Thursday, July 19, 2007

Investigating Lebanon: Sectarianism and Fear of Other (Part III)

One of three Causalities For Fearing the other:
Communication Failure

check part I and part II

To understand how groups are mobilized based on fear, there has to be information communication breakdown at the grassroots level and elite level.

Lake and Rothchild wrote “Because violence is costly, groups can be expected to invest in acquiring knowledge about the preferences and capabilities of the opposing side and bargain hard, but eventually reach an agreement short of open conflict. Groups might even be expected to reveal information about themselves to prevent violence from erupting. When individuals and groups possess private information and incentives to misrepresent that information, competing group interests can produce actual conflict. We refer to this as an information failure. When information failures occur, groups cannot acquire or share the information necessary to bridge the bargaining gap between themselves, making conflict possible despite its devastating effects.”

When the national dialogue (at elite level) occurred on several occasions, no leader stepped down from his/her demands, which can be distinguished in allegiance for the opposition or 14th of March. Both groups depend heavily on the media (foreign and local) to know about the other. They always caught each other via the media, and very rarely during the private meetings. (henceforth we call the National Dialogue round table as Poker Table).

What is known though, Hezbollah owns 20,000 long range missiles. Nasrallah displayed that fact bluntly during his ‘Divine Rally to celebrate the Divine Victory’. He wanted to make sure that Hezbollah was as strong as ever after the July war in order to preserve his party’s political bargaining power. The fact Hezbollah trashed the Israeli Army on the infantry level caused the government to think double about how to disarm Hezbollah’s source of political strength: welfare networks and 20,000 arms. This grassroots support to Hezbollah and their ownership of military arms caused their Christian ally: General Aoun, to escalate his demands towards the presidential elections, among others. In the middle of the July War and till currently, Aoun remained threatening to “hit the street” to shoot down this ‘illegitimate’ government, for a mere fact that they do not want him as a Lebanese President (although I have to keep in mind, the President of the Republic lacks any authority which makes the whole collision for the Presidential title as plain artificial and muscle show-off). Aoun eventually hit the streets and ended up as a laughing stock because his excitement revealed the opposition’s lack of strength to shoot down the government.

What is also known, the government is willing to repay the opposition’s escalations with more escalations. On December 1, 2006, when the Opposition launched its open demonstration in Downtown Beirut, the government launched series of demonstrations through out Lebanon calling the opposition as isolationists. When the opposition escalated with their civil disobedience in January, the government unleashed its hooligans who also appeared to have arms hence sending to the opposition a signal that they too got their own muscle power on the grassroots level and they are not planning to step down without a fight. Hassan Nasrallah was clear, if the government didn’t enjoy such international support, the government would have collapsed since day one of the open demonstration. The US and French support in specific was powerful, so were the gulf nations in order to balance against the Iranian/Syrian influence.

The government and opposition both said it clear that no solution can come domestically, ie the bargaining cards will come from their sponsors: USA/France/Saudi Arabia versus Iran/Syria. Each accuses the other as not willing to reconcile with the other. Both camps mobilize their masses based on the fears of their masses. The government masses prefer to kill other Lebanese civilians rather have allegiance to Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran. The government mobilizes its masses that Syria doesn’t want stability to the Lebanese, and if the opposition wins, the Syrian army and their ruthful regime will return. Worse, the Syrians never left, they remain through the opposition and their supporters. The opposition also mobilizes their masses as well. They oppose the government under the banner of facing US/Zionist backed government. They accuse the government of corruption and leading the country towards starvation: if the government remains, more starvation will occur. The opposition seems to forget that they were part of that government under the Syrian ruthless mandate while people like Nasser Andeel celebrated freedom of expression in Lebanon and the need of more Syrian 2nd Bureau to fight the Zionists. The Shiites out of fear of returning to pre-1970 status, in majority clutch to Hezbollah as the defenders of their interests.

No group is willing to bargain; rather each is willing to escalate without avoiding direct conflict. None of political movements want confrontations because they do not have sufficient information about each other’s capabilities; however, they prefer to have their people on social level polarized in order to maintain their strengths and bargaining powers. When one group trespassed this threshold, two days of violence followed with Seniora, Mufti Qabbani, Nasrallah, Aoun, and all other religious and political figures begging their supporters to calm down. People died for nothing in January. The moderates on the grassroots level fear that since this camp would vote for that extremist group or vice versa, they support their sect representatives. The Media isn’t helping also, Future TV and Manar TV write exactly two opposites to events, and none of each camp’s supporter watches the other side because polarization has struck to such level. The Opposition accuses the government of inventing Fatah Islam to face Hezbollah while the government accuses Syria to create Fatah Islam since the group collapsed from a Syrian loyalist group.

Lake and Rothchild wrote “Incentives to misrepresent private information exist in at least three common circumstances. In each, revealing true information undercuts the ability of the group to attain its interests. First, incentives to misrepresent occur when groups are bargaining over a set of issues and believe they can gain by bluffing. By exaggerating their strengths minimizing their weaknesses, and mis-stating their preferences, groups seek to achieve more favorable divisions of resources. Through such bluffs, however, they increase the risk that negotiations will fall and conflicts arise.”

This began with the opposition, since the government decided to by-pass the opposition’s positions regarding the International Tribunal (investigating Rafiq Harriri’s assassination), Presidential campaign, and the Arms of Hezbollah. At first, negotiations failed, then they threatened to resign from the government, and eventually they did. Afterwards, they escalated their threats towards open demonstration, and they did, and they failed drastically. Afterwards, they threatened another round of escalations, and they did, Saudi Arabia and Iran ended it after bloody confrontations occurred.

The Government depended heavily on their grassroots support and international support. They advocated that they wanted dialogue but proceeded with their goals towards the Tribunal (which Hezbollah fear it will be used against them). When the opposition invaded their ‘private’ Martyrs’ Square, the government retaliated by demonstrations through out Lebanon. When the opposition reacted to close the streets, they unleashed their hooligans. When the Tribunal was agreed in the UN Security Council, they sent their hooligans to celebrate in the street, despite the fact the Tribunal was supposed to be ‘for all Lebanon’. There are no longer negotiations, while foreign ambassadors come in and out trying to build a nice image for themselves as ‘friends of Lebanon’ such as Iran and France, without any tangible results. Each group remains hiding information from the other camp.

Lake and Rothchild wrote “Second, groups may be truly aggressive but do not wan tto be branded as such. They may seek to minimize internal opposition, or to insulate themselves from repercussions in the broader international community. Although typically only minimal sanctions are imposed by other states, most groups seek to avoid the label of an aggressor or violater of international norms and the political isolation that such a classification can carry.”

This is exactly the case of Lebanon. The other camp in the eye of the other is the aggressor. The government masses think they are in a state of war against soldiers of Iran and Syria. The opposition thinks they are rebelling against Israel. When fights occur ‘Irani masses’ are facing ‘US masses’ for a war in protecting the sovereignty of Lebanon, hence go figure out how ‘righteous’ masses go fight with each other in the light of mass propaganda. No one camp even listens to the other, I can’t think of more severe information breakdown (except the breakout of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975) on grassroots level. Hezbollah or PSP goons say they want dialogue and escalate against each other. Each tries to represent the other as the aggressor and they are the peaceful ones.

Lake and Rothchild wrote “Finally, in conflicts where the groups are simultaneously negotiating and preparing for ethnic war, any attempt to facilitate compromise by having each side explain how it plans to win on the battlefield will seriously compromise the likelihood that it will win should war occur. Thus, groups cannot reveal their strategies or derive accurate predictions of their likely success. Paradoxically, each party is bound by its own self-interest to withhold the information crucial to bringing an agreement. Concerned that private information they provide on how they intend to protect themselves or attack others will redound their disadvantage, groups may refrain from revealing the information necessary to gorge a mutually satisfactory compromise.”

It is no lie, all party members got arms, even the tiny figures like that clown We’am Wahhab got arms. The Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, AMAL Movement, Junblatt’s PSP, Harriri’s Future, Hezbollah and their 20,000 missiles, Aoun’s FPM, all got weapons on an non-official level. Each group behaves towards the other as if they are the enemy, and threats escalate. Moreover, each promises inevitable victory for their group members, so you can imagine to what extent mobilization is present. When one group owns arms, due to the dissatisfaction of others, this generates a chain reaction of fear whereby one group arms in reaction to others. Nasrallah made it clear that none of his lovely missiles would be oriented towards Lebanon; however, Nasrallah will not live forever. Furthermore, Hezbollah pre-Nasrallah’s reign had actually directed their missiles on the Lebanese. What if Nasrallah dies and a more hardcore fanatic takes over, or what if Tehran changes its external policies?

Each group makes its goals loud and clear, which is to defeat politically the other. This narrows down negotiations. The only information leaked out is that they are victim of the other.

Lake and Rothchild wrote “Information failures are possible whenever two or more ethnic groups compete within the political arena. Groups always possess private information as these three circumstances suggest, often possess incentives to misrepresent that information. Information failures are thus ubiquitous in ethnic relations. In multi-ethnic societies, states can often communicate and arbitrate successfully between groups and thereby help preclude and resolve information failures. Indeed, communication and arbitration can be understood as two of the primary functions of the state. When effective, states create incentives and a sense of security that allow groups to express their desires and articulate their political aspirations and strategies. Not only do ethnic leaders respond to sidepayments offered by the state elites, but – in seeking to curry favor – they are more prepared to provide private information to a “third party” that they are to an adversary. As the state weakens, however, information failures become more acute and violence more likely. If one group believes that the other is withholding information, it is too may begin to hold back crucial data or anticipate the failure of negotiations. Groups become suspicious of the intentions of others, and may begin to fear the worst. In this way, information failures of others, and may begin to fear the worst. In this way, information failures and even the anticipation of such failures may drive groups to actions that undermine the ability of the state to maintain social peace. When this occurs, even previously effective states will begin to unravel. State capabilities, then, are at least partly affected by the magnitude of the information failure and the belief and behaviors of the groups themselves.”

This was the case when the Lebanese government was at least strong locally (not internationally) under the brutal reign of the Syrian Mandate. Incentives were given to everyone to most of the political figures we see today on TV (government/opposition). Walid Junblatt at a one point adopted Jubran A’rayji’s speech (ex-chairman of the SSNP), and the late Rafiq Harriri provided allegiance most of the time in return to safeguard his capitalist interests (and flow of gulf money). With the disappearance of that political power called Syria (plus the syndrome of stamping Assad’s pictures in the streets of Beirut), the government became one-sided. Hezbollah, in 2005, for the first time ever have entered the Lebanese government to safeguard their interests. Moreover, strangest alliances occurred during elections (SSNP and FPM) or Lebanese Forces with Hezbollah, anything to safeguard elite interests and political bargaining powers. The state became one-sided. Last time, the Shiite faction of the Opposition supported the Seniora government publicly was directly after the second Qana Massacre during the July war. Nabih Berri (AMAL movement) and Hezbollah announced their allegiance to the Seniora government. After the July war, the Lebanese government was perceived as a “Feldman government” (aka US government), and the government lost its political strength when anti-14th of March ministers resigned. The government lacked any capabilities to arbitrate anything, and the bi-polarity became much stronger. Sectarianism couldn’t have been stronger. Each redeems the other as the ‘traitor’ while defending Lebanon. Civil War woes were revived to suit the interest of the elites in burning the other. It is funny how Nasrallah’s party of Jaajaa’s party forgot about their ‘woes’ to each other during elections. The government is one side, the opposition is the other, what keeps the momentum of the opposition is its capability to block the Parliament (majority ruled by the 14th of March coalition) from meeting. There couldn’t have been any clearer division lines, and the masses become more sectarian against the ‘enemy’.

I have to note that even the alliances of 14th of March or the Opposition are short-lived because the different sects of each coalition can barely digest the other. The masses think they are defending their own interests and do not notices they are supporting their own oppressors to either remain in power, or to put them in power, at their own expense.

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