All Le­banese Are Be­ing Taken for a Ride to Nowhere


The fol­low­ing Pub­lisher’s Let­ter was writ­ten for the Septem­ber, 2007 edi­tion of Arabad. The rea­son why this spe­cific piece is be­ing used once more, is quite sim­ple. It’s be­cause, since then, the ex­act sit­u­a­tion still ap­plies, and per­fectly so!

By the time any­one but an un­for­tu­nate editor reads these words, Le­banon’s squab­bling politi­cians may have struck a deal that ends the power struggle be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion. Or they may re­main locked in a point­less con­test nei­ther can re­ally win.

No mat­ter: What­ever the con­di­tion of the coun­try to­day, its po­lit­i­cal class has so thor­oughly dis­cred­ited it­self that only its full and per­ma­nent departure from the scene can make a dif­fer­ence in the long term. Never has a land with so much po­ten­tial been re­duced to such ab­ject penury and pro­found in­sta­bil­ity, all be­cause its “lead­ers” are not up to the tasks of de­liv­ery boys, let alone states­men.

Let’s face it: From most au­di­ences, the vast ma­jor­ity of them can no longer claim to rep­re­sent Le­banese in­ter­ests. The speeches they make seem dis­con­nected from re­al­ity, as though they lack the slight­est aware­ness of the hard­ships con­fronting most of their com­pa­tri­ots.

Per­haps most un­set­tling is the un­ques­tion­ing cred­u­lous­ness of their re­spec­tive fol­low­ers. Even the slim­i­est Le­banese politi­cian does not fear ex­po­sure and may even ben­e­fit from it. Why? Be­cause most of his sup­port­ers are bound to him by blood or tribal loy­alty, not ide­o­log­i­cal affin­ity. They might jump ship be­cause another Zaim pays bet­ter bribes and/or adopts a more hate­ful stance to­ward other tribes, but dis­ap­point­ment and out­rage are not in the pop­u­lar lex­i­con. And so, since be­ing found out as a crook will cause the politi­cian no no­tice­able dam­age, a smart one can turn it to his ad­van­tage by plead­ing per­se­cu­tion at the hands of his ne­far­i­ous op­po­nents.

This im­preg­nable mind-set is per­haps the ul­ti­mate re­venge of the var­i­ous for­eign med­dlers who have tried and failed to ab­sorb or con­trol this part of the world. By var­i­ous means and mech­a­nisms, both di­rect and in­di­rect, the peo­ple now known as the Le­banese have been sys­tem­at­i­cally pre­vented from de­vel­op­ing any­thing like a col­lec­tive sense of who or what they are. To the ex­tent that nu­mer­ous ver­sions of Le­banese “na­tion­al­ism” do ex­ist, they are al­ways de­fined by what Le­banon is not, rather than what it is. Partly, this is be­cause each ver­sion has its own set of for­eign spon­sors whose lo­cal min­ions are loathe to ac­knowl­edge their re­liance on out­side fund­ing and sup­port.

The re­sult is a sad par­ody of pol­i­tics. Un­less the pawns can be made to un­der­stand what is happening to them and what they are be­ing duped into do­ing, the sit­u­a­tion in Le­banon will prob­a­bly grow much, much worse.

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