Bumping into ex-activists, personally I keep wondering how far our goals are in Lebanon. With everyone being involved in “fighting Iran” or “Fighting Israel”, no one has tackled the real core issue which haunted Lebanon (and Mt. Lebanon in the 19th Century) with blood baths, wars, and the sort.
A 14th of Marcher would tell me that “A Strong State is needed once Hezbollah is disarmed!” Fine, I can understand people are terrified from having out of the blues a war and seeing their children bombed to kingdom by a ruthless cold blooded army out of retaliation. Second, let us assume this tiny nation would assume such a strong state with a mighty army to sustain it despite all those tiny armed groups, the country will never stand economically. The Lebanese Diaspora remains to increase in number, and more than ever. Someone may say: “Services” is the solution, yet I cant imagine us competing with the Gulf, and their immense wealth. Rather, the gulf supports certain elites, and in case money would spread around, it will go to the elites. The assumption of the Liberals that wealth would be generated in large quantities can’t hold true, there is no such logic that the top elites will make so much money to the extent that money will spill downwards to the people. If that is the case, Latin America, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have witnessed a gigantic economic boom, and the welfare of the people would have expanded. Rather, unemployment rate increases, and the rich simply get richer.
However, this article is not about Political Economy and world Economics.
Ok, what about an 8th of Marcher? He/She would tell me “We are fighting Israel and protecting our land and demolish starvation from thieves!” Again, that scenario can’t stand still. The governments in the past had figureheads of 8th of March (most famous two probably would be Michel el Murr and Asa’ad Herdain). The 8th of March were always part of the economical gain to gain advantages. Now the core alliance of the Opposition is made of two parties that never stepped foot in the government during the Syrian Mandate (unless we consider the Free Patriotic Movement dating back to Aoun’s days as a ‘Prime Minister’), but all their allies were part of it. In fact, Hezbollah for almost two years were participants of the government and took part in the privatization process of the Electricity Institution. Now the other half of the hypothesis: “Resisting Israel and US imperialism”. Again, the scenario cant take place at a Lebanese scale, because even the previous more gigantic international institutions and countries failed to block US penetration on political or economical (which instigates political) level. Hezbollah’s monopoly of the resistance can be given credit to Syria, who can keep a close eye on them due to their alliance with Tehran. Furthermore, the “Resistance Movement” itself is lost due to the fact of “where is the resistance active”. When a youth was killed in hooligan riots, he was proclaimed by Nasrallah a “Martyr of the Resistance” since the whole open demonstration is aimed in fact to oust out a US supported government. Yet, the US government supported in the first two years the Seniora government, which also included directly 2 ministers of Hezbollah. In fact, resistance today is such an over-rated word, because a lot believe they are fighting for Israel while the other half of Lebanon is tagged as “traitors”. Furthermore, the FPM’s economical platform is close to that of Seniora’s.
However, the purpose of this article is not to discuss what resistance is, and who the poor people…are
And here I begin the purpose of my post… short run versus long run goals. Now of course, we all agree that part of the problem is Sectarianism. Now if we look at the problem as a whole, Lebanon as a country is doomed for constant wars and instability. Plus, Lebanon will always be a gateway for foreign powers to intervene (actually since Prince Fakhridean II with his alliance with Tuscany in the face of the Ottomans). Now, the first impression of Lebanon is that Lebanon is divided into two sectarian hostile camps that will not stop till one dumps the other in the sea. Moreover, the people love each other as long as their “Sect-Leaders” love each other. The most beautiful example is seeing the supporters of Aoun and Nasrallah loving each other (to a certain extent) when they allied with each other. Another beautiful example is the Sunnis of Harriri and Christians of Jaajaa/Gemayel loving each other because their leaders love each other. All of this, and we didn’t tackle the institutional corruption of all the parties in hiring their “own people” into the public sector (most famous would be probably Nabih Berri and his Shiite supporters). So the country is doomed… plus of course, we got resistance to Israel through a religious party that is building networks similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, and of course Syria and Israel remain destabilizing factors for the safety of the whole nation. All of this of course is accompanied with bad economical situation, almost zero welfarism, and the class breach remains expanding as the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, and we can add tiny terrorist groups popping out of the blues and the whole country is on the verge of war in case one member of a political group slaps the other on the cheek.
The problem is throughout Lebanon’s history, the legislators and previous governments never thought about a long-run goal. Probably the only person who did was Kamal Junblatt when he decided to annihilate sectarianism and enforce a progressive reform plan; however, the sad part of the story that he had to depend on Yasser Arafat to balance militarily against the Christian dominated Lebanese Army, and one day we will discuss in details how the PLO messed up in Lebanon since that topic deserves an article on its own.
So let us look at the first independent government spearheaded by Prime Minister el-Solh (well before he got sniped out). The President and the government were freed from the French due to the National Pact. The aim of the unwritten National Pact of 1943 is to get rid from the French. The Christians and the Sunni Muslims (along with the Druze) agreed to unite against the French for short term goals. The Sunni Muslims gave the Christians too much institutional and constitutional power to sway them that they have to get rid of the French and they don’t need the French mandate. When both Bchara Khoury and el-Solh were shaking hands, they doomed the nation for chaos in the future because such power declined to the Christians would be one of the several wars to explode in the future, primarily the Left versus the Christians. Yet, President Khoury and Prime Minister el-Solh never thought about the disasters of their National Pact, and almost lost its legitimacy in 1958 (ie 15 years later), because they were thinking of short-run gains and personal power. The fact President Khoury tried to renew his mandate proves my point, specially President Khoury’s brother was so much involved in illegal activities, that people bestowed upon him the title “Sultan”.
Now, we jump in time to the reign of the Camille Shamoun, which witnessed the birth of several institutions; however, all “civilization privileges” were made mainly in Beirut, parts of Mount Lebanon and Northern Lebanon, the rest of the country was left-out. The parts left out were primarily Shiites in nature, and they were excluded from “Shamoun’s Building Lebanon Campaign” because they didn’t generate profit and gain to that stubborn leader. Rather, they were excluded, and later suffered from Israeli retaliation and butchery due to Palestinian offensives. Actually when the Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982, several Shiites greeted the Israelis with rice, along with the Maronites. They remained excluded from the political formula (or actually undermined with Shiite feudal puppies in allegiance with stronger Sect leaders), till 1970, when it was seen important to grant the South some attention in order to win over the Shiites towards the Christian side by creating the “South Council” and spearheaded by Moussa el Sadr (and in the same year the Council suffered from a lot of accusations related to corruption). Again, if the governments of the past thought in the long-run all Lebanon should equally benefit from the governmental welfare, none of the current leaders would have worried about Hezbollah’s rise to power because poverty, lack of a welfare system, Israeli bombing, and other factors pushed the majority of the Shiites to embrace Nasrallah as their saint.
A third incident would be of course, the case of Pierre Gemayel versus Kamal Junblatt. Kamal Junblatt wanted to strip off all Sect leaders from their privileges, and made sure that his direct allies were secular parties, such as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Lebanese Communist Party, and Order for Direct Action, while he was leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (when Socialism meant something for that party). Pierre Gemayel didn’t want those benefits lost, because he thought the Christians would be over-run by non-Christian Lebanese. So a civil war broke out, and Kamal Junblatt depended on a swift victory since the army would weaken and lose plenty of its members to their sects, and Pierre Gemayel wasn’t simply willing to see his life’s work go down the drain and witness the Christians becoming Lebanese like all Sects (as well as fear from the Palestinian factor). So, the war broke out, and none of them expected it will last for almost a decade and a half. From the civil war itself, it has dozens of short-term goals thought over at the expense of the long-ones. Henry Kissinger discusses heavily how Israel-Syria-USA-and the Lebanese Christian Elites invited the Syrians over to disarm the PLO and save their skins (since the PLO and the Lebanese National Movement swept about 81% of Lebanon), but eventually such a short run goal cost Lebanon to be puppet for Syria till 2005 things took a different turn, and more “Sponsors arrived to the scene”.
I will not go with the details why people are Sectarian and support blindly their leaders, but the logic would flow on how to solve such a huge problem? The Taef Agreement/Constitution is barely holding on, no Camp (14th of March/Opposition) is willing to step down till the other is politically destroyed. Yet, that can never take place, with the primary leaders/actors got their own support, instead, the solution for these two camps is to dump the other in the open sea, and that means civil war, which we didn’t returned to that stage yet
So, what do we mean by long-run goals. When Lebanon was created in 1920 out of the blues, more than 80% objected to the French regarding that, and primarily the Greek Orthodox Sect and the Sunnis, and demanded a unity with Faysal’s Syria. Ever since then, chaos and sectarianism as increased, and now it means we have to listen to what Archbishop Mar Nasrallah Sfeir has to say, or Mufti Qabbani and Sheikh Fadlallah what they have to say. Moreover, short run goals and policies are being done without proposing the real issue of salvation for this messed up nation: Civil Marriage and the Separation of Religion from the State. People since childhood are brought up to think in a sectarian sense one way or another. A Durzi can only marry a Durzi is one example. Inter-Christian sects means a bit of turmoil for the families, but it is there. What equates to the Durzi in tragedy is the Tashnag ultra-nationalistic concept of “Armenians only marry Armenians”, and of course, in the cases between the Sunnis and Shiites finds the extended families rather hostile. And of course, no family in general inside Lebanon (and majority of outside) would support inter-sect marriages.
So, what is the short run goal? Saving Lebanon? Lebanon First?! What logo you want to call for? The situation remains the same, it is run by powerful Sect Leaders that need each other to form coalitions. Now, the only time Civil Marriage witnessed a proposal was in the late 1990s, it caused a drastic fiasco, while all religious figures (Muslims first, followed with Archbishop’s during a later stage aggression on Civil Marriage). The President to propose it, during the Syrian Mandate, was Elias Hrawi. Most of the Sect Leaders refuted it due to pressure from their tools of brainwashing: the religious figures. Walid Junblatt’s son got married in a civil marriage fashion, but his followers oppose civil marriage and prefer to see the a Durzi marrying a Durzi. I cant think of a more important long-run goal to save Lebanon from bloodshed other than civil marriage. At least the gates of marital marriages would be open, and the isolation of sects would not be almost complete…. It will weakens and the Sect-Leaders would be much weaker as well…
This is something to ponder upon, you want to save “Lebanon from Bloodshed”, start building a secular society. This is the long goal at least. May be then proposals can have a meaning for candidates rather blindly following their leaders because they fear ‘the other’ would kill them!!!
Short Run Goals are a waste of time and lead us to vicious circles, the long run ones are much fewer in number, but they are the cause of salvation for this devastated nation in restoring people from slitting each other’s throats under the logic of “self-security”.