Wednesday, May 16, 2007


How can Emile Lahoud be more loyal to Syria more than his own country? How can otherwise smart and educated young men feel such closeness to a backward, rundown dictatorship? There are many precedents for this;

The Janissaries

An elite corps of the Turkish military, the yeniçeri” or Janissaries were the Sultan’s praetorian guard. They were not free men; a Janissary was the Sultan’s “kapıkulu”, or "door slave” and, much like our local Quislings, used to taking orders from his master.

The Ottoman Janissaries were not a volunteer corps at first; their ranks were made up of Christian kids kidnapped from their parents at an early age, through a brutal form of conscription, the devşirme, or “human taxation”. In their heyday, they were essential to the Ottoman’s subjugation of many people, even their own.

In a sense, the kids were “turned” against their parents; initially, Greeks were amongst the ones who suffered this indignity the most, and called it the “paedomazema” (παιδομάζεμα), the “mass kidnapping of children”… Later on, the honour was bestowed on many other Balkan nations.

Our Lebanese Janissaries, however, are all volunteers. Unlike the child-soldiers of more recent times, those guys had a choice, and came into this more than willingly, egged on by the lowest of human emotions; greed and vanity.

The Flavours of March

Emile Lahoud did well under Syria’s tutelage. So did many countless others, many of whom are now in “March 14” camp; those who initially supported Syria were doing so out of their own self-interest, and so are those who are opposing today.

Still, I’d take any of those 11th hour converts to the cause of Lebanese independence; the stakes are too high now for anyone to wonder about the motivation of the man fighting the fire next to me, or the exact PH of the water he’s using. There’ll be time enough to make accounts when it’s all done….

But I digress…

The current support of Syria of those latter-day Janissaries now extends beyond mere self-interest. They are really putting themselves on the line for their masters; much like the Janissaries of old, they do ghastly deeds in service of their masters. Now, they find themselves all but cut-off from their “own”. In this increasingly sectarian Middle-East that is a mistake few can afford to make.

Today, Lebanese Janissaries may draw solace from their master’s cantankerous blusters and shrewd maneuvers, but they are ultimately expandable; as the Lebanese saying goes, “those who bought you will sell you”.

Incidentally, Tuesday night’s little TV stunt was excellent pro-March 14th propaganda; Ali Ammar’s “Segolene moment” only served to show how backward and brutal his “side” really is, and how increasingly desperate they feel. Rear-guard duty is a bitch, and there won’t even be a song for this one…

On second thoughts

Thing have gone too far today, and the International Tribunal is set to be in by May 22nd, under chapter 7. What follows may be a latter-day “Auspicious Incident”; the Syrian regime will either trade them for immunity, or “spend” them like a condemned advance party.

Crisis or Opportunity ?

Or maybe it’s “Crisitunity”…

The crisis is apparent in this deep failure of pre-1975 Lebanon that so many such Quislings exist, and that so many more stand to replace them. Our current period is one of true historic proportions, as we watch the death of an old system.

The opportunity lies in the fact that, “THEY” are all doing Lebanon a great service; by hanging on to the old, decrepit system, they are laying bare its defects ever more. And they are also revealing the limits at the core of modern-day “Realism”. Enter Dear Henry (H/T Tony), in a recent opinion piece;

The contemporary debate over ending the Iraq war has ascribed an almost mythic quality to the desirability of bilateral negotiations with Syria and Iran as the key to an Iraqi settlement.

But this has not altered the long-term power relationships. Wise leaders on all sides are needed to establish an international order that provides security to all participants and respect to all religions. But only a few of the objectives of the United States, Syria and Iran can be fulfilled via bilateral negotiations.

Syria's role in Iraq, for better or worse, is limited. The problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions cannot be solved, except in the context of the multilateral framework that already exists or some alternative that involves the other nuclear powers.

Some still have their doubts, no doubt justified by history. But Bashar’s intransigence may yet ensure that the United States will really stay the course this time. Indeed, it appears that Syrian intransigence is “helping” them to stay focused; Rice’s talks led to little, as a few knowledgeable “old hands” expected.

And since all are playing “for keeps”, there could be real change in the offing.

We used to joke that most “Arab revolutions started in the AUB’s cafeteria”. What strange new concoction is brewing now? What new country would emerge from all this?


ghassan karam said...

Your wonderful analogy about the Janissaries , old and new, reminds me also of the Stockholm Syndrome or even of the slaves that never ran away even when they were given the chance to do so. You are right that the victims often develop an attachment to their abusers but I do not believe that this relationship explains the behaviour of Mr. Lahoud unless we are to interpret the Syrian policy to make him President and even head or the armed forces when he did not qualify for either of these positions as abuse:-)

Jeha said...

I would never suggest he was a victim; more like a latter-day Janissary, him and his likes were all volunteers.

However, he may now feel like a victim; while the others knew just when to turn coat, he is left defending that desert of tartars...

Anonymous said...

I am looking at this exeptionally beautiful blog and I am raging, banging my head on the wall. All this talent, surly J is not the only one in Leb. who could do it. More people fluent in Arabic and 100 other languages than in any place on earth. Leb. could be a computer center for the whole world. People handling money and information and communication nets for the last 5000 years, when in London and Paris they were, what? Beautiful land, not overly populated. Better climate than Cal. Floria, South France, Toscana. Could have been paradise, real paradise. Ya Rab Ya Rab what a waste.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Haha, way to support Canadian television Jeha!

Jeha said...

We are still the centre of the world, but it is a "dispersed" centre, via the diaspora.

Come to think of it, we were always dispersed; the phoenicians truly came into their own thanks to Carthage. The Lebanese appear to succeed only when they move away from the motherland.

"Nul n'est prophete en son pays"

That was a great show, a precursor in many ways.

fubar said...

Kids in the Hall. Most excellent.

"I crush your head."

apokraphyte said...

Nice to see we actually agree on something: Kids in the Hall, funniest damn show ever.