The United States has named a new ambassador to Lebanon who has established ties with key decision makers and national security officials in Washington, marking a shift in the country’s approach towards the Arab country, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday.
In an article entitled “Dorothy Shea’s Successor: Envoy of War Who Worked with ‘Israel’ and Knows Lebanon,” Ghassan Saoud wrote about Lisa Johnson who will take office next March after her predecessor Dorothy Shea’s term ends.
“The Lebanese Foreign Ministry has been apprised of a noteworthy change in the US approach towards Lebanon, with Lisa Johnson set to take over from Dorothy Shea,” the article said.
“Distinguished from (former envoys) Elizabeth Richard, Mora Conley, Michelle Sison and Shea, Johnson possesses a wealth of secrets and connections within the highest echelons of the US administration. Her extensive international experience, serving at pivotal locations such as NATO headquarters in Brussels and conflict-stricken Africa, solidifies her position as a leading figure in US national security.”
Saoud reported that Johnson has held several critical positions in US national security, including serving as Director of the National Security Council’s Middle East Affairs since 2001, the Director of the Political-Military Office for Israel at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the Supervisor of the Operations Center at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and as an advisor to the Commander of the National War College on International Affairs.
Johnson has also served as the Director of the Office of Africa and the Middle East at the International Office for Drug Control and Law Enforcement, according to the Lebanese writer.
The incoming envoy “knows Lebanon very well as she served at her country’s embassy in Beirut between 2002 and 2004, as she has friendships with several Lebanese figures on different levels,” the Lebanese daily reported.
Limited Media Exposure
Unlike Shea, who has gained notoriety for her excessive media appearances, Johnson is more circumspect and discerning, prioritizing direct political and security matters over media presence, the article added.
The limited interviews of Johnson that can be accessed on YouTube and various online platforms reveal that she repeatedly utters well-rehearsed expressions at all events, such as “Combating corruption is not just a government responsibility, but a means of self-defense, enhancing democracy, and ensuring economic justice,” and “The problem is not confined to high-level government corruption but extends to corruption at all levels,” as well as “Our mission is to support and encourage you,” and “Our partnership with civil society is of utmost importance,” Saoud wrote about Johnson.
These expressions form the cornerstone of Johnson’s views and do not vary, the Lebanese author said, noting that the most pivotal statement, however, is “Proud to collaborate with US partners in facilitating training and information exchange.”
One-sided Info Exchange
Information exchange is a crucial aspect of Johnson’s discourse, as drug enforcement and anti-corruption efforts rely on it, even if it is only one-sided, according to Saoud.
“It is assumed that citizens, judges, and security personnel will readily use their phones to communicate with American embassy partners and share information with them. Johnson will always emphasize in her interviews that she ‘learns a lot from you about your rich culture’ and aims to establish a ‘democratic society that upholds human rights, combats corruption, and adheres to the rule of law.’ She consistently pays homage to the environment, protected areas, and cultural heritage,” Saoud added.
“In her pursuit of democracy and human rights, Johnson stresses that “information exchange” is critical to achieving progress. Johnson’s recurring phrases and emphasis on “information sharing” suggest a focus on building partnerships with local communities and law enforcement to combat corruption and improve governance. Her language highlights a strong commitment to democratic values, respect for human rights, and a commitment to preserving the environment,” the Lebanese journalist wrote.
He noted, meanwhile, that the new envoy’s reliance on repeated, ready-made phrases and gestures may raise questions about her ability to effectively address complex issues.
“Overall, Johnson’s approach seems to prioritize relationships and collaboration over a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the challenges she faces,” Saoud concluded.
Source: Al-Akhbar newspaper (translated and edited by Al-Manar English Website)