Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guest Blogging

Abu Kais invited me to guest post for about a week on his great blog, “From Beirut to Beltway”, and I will try and keep with the spirit of his blogging. I will keep blogging here as well; I have some time this week to track events more closely (I hope), though I have a tendency to try and stay away from the “noise” of news, to try and better understand the context.

I started with a lengthy “background” commentary on the Arab Summit, at in which I stated that I expected no surprises on the “official” front. On the “hidden” front, however, the summit should serve to reinforce Arab focus on Iran.

However, I remain convinced that much of it is pre-ordained, and I shudder at what kind of compromise the Saudis will reach with the Syrians.


ghassan karam said...

Independent people will not allow two outsiders to arrive at a compromise that will directly affect shape their life. Self respecting states will care less about what the Saudi-Syrian-Iranian negotiations amount to. Alas, Lebanon might not be a self respecting country!!!

Jeha said...

At least not yet. I look at it this way; Syria swallowed Lebanon, but could not digest it. And since "on est sortis par l'autre bout", Lebanon's not going to smell like roses for a while. More like a pot-very-pourris.

I am generally optimistic about the future; on the positive side, we Lebanese know ours is not a self respecting country, and we are work to address it... Albeit rather weakly, because of the power and entrechemnt of our ruling oligarchy. Feelings in other Arab countries are more "repressed", and the removal of ruling oligarchies may bring in a few Iraq-style surprises.

On the donwside, it will take a while, as the Iranians spend their trreasure and the Syrians waste their credit.

Anonymous said...

As Lebanese we should say no to US, British, Iranian, Syrian or any other interference in our affairs.
At the same time we should not allow Lebanon to be a base for activities that would harm Syria or Iran.

ghassan karam said...

Many of the readers and blog owners, including this observer, devote most of their efforts to commenting or analyzing the current daily events in Lebanon and that is to be expected. Unfortunately preoccupation with these trite and banal events is not time well spent. To understand a phenomenon one needs to ask the right questions; if an incisive question is not raised then the answer will not be forthcoming. But the right question will not be asked unless one adopts a mind set that is committed to understanding the problem at its roots; surface phenomenon are not enduring.

Given the space and the time limitations imposed on us by this medium allow to suggest that all the obstacles that Lebanon is currently facing in addition to all the previous challenges that it has faced are a product of a systemic failure. Whenevr what ails us is systemic in nature then seeking solutions through fixing up the system by applying minor changes and plastering the deep rooted faults is a recipe for disaster. In the current Lebanon, no party that I know of has spoken of the need for a new architecture from the ground up. Efforts at dialogue between the two parties that have nothing in common, not even the goal of a prosperous state, are futile. The same can be said of the well meaning but equally naive attempts by outside powers to force the two sides to find a resolution built on the idea of "La Ghaleb wa la maghloob". Such a solution is sought only by the ones that are in denial. It is an easy and attractive solution but the wound will fester and the pain will only be multiplied.
Even the idea that we have to implement the Taif accords falls into the same category of prescriptions that aim to mcamouflage the disease instead of
excising it.

For starters Lebanon , to the best of my knowledge, has never had a serious discussion of what is consociational democracy and whether it is workable when superimposed on a purely tribal/sectarian societal structure. Any serious discussion along the above lines would demonstrate in no time that this idea used by HA and Aounis seriously and irrevocably flawed.
If we establish that the demands of one party are built on a false premise then we need to examine the notion of democracy as envisioned by the other side. Again we will find out that the talk about responsible government, effective rule, freedom of the press,... is inimical to sectarianism, no matter how balanced. Even if sectarianism , in its present form, is to be made workable,the accepted solution will not last because the premise on which power is allocated is not fair. There is no reason why the Christians must be given by law fifty percent of the seats in the peoples House (the Parliament) when they do not account for more than 30-35% of the population. Democracy will become a sham if all votes are equal but some are 50% more equal than others. Sectarian mistrust will not vanish by the stroke of a pen, I am not that naieve, But if we are to move in the direction of an enduring peace then we have to set in motion a clear mechanism with a date certain that will introduce a modern electoral law that will be phased out over a number of years so as to purge it of sectarianism. There is no place for organized religion in the public square.

If we fail to adopt measures that will cease being concerned with the superficial then the disease will only become more rooted and the cancer will destroy us. It might already have.

Jeha said...

I agree wholeheartedly,

That is why I constantly support a system that has checks and balances, to balance the effect of majority rule. A parliament that reflects "majority" established by a one-man, one-vote, and a senate based on regional particulars.

Notice the lack of mention for any sect or confession. While we still have to take account of those factors in our context, we can have a system of supreme court and a religious court that takes into account the unique law things... With a priority for the "secular" side...

The unique problem that we face here is that our modern concept of secularism is based on the Western Christian understanding born from the renaissance, itself inherited from the Greeks via the Andalus.

Another paradox is that, by definition, secularism and freedom have yet to find a way to "deal" with those who deny them, such as fundamentalists.