Saturday, December 09, 2006

14 + 8 = ?

March 14th, March 8th… each “side” repeats those numbers like a Mantra, as if to claim ownership over us, and exorcise the demons of both their dubious past. It’s a simple equation, really;

14 + 8 = ?

But what do they add up to?

8+14 = 22 ?

The country that became independent on November 22nd, was essentially made up of two negatives. Alfred Naccache put it best when he pointed out that “Deux negations ne font pas une nation”.

The same divisions that we started up with stand today, in a different combination. To put it simply:

Those who claim March 14th are the “Lebanese Patriots” who fell out with the Syrians. When we all took to the streets during the “Cedar Revolution”, its tenors mistakenly though that we were “supporting” them in their race to greatness. Actually, dear madam, we just wanted the Syrians out and the war really over.

March 8th groups the “Arab Nationalists” who prefer the certainty of the Syrian yoke to the unknown of freedom. The slaves of March 8th are fighting hard to protect their masters, and would rather die to make them rich than live free. Most of us would rather their tenors all went the way of the Dodo.

Today, each is backed into a corner, fighting “for keeps”. How will it all end up?

8+14 = 13 ?

Many fear that they will drag us back to the beginnings of the civil war. Another April 13th. Blair’s “opening” to Syria and Iran has already backfired badly, and the country is now spiralling out-of-control. Thanks Tony!

Yes, it would be unwise to underestimate the extent of Hezb’s arsenal, or the killing network of the Syrian National Socialist Party. But with increased coordination between the Saudis and the United States, that would turn into a colossal war, and Syria would not off-the-hook this time. And without a unified Christian camp, who would be the other dance partner? Also, we've been there before; Israel may have been bombed with 500 Katiushas a day, but Beirut is a tougher cake; it had been subjected to a peak of 4,000 a day, and did not yield easily. Still, one worrying sign is the Lebanese Army concentration in Beirut; true, it was only there to watch the “UNIFIL watching Hezbollah”. But now the South is empty, and a countdown to war has begun.

Most likely; nothing will really happen for the next few days, save for a few incidental shootings and their unintended victims among the nation’s youths. However, Tuesday, December 12th, is a critical day to watch. At least till one side grows desperate enough to break the stalemate. My guess was that March 8th would move first, and they did. Now they’re in a pickle.

Over the coming weeks, as they find themselves cornered in Beirut, will they try something in the South? A “countdown” to war has begun over there, apparently running till March 2007.

Or will they throw a bone to Aoun, already badly damaged goods, and wait for the Christmas season to be over?

8 + 14 = 0 …

That’s how much will be left of Lebanon by the end of this sharade.

Incidentally, that’s about how well the economy will do this Christmas season, in spite of a few brave efforts. At least the media business is doing well, especially its fear mongering segments.

Since I fear Hezb is playing for keeps, I expect at least a war in the longer term.

The "market" is not ready right now; AK47's and M16's are still priced way above 500US$, and bullets are still too expensive; when prices go down (around 100US$), start packing. The longer it takes to start, the harder it will be for the braying masses gathered in Riad El-Solh Square. Ultimately, Lebanon will have to pay a price standing up to local bullies, be it Syria or their Iranian paymasters.

But, whatever happens, whatever everyone does, this government will stay, in one form or another. That much was made clear by Prime Minister Siniora’s speech. Incidentally it was a great TV moment; a joy to watch the PM deflating the Great Shater Hassan. Al-Moutanabbi had also claimed to be a prophet, but had the courage to make a clear claim.

And he made better poetry.

The net result of all this will be nothing. Still, I fear that the new prophet may not back down so easily…

إذا ما كبرت ما بتصغر

No comments: