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The Fundamental Dispute in Lebanon: Embroiling us in War

The Fundamental Dispute in Lebanon: Embroiling us in War

Sunday, 9 January, 2022 - 09:00

Among the many contradictions Lebanon is brimming with, the political, economic and cultural, one contradiction is deeper than the others, affecting them more than they affect it. It is the stance on war: Should we be embroiled in war or not? And accordingly, which kind of regime and relationship with the outside world serve that purpose?

The names and parties of those infected with war fever have changed, but the prologues they build upon have not: Worship of strength and hatred for this weak country that is not ruled by an army or intelligence apparatus. Correspondingly, in order for it to become stronger and more like neighboring tyrannical regimes, it must be embroiled in war. And because dignity can only derive from strength, it is a country without dignity, and only through war can it acquire dignity. Moreover, as long as its army is not belligerent, that army must be crushed, and another armed force that takes the glorious task upon itself should be sought. If the war results in an occupation of territory, that same force is tasked with liberating it. This is victory over victory: It guarantees a hundred-year - maybe thousand-year - war. It renders us a people of postponed martyrs.

Here, there is something reminiscent of the famous phrase about killing girls to safeguard their chastity.

This militaristic tendency was and is influenced by sources which are militaristic as well. This has always been the case: They are regimes and societies known only for their dogmatic strength, the force of their arsenal, and then the speed at which they collapse and die as they talk about their victories. What happened to Fascism and the Socialist Block speaks to this clearly.

The infatuation with war has gradually shifted from being indirect to direct: Before the Palestinian resistance's emergence, Lebanon ought to have stood with Gamal Abdel Nasser because, as the myth goes, he was laying the foundations for Arabs' strength and dignity.

When the Arab summits classified Lebanon as a "supporting country" rather than a "confronting country," the militants among us objected: But our country neighbors occupied Palestine, so why should it be a supporting country? Later, when Nasser was defeated in 1967, the bitterness multiplied: Why was Lebanon not defeated as well? Why did it not fight and lose so it could become worthy of its Arabism and dignity?

With the Palestinian resistance, the dream came true. It is the "implication strategy." With Hezbollah, as a people keen on being implicated, we immersed ourselves in implication.

There is no doubt that sects' disputes and the unevenness in their attachments to the Lebanese state are fundamental sources of these sentiments. Palestine was and still is a pretext. Added to this were the efforts of the military regimes in the region. They wanted us to become a sponge absorbing their contradictions, and so they were generous in sending us weapons and sought to close the Lebanese window to relatively broad freedoms. While it is true that the Lebanese authorities' shortcomings, factionalism, and sectarian narrow-mindedness finished the job, the response was rarely reformist and shaped by engagement with the Lebanese interior. It was rarely purely political.

Militaristic opposition sprung from a poor historical accumulation that speaks in two contradictory tongues: The country, on the one hand, is artificial and no need for its existence, as well as being weak and lacking dignity; on the other hand, it must be reformed, modernized and everything sectarian and backward about it must be done away with. The "Lebanese National Movement" was the loudest and last manifestation of this linguistic and conceptual duality that combines annihilation and reform.

It is also true that those with political projects that did interact with the situation in Lebanon, and regardless of one's opinion about them, left their militaristic consciousness behind. Nonetheless, it seems their tongues remained heavy, and their drive slow: Kamal Jumblatt called for reform with his gun in the air. And although he was displeased at the split within the Lebanese army and Fatah's establishment of the "Lebanese Arab Army", he provided the Palestinian and Lebanese armed factions with political cover. Moussa al-Sadr also started out as a reformer whose main concern was saving the South from the war, but he ended up taking up arms well. Rafik Hariri was forced to stand under the shade of the Syrians' rifles and practice cohabitation with Hezbollah's arsenal.

The fact that the three leaders had had Lebanese political projects distanced them from weapons. However, their projects’ weakness weakened their resilience in the face of those weapons. At the end of the day, Jumblatt and Hariri were killed by liberating and militaristic people. Sadr was kidnapped by one of their allies.

We find something similar in the leftist milieu: The Communist Party, because of its weight and long history, was more apprehensive about embroiling Lebanon in wars than the small organizations to its left that derived their sole meaning from their ties to the armed Palestinian factions. Many of those who would defect from those Lebanese organizations would directly join Fatah. Nothing justified passing through a Lebanon, then. The Communist Party, weak and disintegrated, is now in the position that those factions had been in.

Hezbollah is the only exception in modern Lebanese history, and this is what makes it dangerous: It is a weighty party, and the weightier it gets, the more militaristic it becomes. That is the case so far!

However, in the end, the problem is that the alternative for the Lebanese model has not yet been born simply because no alternative had been thought of it except being embroiled in war: Since the emergence of the Arab Kingdom in Damascus after the First World War, the formula hasn't changed: Either chaos and a porous arena or a poisonous alliance like that which linked Hariri with Hezbollah and the Syrian security apparatus between 1989 and 2005.

This failure to give rise to a stable form of governance in Lebanon would increase hatred for Lebanese peace and stability. Lebanon defies the arsenal. It defies us. And because it is that way, it must be decomposed by being put up against the world and the countries of the region, a good relationship with whom is needed for the realization of Lebanon's interests: The Palestinian resistance's war from Lebanon destroyed the armistice agreement. Hezbollah's militancy today is in defiance of UN Resolution 1701. Lebanon's cozy relationship with Iran renders its relations with the Arab world bad…

From a peaceful country sympathetic with the Palestinian cause, supporting it politically, diplomatically and in the media, we turn into Spartans attacking the Syrian people and others in the name of Palestine. We are also transforming from a contractual country into a tyrannical one that takes the vast majority of its people hostage in the slaughterhouse of war - impoverished, hungry and frightened hostages. As for the only consolation, it is a famous piece of advice from Epicurus given over 23 centuries ago: Rest assured. Do not fear death. While we exist, death is not present, and when death is present, we no longer exist.

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