s and has evolved significantly over time.”
“And now it has members of parliament, in the cabinet. There are lawyers, doctors, others who are part of the Hezbollah organization. … And so, quite frankly, I’m pleased to see that a lot of Hezbollah individuals are in fact renouncing that type of terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process [in Lebanon] in a very legitimate fashion.”
State Department spokesman Robert Wood denied one week later, however, that the Obama administration drew a distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings. “Until Hezbollah decides that it’s going to change and stop carrying out the acts of terrorism and other acts that are causing instability in the region, there’s no reason for our policy to change,” Wood said, specifically answering questions about Brennan’s remarks.