Lebanon: A Call for Coexistence

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PM Mikati during the recent round on the National Dialogue, 25 June 2012. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012

To rely on the National Dialogue roundtable to resolve the domestic crisis in Lebanon would be like relying on the UN Security Council to liberate Palestine.

This has nothing to with the capabilities of the parties that are meeting. Nor is it related to the Dialogue’s convenor or its chair. It is because the Syrian crisis, which stands to unfold in extremely grave ways, has yet again shown – in practice – that there can be no cure for Lebanon’s recurring crises that does not address its relationship with its surroundings.

That cure does not relate to the narrow considerations of Lebanon’s various sects and political groups, but to the role the country should play. It concerns what these groups can do, and the elements of strength that can be mustered through that role, to secure a massive gain: real independence, in political, economic and security terms.

Many of the Lebanese who want the weapons problem set aside do not necessarily agree to or approve of things as they are. When others say they will not lift a finger until the weapons problem is resolved, that does not mean they are serious. And when a third group say there is more justification for holding on to the weapons than for disarming, they do not elaborate about the strategic dimension of these weapons, and about Lebanon’s security being part of that. They are not lying, but perhaps not telling the whole truth.

The upshot of all this is that it is impossible to turn the issue of the resistance’s weapons into an agenda item that can be decisively tackled.

The political forces hostile to the resistance, both local and foreign, nevertheless favor using this card to achieve other gains. Yet experience shows that agendas or interests cannot be imposed simply with slogans. One has to be able to have an actual impact on the issue at hand. Supporters of the pro-disarmament camp would do well to consider some facts that might help answer the perennial question: why do we never get to a result?

Obviously, it is beyond the ability of any Lebanese group to take action on the ground to get rid of these weapons. This is a fact which cannot be ignored, or altered by charges of hegemony, terror, or whatever.

Israel’s wars and other foreign interventions in Lebanon showed that the international and regional powers concerned also lack the power to get rid of these weapons. This is another fact that cannot be overlooked, or covered up with talk of how the outside world could achieve disarmament overnight if it wanted to.

Moreover, attempts to strip the resistance’s weapons of their popular legitimacy have ended in failure time and again. It is irrational to expect them to succeed. This is not due to the strength of Hezbollah’s influence or the aid it provides, in the absence of the state, to its mass base. It is because of this devoted mass base.

The fact is that a majority of Shia and a minority of Lebanese from other sects have come to see the resistance and its weapons as part of their national identity. They thus view the groups demanding disarmament as having a different – yes, different – national identity. This cannot be concealed by carefully-crafted phrases about the common Israeli enemy or equitable relations with foreign states.

The Wikileaks cables, and the subsequent behaviour of the characters who played the starring roles in them, strongly suggest that this group sees Lebanon’s national identity as being bound up with an alliance to the United States. They know the US only wants what is best for Israel in the region. Their ties to the US, and their quest to tie Lebanon to it, thus drive them daily in the direction of a new May 17 agreement. That is utterly inimical to the national identity sought by those who defend the resistance’s weapons. For them, the weapons are not only a means of defending the country against Israel, but have also become a means of deterring those who have no qualms about a normal relationship with Israel.

Moreover, as the resistance’s weapons are being targeted by Israel and its allies, that means they exist in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Just as Israel takes into account their impact on its enemies in Palestine, the latter feel strengthened by them. In both respects, that makes the resistance in Lebanon a principal player in the conflict with Israel, and a regional player whose role goes beyond Lebanon’s borders – though it has not so far been proven to have acted or used these weapons in the region in a manner damaging to Lebanon’s interests. (This is unless we are to believe those pundits who are forever theorizing that the weapons are the cause of their sleepless nights and the cutting of their electricity, or their job insecurity, fallen incomes, or suppression of the freedoms they enjoy. Most of these work for and live off the crumbs of dark and despotic regimes.)

It may thus seem hard for some to understand. Or perhaps having a hard time accepting reality results in unhinged behavior, born of despair or something else. But the fact is that the Lebanese are in no position today to claim that they are fully independent, or that there is genuine rather than verbal accord between them about their one national identity. It therefore makes no sense to expect an early or speedy resolution of the weapons question.

Lest the appeal seem like a call for surrender, let it be one for coexistence. After all, Lebanon’s sects have coexisted with criminal, murderous and corrupt leaders and chieftains. Do the weapons imperil future generations more than they?

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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