The current French predicament illustrates the importance of this motto. Oddly for a country that prides itself on its heritage of Cartesian logic, it does not seem to be able to “evolve” its institutions gradually, but can only reform itself through shocks and crises. Maybe that is why so many Lebanese feel such affinity with the French...
Sadly for us, we are first to feel the aftershocks of their president’s “rush” to reform, greatness, and glory. No wonder I do not feel very "moderate" now; as I watch the series of events of this past week unfold, I have been struggling to keep the necessary “mental distance” to better understand their significance.
We need to look at the context of the man, and the events in which it happened, and to we factor in all the obfuscations following the event. If we do that, we can begin to understand how the bomb that killed General Hajj and his driver is part of far reaching aftershocks, beyond the confines of puny Lebanon.
Yes, among the proximate causes of the assassination are French amateurish haste. The LLC status does not apply here; the Sarko Clown Company bears as much blame as the Bashar Bombing Corporation.
But I fear the underlying causes go much deeper. It has to do with a changing of the colonial guard, with declining European powers struggling to maintain their pre-eminence in their chasse guardée coloniale, in the face of a aggressive China and a newly assertive India. The mess the West has nurtured can still help them delay the invasion, but it will not stop it, and neither will their protests…
Julian Simon may well be proven right (again), rather than a hindrance, Ehrlich “population bomb” is proving to be an asset to those countries, especially coupled with technical education… But I digress.
Proximate Cause: The Man in a Hurry
First, let us consider Sarko’s case; as he struggles to prod France to evolve without too much fuss, he is facing powerful dinosaurian vested interests. Mindful that the first two years of his term will set the tone for the rest of the Quinquennat, Sarko Premier knows he has to work fast.
He also has to work faster; as the French economy faces a cyclical downturn, he has to bring in the bacon, or at least give the appearance of doing so. So he scurries around the globe signing contracts and making deals.
Sarko Premier thinks he sees a window of opportunity opening up in the coming year; the big boys are busy with a tight election campaign in which the mood of American voters appears to be growing ever more insular with the (apparent) success of the “surge” in Iraq. So Sarko Premier comes barging in the Middle East and Africa, where China has been expanding its business interests.
And that will be his fist mistake…
In his rush to outcompete his European rivals/partners on the heels of their Lisbon crow-eating fest, Sarko Premier forgets time… Yes, Europe and the United States may still control space, but Arabs control time.
Yes, we do. And Arab time is like a quicksand; the more you struggle, the more you get stuck.
First, the French got stuck with the shrewd Kaddafi, who promised much, lectured a lot, and delivered little, and the promised 10 Billion quickly shrank to 300 Million and change. They may even shrink further when Sarko Premier will be hit by the (political) bill for camping space.
Then come Lebanon and Syria. The French predicament was not missed on those Levantine Arabs. No one was impressed with Kouchner’s amateurish clowning around and his empty boasts. They were even less impressed with this pitiful display of weakness (or stupidity?) in France’s own backyard, with Kaddafi’s tent in Paris watched over by French police, zealously shooing away the parents of his French victims. If the French do not care about their own dead, why would they care about ours?
Bachar can be excused if he drew his own conclusions; from his perspective, the Chinese remain eager, the Americans are busy, and the French remain clueless, for all their past “experience”. For the all the UN resolutions, Western support to Lebanon does not grow beyond lip service; the facts of power politics still give him an opening in the coming year, especially that Sarko Premier still calls… and even promises to visit him soon to maybe extend an invitation to re-visit Paris and make a few “deals”.
Bashar has still some leverage, and for now, he only has to say what they want to hear, and do as he pleases… Heck, the French may even help him in tying a few loose ends; Khaddam and Rifaat may find that Paris is not the safest place to be for opponents of regimes the French are trying to please…
The Merry New Year…
True, many fundamental questions remain, and nothing is ever final in this part of the world. But the immediate grows hazier; with the Big Boys busy for at least a year, it does not take Michel Hayek to see that 2008 promises to be “interesting”. The Syrians are moving back in, and the Iranians are re-adjusting their pawns, and the Israelis are mis-maneuvering again.
By relying too much on outsiders to rescue them, all the “born-again Lebanese” leaders of ours have risen to the level of their incompetence; they never cared for our ambitions, squandered all our efforts, and snatched defeat from the jaws of our March 14th victory…
We may still have a chance, but not for long… I fear that, as assassinations resume (and they will), the next assassinated Lebanese politician will have to walk to his grave alone; too many good men were sacrificed for their petty political squabbles.
Or we may not, and continue in that vacuum, limping along from bomb to bomb…
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