Foreign Policy Blogs

So poetic, yet untrue

The so-called friend states of Lebanon (yes, the ministerial meeting was actually named "Friends of Lebanon") met earlier this week to find a solution for the Lebanese political crisis. They called for the “full implementation of the Taef agreement, all UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to Lebanon, including resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701, and 1757, as well as the implementation of the Arab initiative. ” They came out empty handed. What did you expect?!

I have a problem with brotherly, sisterly and even friendly ties. Where did I hear such a discourse when talking about Lebanon? If you said, Syria, then you're right. A friend/brother/sister will neither stab you in the back nor use you. Syria did both and for a very long time.

Plus states don't have friends. They have interests. Depending on these interests, states form or break alliances. Lebanon is a small piece from a bigger, regional puzzle. Assad's regime and Tehran are playing their cards at the expense of Lebanon. Too bad the Lebanese themselves allowed others to take full control of their country.

Lebanon's problems at the surface are:

  • No President
  • No Parliament thanks to Nabih Berri who turned off the lights at the direct request of his friends in Damascus (Berri has what it takes to be a good politician. For most of us, that is not exactly a compliment.)
  • Weak Government, but it is there, and that gives a sense of institutional normalcy
  • Hizballah's arms
  • Implementing UN Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701 and 1757

The core issues were beautifully explained by Dr Joseph Hitti who said recently, that in Lebanon,

“You cannot have social or economic or any other type of substantive change to improve the country and the lives of its people, because religion and sectarianism stand in the way. If you demand social reforms on one side, the other side is offended. If you demand secularism, both sides rally together against you. If you ask for administrative reform to end corruption and cronyism, the traditionalists who hold power accuse you of being an Israeli-Western agent. If you ask the Patriarchs or the Muftis to stay outside of politics, the traditionalists accuse you of blaspheming religion and straying from God's will for the country.”

He went on saying that some “are tired of Lebanon being burned to the ground only to maintain the illusion that Lebanon has to live up to some standard or model of coexistence and tolerance. The price has been too high for the Lebanese over the past four decades that it no longer makes sense. Many would rather see a decentralized, partitioned, segregated, separated Lebanon than the unliveable, non-viable nightmare that it has become.”

Conclusion. Quasi-political openness is a tough cookie for a society (still) organized in clans, where the feudal lord can never under any circumstances be held accountable.