Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Honeymooners

To read the MSM, we Lebanese are partying, celebrating the new agreement and the end of war. Or are we?

Far from heralding a new era of peace, the Doha "agreement" is at best a cease-fire, at worst a cop-out. There are many devils lying in its details. Even if one sets aside the issue of the “Divine” armaments of the “Resistance”, many hurdles remain. In chronological order, those are the Prime Minister, the Cabinet makeup, the arcane details of the electoral law, the tribunal, and not least Lebanon's "role" in the region and our relations with Iran and Syria...

I will address the inherent dangers linked to Lebanon’s dysfunctional sisterly relations first.

Et ta Sœur?

There are two dangerous elements in Lebanon’s relationship with Syria. Those are related to the fact that Syria’s secular promise has turned into a sectarian dictatorship, dominated by one Alawite clan.

The first danger is that the crisis between Lebanon and Syria will continue. The Syrians are unlikely to willingly recognize their “wayward province” of Lebanon as an independent state, and they are far from likely to agree to define the borders. Hezb will support them in those efforts, thus reinforcing the impression of a “Shiite Crescent” aimed at Sunnis.

The second danger magnifies the firs one; it is related to the Syrian-Israeli talks. The talks are essentially aimed at local consumption by beleaguered leaders who will therefore "spin the failure away" generously. As Syria and Israel fail claim progress towards peace, Hezb’s obstructionist position in Lebanon will become ever more untenable, if not its position itself. There will be a growing perception of a collusion between Jews and Alawites to oppress Sunnis.

Those perceptions may well be far from reality at first, but they are very much in the mind of conspiracy-prone Salafists. Recall that Hezb, when it started, was not much more organized than they were; given time, and money, they will get there soon enough. Now they have the motivation to do so.

No wonder Aouni El-Ahdab is already hedging his bets.

Going Forward

Many fellow Lebanese feel that I am being overly pessimistic. I personally feel they’re deluding themselves. This is not because of some wonderful insight that I may have, but rather because we’re talking about different things; While they are focused on the Probabilties, I am focused on the Risks, and the fact is;

Risk = Probability x Cost

First, the Probability of another flare-up is far from negligible. In the immediate, I feel that, for all the hoopla, too many interests have a stake in the continued poverty of Lebanon for us to have a decent summer; we’ll be cheaper fodder for them when election time comes along. on one hand, the Ninjas and "mjawla'in" maybe uniquely creative, but their increasing number is not reassuring. on the other, the Isrealis may soon find out that Syria's unwilling/unable to deliver much...

Second, the costs of another flare-up are too high. Even those who see recent events as “minor” would concede that the sectarian demons are now out of in the open.

Multiply the two together, and you will see that the Risks skyrocket, no matter how low the probability is.

At this stage of the game; recent events do appear to indicate that, whatever the facts, the main players in the region are acting on their perceptions of the facts.

So, while many are heading back to Lebanon in July, many others will be heading the other way.



ghassan karam said...

I have no idea what is it that the Lebanese are celebrating. I am not going to say much on this because I might write my 900 words on this topic later on tonight but let me tell you what the whole circus like atmosphere reminds of, be an active participant and celebrant in ones own demise.

linda said...

yes yes yes of course... we all see that the tabkha is still percolating... so we should not celebrate. we should be depressed as the solution is barely short term (summer season w'anja'). what would have been a pleasing ending to you Jeha? what would have made you entitle your post "well done?"

Jeha said...


No need to shoot the messenger; I am only stating what I see as the sad reality. I have enough self-denial in me to be able to "block out" the darkness. To many others, there's nothing some good ol'arak can't fix.

Yes, I am not "pleased" with the unfolding lie. But this does not mean I am not enjoying the reprieve as much as anyone else. However, as we "drink and be merry", we should not create any illusions about the road ahead.

Yes, I am glad they agreed. But I will not bet my future on the good will or intelligence of our "leaders".

Yes, I will enjoy this summer, if it goes through normally. and I am sure Ghassan and many other "pessimists" would. And No, I do expect to; I do not see why those who ruined the past 2 summers would let us have this one. After all, the poorer we are, the more pliable we are likely to be come "election" time in 2009; so this summer is as much a threat to "them" as anything else.

I am sorry if my realism appears as undue pessimism to many. But it got me through war, and it will get me through the next one. Then again, I will be the first to (delighfully) eat crow if this summer goes through normally, and if it all works out in the end.

...Fairy tales are underrated, and while Santa Claus does not exist, it does not hurt to play along and enjoy the fun of Saturnalia.

Linda said...

mnih facheit khel'ak... bien dit as usual... i just would love to be able to hear "doing this instead of that would have been better because...". The winds are changing in the US and Iraq despite everything is still not declared a total failure. To think our leaders can play Ghandi or Hitler and change the game of the big league is naive. But we can always vent.

Jeha said...

Now who's being pessimistic? Sorry, I have to hope for better; the country that gave us Gebran, Charles Malek. Kamal Joumblat, Antoun Saadeh... Can still do better...

Then again, Prof Malek "lost it" when he came back to Lebanon, and Joumblat never really had it all together...

linda kamena said...

are u the same jeha from AK's comments? i think ur blog AK's Lebanonesque (where is he these days)and Jamal's propag. are excellent. particularly when things are going v. bad and everyone has smthg to say whether worthwhile or not (targeting none other than myself here). i hope u head home this summer and drawn your analytical side in some boozing and shmoozing. no need to publish this one pal.