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Sick Maps, Forgetful Memory

Sick Maps, Forgetful Memory

Monday, 4 October, 2021 - 09:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The world is a gigantic machine that does not stop at details. Its memory is selective and forgetful. The train of life cannot wait for the sick countries to complete the dance of their different factions. It also cannot deal with the old dictionaries of their militias. The train is destined to continue its journey. Sick countries remain on the sideways. They lose their stability, role, and opportunities.


A foreigner cannot act on behalf of citizens in concluding settlements, finding solutions, and building institutions. This is the responsibility of the sons of maps themselves, no matter how much their hatred mounted and their daggers shined.


Small nations may sometimes attempt to make up for their lack of worthy fortunes with songs. This is how illusions reign in our relations with our countries and with the world. Our country is unique and special. An internal, regional, and international need. A beacon and a platform for dialogue. A date between civilizations and cultures and an opportunity to meet. It is more of a message than a country. It has deep historical roots and its rays point to the future. The world will not allow its collapse.


I don’t want to hurt any reader’s feelings. So I start with Lebanon. The Lebanese imagined that their small map was a dire need for others. They counted on perforated umbrellas and nonexistent protections. They trusted the smiles of the ambassadors and the words of the envoys. Where is Lebanon? The death of this country does not seem to be worrying the world.


The country does neither sleep on a nuclear arsenal nor does it represent a strategic commodity. And if we take for the sake of argument that it was once a need, it is no longer so. The Lebanese have neglected their stability, their role, their state, and also their basic life necessities. You can always find someone who expresses their pain or willingness to help. But the fresh French experience shows that the Lebanese state is not serious about getting out of hell.


The world has no time to wait for Lebanon. The train of life does not stop to ask about the future of a president, minister, son-in-law, sect, or party. Then who said that the world is ready to pay the price of saving us as long as we insist on getting bogged down, and drowning?


Illusion is not the characteristic of the Lebanese people alone. Iraqis, too, have experienced mixed feelings and exaggerations. They believed that the world would not allow their country to be drowned in its blood and divisions, and to fall under tutelage and umbrellas. Despite Iraq’s possession of a sensitive position and excessive wealth, the world has long coexisted with the Iraqi collapse.


The country has lost a river of blood and money. Fortunately, Iraqi officials raise their voices on the eve of the elections to urge voters to restore the map for the sake of the country’s sovereignty, stability, and prosperity.


The Syrians also believed for some time that the world would not allow their country to be drowned in pools of blood and terror. They talked about its special location and it is true…About the nobility of its roots, and it’s also true. But the world has coexisted with Syria lying under many knives.


The international community intervened to stop Syria’s dangers to others but did nothing to deter the danger to the country’s own children. Fortunately, there is increasing talk about the necessity of restoring Syrian sovereignty and stability. The regime is no longer threatened with collapse or imminent dangers. It can take the initiative and show the flexibility that will bring Syria back not only to the Arab fold but also to the international scene.


Another example. Scenes of Afghanistan no longer occupy the world screens. The international community was preoccupied with the country when two decades of US military presence ended with a chaotic withdrawal. The confusion was clear for the most advanced military machine in history. The loss was huge that it could not be hidden.


The Americans left Afghanistan in the custody of the Taliban movement. Some US generals will not hesitate to admit that the US war ended with defeat.


During the confused American withdrawal, much was written about Afghanistan. It was said to be the land that poisoned the invading empires with the harshest venom. Much was written about the stubbornness of its people and their willingness to die in defense of their identity and beliefs.


People also talked about its sensitive geographical location on the borders of Pakistan and Iran and its proximity to India and China, at a time when scenarios for the Asian future of the world are being woven. Analysts said that Afghanistan’s wealth of minerals will seduce the Chinese “emperor” and push him to draw an Afghan station on the “Belt and Road” initiative, which had selected a special place for Pakistan.


Afghanistan occupied the screens for days and then disappeared when the Americans completed their withdrawal and moved away. No one is debating the right of Afghans to sing about their country, as most of the peoples of the earth do; but what is certain is that the world does not stop for long at patriotic poems and poetic exaggerations.


The world can simply forget Afghanistan and live without it. It will always find humanitarian organizations that point to poverty rates, fears of starvation and disease, or women’s rights. But these voices will not succeed in bringing Afghanistan back to the forefront of international concerns. The international community will remember Afghanistan if it suddenly becomes a threat to its neighbors and the world. But it will forget the country as long as the danger remains confined to the map itself.


The Somalis believed that the world would not leave them for long in the custody of militias’ wars, hunger, immigration, and piracy. They read in old books about the strategic location of their country and imagined that the major powers would not allow the Somali tragedy, with its massacres and explosions, to become a normal image of the international scene. The world coexisted with Somali fragmentation. The news from Mogadishu does not take center stage, however painful it may be.


Examples abound. The people of a country make a fatal mistake when they expect the world not to allow their map to be broken or destroyed. This is their own responsibility and a merciless crime if they allow it to happen. The world is a huge machine. It has a forgetful memory. It cannot wait for young players.


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