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Lebanon: The Function is the Problem!

Lebanon: The Function is the Problem!

Wednesday, 18 August, 2021 - 11:00

With the tensions that emerged in Lebanon in 1969, began flaring in 1973 and then to a greater extent in 1975, a theory that the source of the crisis could be traced back to 1966 was born. Why 1966? Because Intra Bank’s collapse that year indicated that Lebanese capitalism had been suffocating, leaving implosion as the only exit. Explaining the subsequent civil war through Intra Bank’s collapse, which is the conclusion that segments of the Lebanese left had arrived at before the page was turned on it and it was neglected, was not innocent. Its goal was to turn attention away from the actual reason, Palestinian and Lebanese armament.

This does not in any sense imply that the Lebanese economy is healthy and sound, to say nothing about distributing wealth justly, and this is certainly not to absolve its banking sector, especially of robbing the Lebanese. However, with that, it tries to allocate blame with some fairness, as well as trying to contain the impact of deceitful “analyses” aimed at turning attention away from those primarily responsible.

To clarify the picture, let’s pose two questions:

Assuming that our economy gave production primacy over consumption and services, would things have changed significantly in light of the Arabs and the West having turned their back on the country because of its political choices?

On the other hand, were things fated, with this lousy economy, to end in the catastrophic way in which they did if there had been Arab and international concern and sponsorship?

The answer to both questions could contribute to shedding light on the primary reason, though not the only one, for our suffering. It is exclusively and by definition a political reason that could be described as the successful alteration of Lebanon’s function.

Lebanon, to a large extent, was a county- function, and the function entailed presenting a different model to that of military regimes and religious or quasi-religious regimes. It was a model that could engage with modernity and allow for a reasonable degree of partisan and syndical activity and media freedom, and thus for a good relationship with both the Arab world and Western countries. Such a relationship was and remains an economic need, but it is also a political, cultural and educational need. Many defects and shortcomings have marked this function and its performance, but it remains the best one we have known so far. The disparities between the Lebanese in terms of power and wealth, as well as sects’ disputes, did not challenge this function.

Traditional Muslims opposed to “Maronite hegemony” were no less attached to it, though they objected, from time to time, to its extent, how it operated, or what they considered biases in its implementation. As for responding to these reservations, it remained possible: its clearest manifestations were the Chehabist policies of the late fifties and then the Taif Agreement in the late eighties. In both cases, the Arab-Western consensus was the formula’s guarantor.

The coup against this function and in favor of the adoption of another, a function that revolves around resistance, has taken a long and winding road. First, there was disparagement of Lebanon: it is “like carton” and “the result of partitioning the region”, its prosperity is the prosperity of hotels and cabarets, its democracy is a Western monstrosity, and its cedar is a cabbage. In the sixties, the polemics found their physical manifestation in the Palestinian resistance, which proposed transforming Lebanon into a “bridge to liberating Palestine.” However, this resistance’s deep Arab links and its pursuit of the Western world’s recognition contained the desire to launch a coup against Lebanon’s function. Moreover, the fact that this resistance was Palestinian presented another impediment, while its Lebanese allies were too weak to launch a coup.

During the period in which Lebanon was under Syrian tutelage, this same task was put into action more efficiently: implementing the Taif Agreement to suit Hezbollah and its weapons, persistently emptying Lebanese institutions, destroying the entity’s traditional backbone- the Christians and Mount Lebanese-, and working to expand a Christian base on which the new state of affairs could depend. The bitterness of the mountain war and extortion with accusations of being “Israeli operatives” facilitated this task. Demographic shifts supported this trend...

A long-distance has thereby been crossed on the path to changing the old function. With Hezbollah, the qualitative shift occurred. For the party possesses the magical cause that paralyzes any debate, fighting Israel. However, in contrast to the Palestinian fighters, theirs’s are Lebanese nationals. In contrast to the Syrian Nationalists, communists and Baathists, Hezbollah enjoys strong political and parliamentary representation, which none of the radical groups of the past opposed to Lebanon’s traditional function had enjoyed. On top of this, Hezbollah is supported, with money and armaments, by a rich and powerful country, Iran. Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination removed a competitor from its path. The Syrian army’s withdrawal from Lebanon rendered the party the new function’s first and last contractor. Its alliance with the Aounists provided it with Christian cover. Its success with institutionalizing the sappy “people, army and resistance” theory highlighted that the state had become an anti-state, and that everything became possible in Lebanon.

With the new function’s rise, the old, “reactionary” and “treacherous” Lebanon is now gone. Correspondingly, the Lebanon of resistance and national liberation was victorious, and breaking with the Arab World and the West was victorious with it. We have become a passageway for crossing the borders south and east, a haven for the storage of Ammonium and smuggled fuel, clashes between communities and clans, hunger, starvation and panhandling. Those with merits of all kinds have begun to leave, as they did in the neighboring countries that had been seized by resistance and national liberation people. In our country, only martyrs multiply.

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