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On the ‘New Lebanon:’ Long for the Old One

On the ‘New Lebanon:’ Long for the Old One

Tuesday, 14 September, 2021 - 11:00

Many political and non-political analyses have been written about Lebanon’s sick and precarious state of affairs. Some of those went as far as saying that the old Lebanon that the world had recognized as a country of pluralism, diversity, public freedoms and a free market economic system has hit rock bottom. A new Lebanon is paving its path, one that is totally different from that which the country had taken historically.

The current implementation of the Lebanese framework has distorted it. Some are boastful of having amended it in practice, even if the amendments contradict the constitution and go against its provisions, especially since the Taif Agreement’s provisions have become part of the Lebanese constitution. Thus, violating them is violating the constitution.

This behavior is not surprising given certain forces’ lack of constitutional culture, forces whose actions and behavior rely on little rationality and an abundance of capriciousness. It is the same capriciousness for which debilitating and destructive wars have been fought and governments, parliaments and other already weak state institutions have been disrupted.

There are no sacred pacts in politics, and the Taif Agreement is no exception. Every political pact ends at some point. If the time to declare the Taif Agreement dead has come, the danger that presents stems from the fact that political forces have not come to an understanding on an alternative social contract through which we could see the development of a strong and just state that does not discriminate among its citizens on sectarian and confessional grounds and achieves social justice, which the country has lacked since Greater Lebanon was established in 1920.

Still, who said the awaited alternative to the Taif Agreement would lay the foundation for achieving that? Who said that the next phase, during which we could see the agreement buried, will not be one of political chaos reinforced by capricious forces and perpetuated by local projects with regional ties (which, by the way, take from the capricious what they need to achieve their agenda, not more or less)? And who said that the “new” Lebanon would be better than today’s Lebanon, even with all its drawbacks and stumbling blocks? What about Lebanon’s Arabism? Who will guarantee this identity’s persistence over the new decade/ under the new pact?

Preserving Lebanon’s Arab identity is the building block for any future change. Otherwise, the awaited leap is not worth making, as it would be a dangerous endeavor that would kill Lebanon’s standing among its Arab neighbors. It could push the country deeper into the pockets of foreign actors that have their own sectarian projects, plans that, of course, are not suited to Lebanon’s political and societal make-up.

True, the old Lebanese economic system was afflicted with deeply rooted structural issues, whereby basic productive sectors such as industry and agriculture were overlooked in favor of the services, banking and tourism sectors that are shaken at dangerous junctures and collapse when facing major challenges (as we see today). It also is true that there is a pressing need to start developing totally new approaches through which the national economy can be rejuvenated, based on qualitatively different foundations from those of the previous stage.

Nonetheless, what is most important is that what is left of Lebanon’s role is not eaten away because of its severe economic recession that preceded the knockout blow that struck Lebanon on the fourth of August 2020, when the port blast destroyed large parts of the capital, deprived its port of its natural, historical role in Lebanon and the region, connecting East and West.

Changing Lebanon’s economic function has become necessary, breaking up monopolies, doing away with exclusive import licenses, and giving industry, agriculture and information technology (which Lebanon had the skilled labor for, before the recent wave of immigration, of course). However, that should not be done so that the country is turned into a platform for exporting Captagon and drugs and destroy Lebanon’s Arab relations.

If what is demanded is dragging Lebanon into becoming a hub for smuggling and black-market trade and supporting the regimes of neighboring countries at a time when it hardly has the capacity to manage its own economy, then the country is facing a dangerous plot that has set its sights on what remains of the country’s weak standing in the world in general and the Arab world in particular.

Lebanon can become open to the world and a place of public freedoms, culture, thought and literature again, as it had been historically, at the time as it develops a vigorous and productive economy focused on creating the conditions necessary for drawing investment and job creation, thereby allowing society to recover from the suffering it has endured over the past two years, after the national currency’s value plummeted, spiking inflation and contributing to the country’s rapid decline.

Change is possible, provided that it is not disrupted by the forces of capriciousness and transnational loyalties.

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