Making History

Head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea endorses founder of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun for the Presidency of the Lebanese Republic: This isn’t history in the making, as everyone has kept repeating over and over again. This is yet another history of failure and yet another failure of history…

You may have noticed that Eye on the East has taken it easy on the blog recently (although this hasn’t been the case on Twitter). Blog restructuring, as well as work on a different kind of writing project are behind preferring Twitter’s 140-character analysis to full-fledged blog posts.  Otherwise, there would be no reason for Eye on the East not to be writing about subjects that affect and matter to us all, including the spread of terrorism worldwide, ISIS, Syria, Madaya, Donald Duck (or someone whose name sounds like the duck’s, running for the US presidency) and on the Lebanese front, the release of Michel Samaha and the seemingly unsolvable garbage disaster. But do not fear, Eye on the East is still here…

Only a couple of days ago, something apparently “historic” happened in Lebanon between two former civil war enemies, political rivals and contenders to the presidency. lf fpm flagSamir Geagea endorsed Michel Aoun’s presidential bid in what has been characterized as a “historic” development, the “historic” nature of which we will see more of in the weeks to come (or so we’re told). My first reaction was the quote at the top of this post. While I have been tempted to write further and elaborate on it, I have decided to take a shortcut. Here’s what I think of this “historic” moment, using some of the most popular arguments used in its defense:

  1. “in politics, there are no permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests”: this is for those who can’t believe that two former enemies are now working hand in hand to solve if only one – the vacant presidency – of Lebanon’s problems. The concept couldn’t be any closer to the truth in politics. Being the Maronites that they are, this overlap of interests is simply because Aoun is dying to become president and Geagea sees this as a way for him to become president one day (or at the very least stop Sleiman Franjieh from doing so).
  2. “Christians have finally united”: some believe that no matter how hypocritical this endorsement and pseudo-alliance is, it’s a good thing if only for having “united” the leaders who together represent most Christians in the country. This is because in times of crisis, it’s all about Christians (who have always been divided and lost much of their influence as a result) against Muslims (always in one front, whether Sunnis or Shia, let alone the Druze, when their “interests” are at sake), or so the Lebanese sectarian logic goes. Call me cynical but to me, it has always been about their personal interests first and foremost, all of them, while religion and sect has been the perfect cover to fight for those interests and divide the nation in the process.
  3. “this has gotten us one step closer to filling the presidential vacancy and things will slowly come back to normal”: filling the presidential vacancy will solve nothing other than filling the presidential vacancy. Our national problems – social, environmental, economic, financial to name a few – are bigger than what any single post or person can solve. And what is “normal”? Going back to where we where before the vacancy, like a Michel Sleiman era? No thanks. Besides, today’s endorser may be tomorrow’s rival and vice versa. See point number one.
  4. “the president will be finally ‘Made in Lebanon’ “: just because the country’s main Christian leaders stand united on the issue of the presidency, doesn’t mean a presidency has been made. Whether it is the uncertainty of Hezballah’s support to Aoun (despite their public endorsement of it) or the near certainty of Nabih Berri and March 14’s (minus Geagea, of course) opposition to Aoun, the results of parliament’s next session to elect a president on February 8th are still anybody’s guess. Don’t forget, we are still a small country, don’t have many industries and need to import a lot of what we consume…and the presidency is still one of them. Money talks and our legitimacy walks and a new president is born, it still hasn’t changed, no matter which foreign country has the upper hand (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar or others).
  5. “other leaders whose past is as tainted, if not more, and whose alliances are as hypocritical, aren’t better than these two”: that is very true, whether we are talking about Jumblatt, Siniora, Berri and everybody in between, but since when has this ever been a mature argument for analysis? They are all bad and corrupt and need to go…are you happy now?
  6. “Lebanon is slowly turning the page of the civil war “: ok, let’s be clear, the civil war should be told in a book but isn’t a book in itself. Lebanon cannot come to terms with the war by turning a page, enemies becoming friends at the press of a button and pretend nothing ever happened. Turning the page involves accountability, first and foremost or at least those involved should have the decency to retreat from public life. Again, this applies to all those who had a role to play during the war and who still play an active role in politics today. But there is no decency, no justice, no accountability; without a settled past we can never aim for a stable future.

Is there anything positive about this “historic” moment? If you believe, as is in the financial realm for example, that it is all about perceptions of confidence and stability, and this rapprochement will make people happy and at ease, then it is a good thing. If it brings us a president, so be it. If it helps ease tensions between the blind followers of both parties, fighting for nothing while their leaders kiss and shake hands, so be it. And if it brings both leaders to think, if only for once and only for one moment, that there is something bigger than their individual selfish selves they should be really concerned about, that is Lebanon, then that’s a start. But I’m not very confident on that last part…

Be it as it may, this doesn’t start putting the civil war behind us. It is yet another historic failure of Lebanese politics, precisely because we haven’t come to terms with the civil war and put these leaders (as well as Jumblatt, Berri, Hariri, Gemayel and others) into the dustbin of our history. It is a failure of history, because history has deceived us yet again…

As I have said and will always say, “those who fought in times of war can never lead in times of peace. Never.”

Happy Historic New Year.

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