Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carol Saba on the Lebanese Presidency

Arabic original here.

The Presidency is not Anyone's Favor or Consolation Prize

How we wish you were here, Ghassan Toueini, to throw into the face of Lebanon's bankrupt politicians the famous cry you made to the world at the United Nations in 1978: "Let my people live!" The people are bleeding, the state is disintegrating at an alarming pace, and the leaders involved in presidential chatter are not addressing the dangers facing the nation. And there remains the question: whose president? And for what state? There is no talk of re-establishing and correcting the Taif constitution, which was transformed from being a  pluralist, democratic constitution that preserves diversity within a single state into a consensual democracy that has become a confederation of sects.

There is no talk of the future president's vision or his strategic plan in critical matters, nor is there any talk of his capabilities and network of disinterested relationships that would make it possible for him to move with speed and wisdom locally, regionally and internationally in order to ward off dangers and keep Lebanon neutral. Discourse about the presidency dances to the tune of words like agreements, declaration of intentions, and duopolies. All of these are words pertaining to dividing up influence and interests, which negate the constitution in divided state that has not yet been declared to be a confederation.

The drift of governance in Lebanon since Taif has been toward division and confederation and has produced sectarian "duopolies" [i.e., most Lebanese communities are dominated by a pair of simultaneously colluding and competing parties] that today are the constitutive basis and entryway for this state of sectarian quotas. Today the Lebanese state is nothing but a confederal state made up of four sectarian statelets, each based on a duopoly driven by sectarian anxiety. Each of these duopolies has been forced to coexist after having previously shed each others' blood, and each of them rules its sect and limits any diversity to be found in it. It seems that the newly-emerging Christian duopoly has accepted the trajectory of division and confederation and has gotten in line to claim its share from the other duopolies that by far beat it to dominating the reins of what remains of the state.

This loss of way by the Christians is nothing other than an inevitable result of Christian infighting since independence and the Christians' inability to this day to make a critical assessment of their errors and trajectories. Starting in 1943, they seized the reins of power and rejected national cooperation. This was the start of the transformation of the hopes of the secular constitution of 1926 and of the progression towards the abyss. Through political Maronism, they promoted political sectarianism at the expense of national value, then they fell and along with them the First Republic. Taif came in 1989.

The Christians did not understand and they continued their game of dancing at the edge of the abyss, rejecting the balances of the Taif constitution and fighting among themselves. They were the means of entry for the [Syrian] tutelage that exploited everyone, beat them, and altered the balances of Taif. Political Sunnism arose, taking advantage of the Christian retreat. After that, political Shiism arose to take advantage of the Sunni retreat, especially after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. So a process of eroding authority and forming duopolies began. After the exit of the tutelage in 2005, there was no critical re-assessment by the Christians and there was no establishment of an expanded Christian base that includes all actors and elites, whose discourse would be "national" and which would put a spring back in the national watch.

So each Christian went in his own direction to support other duopolies that were competing with each other and for the Christian "share". Then there were the lethal steamrollers of March 8 and March 14. The Christians' rolling along did not stop the election of a president by consensus after the Doha Agreement. Until we reached the presidential vacuum. Bkerké completed the erroneous course by limiting the presidency to four poles. This equation, deleterious to the president and the presidency, eliminated two of them and pushed the other two, opposite twins, to form a fragile duopoly. The declaration of intent, mired in generalities and contradictions, conceals more than it declares. How, for example, can the Christian opponent of Hezbollah's project reach an understanding with the party's Christian strategic ally? At the hour of truth, who will eat whom?

A Christian awakening is needed today, so that they do not fall and that Lebanon does not fall once and for all. Bringing back the stolen Lebanese state will not happen by confirming the state of duopolies, but rather through escaping them via a foundational national salvation plan that will re-establish the charter and the formula, put into place a comprehensive national defense strategy controlled by the Lebanese Army, establish policies that will revive the nation of law and fight corruption, draw up an exceptional plan for defending Lebanon and keeping it neutral amidst the region's growing maelstroms on the basis of "Lebanon first", saving its disappearing economy and threatened currency, and resolving the dangerous dilemma of refugees and migrants. At that point, the president will be a plan for a solution and the presidency will not be anyone's favor or consolation prize.

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