Elections, Lebanon

Twenty-Four Hours and Counting…

electoral-car1The Future Movement launched its electoral campaign last night at BIEL with a (rather unusually) charismatic speech by Saad al-Hariri. Eschewing the teleprompters (and correct desinential inflection, alas) al-Hariri built up to a stirring crescendo:

“Dear loved ones, there are nine weeks left until June 7. There are nine weeks before we fill the ballot boxes with our loyalty to Rafik al-Hariri and all the martyrs of the Cedars Revolution. Nine weeks before we are together in Beirut, in Tripoli, in Akkar, Dinniyeh, Minieh, Koura, Batroun, Zgharta and the entire North. Nine weeks before we are together in Mount Lebanon, with Walid Jumblatt in the Chouf, in Saida and the entire South. Nine weeks before we come together in West Bekaa, Rashaya, Zahle, Baalbek and Hermel and all of North Bekaa. Nine weeks before the election of Lebanon as a capable state and a democratic regime… We have nine weeks to elect Lebanon as it should be and to make our dreams and hopes for the future generations…”

Clever rhetorical device, the repetition of “nine weeks…,” conveying both urgency and optimism (while reminding the Lebanese when the election will be held, just in case the whole country is at the beach on what will likely be a balmy Sunday in June.) Still, I found myself thinking: “Nine weeks until the election, and we still don’t know who the hell is running…”

That’s right, the electoral lists are still incomplete, which brings me to my point. Campaigning in Lebanon seems to be about everything but the candidates. We’ve got the campaign posters, the massive demonstrations, the glitzy coming-out parties… but little substance. bielThe Future Movement’s campaign launch last night was a case in point: a huge auditorium that looked like the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, packed with well-heeled Libanais doused in blue mood lighting. Everybody looked like a million bucks, and they all seemed to be very enthusiastic about what Saad was saying… but I still can’t really tell you what actual programs and initiatives his party is committed to.

By Wednesday morning, the candidate lists will be unveiled and we will finally know just how much horsetrading has been done behind the scenes. Here are my favorite instances thus far.

(1) Over the weekend, As-Safir confirmed rumors that the Free Patriotic Movement had reached a deal to include former minister Fares Boueiz on their Keserwan list. Check out this thread on the Tayyar forum to see what the rank-and-file think about allying with a “rancid geriatric” for political purposes. (So impolite, the young!)

(2) Walid Jumblatt had to free up two seats in Aley and Baabda for the Kataeb and the National Liberal Party. He complained about it in the press, saying “The inability of a non-partisan Christian to run for Parliament in these two districts is a sad and disconcerting thing.” Practically in the same breath, however, he announced that he would be dumping another MP (Faysal al-Sayegh) on the Aley list because “Mir Talal Arslan has the right to be represented in the Aley district.”

That’s right. He called him Mir. His hereditary title. It takes a special brand of cynicism to bitch about Lebanon’s imperfect democracy and then to keep a straight face as you justify your horsetrading on the basis of inalienable feudal privilege. What else did he promise Arslan, the jus primae noctis of Aley’s blushing virgins?

One step forward, two steps back…

wordpress stats

Discussion

35 thoughts on “Twenty-Four Hours and Counting…

  1. Remind me what the step forward was again…?

    Posted by RedLeb | April 7, 2009, 12:21 am
  2. Our political system is truly amazing. Despite my distaste to vote for an ideological, sectarian party I can not bring myself to justify voting for anyone other than the Hizb… To date the only coherent platform I can get behind is that of the Hizb.

    It’s truly amazing that the party the world refers to as terrorist is the closest thing to an actual democratic party in Lebanon. Abolishing political sectarianism: Check. Economic and Judicial reform: Check. Choosing candidates based on merit as opposed to alliances and feudal history: Check.

    The question is can I believe that an ideological sectarian party wants to abolish political sectarianism? I guess it works for them since the Shiites are the largest minority.

    Does the hizb have any candidates in Beirut 1? I can’t bring myself to vote for Aoun. Reading the FPM’s manifesto I am 100% behind the party, but Aoun has hijacked it… if that makes any sense.

    Posted by Johnny | April 7, 2009, 9:29 am
  3. Johnny

    I’ve got a post in the wings, on exactly this issue. Maybe Wednesday or Thursday…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 10:06 am
  4. Using violence against their compatriots to overturn a political decision they disagreed with: check.

    I’m not sure how one can reconcile last May with democratic rule of law.

    Posted by sean | April 7, 2009, 1:01 pm
  5. Sean,

    I heard that the Saatchi account executive who designed the billboard tried to sneak that last line on there without the Hizb’s media people noticing, but he was unsuccessful.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 1:09 pm
  6. sean,
    You have every right to oppose the actions of the opposition in May, but at least do so with veracity of reason.

    Posted by mo | April 7, 2009, 1:24 pm
  7. I don’t think this blog has yet witnessed a debate about May 7. Yalla shabab, light it up.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 1:27 pm
  8. debate about may 7? you should ignite it with something, give an axis of analysis that tries to escape the ordinary media-inspired blabla. What do you think of it?

    anyway, i think your exaggerating the “he referred to his hereditary title” thing. Jumblatt always called arsaln “al mir” when he didn’t have to ignore him. And arslan always called jumblatt “beyk”. Only wiam Wahhab makes an exception to this conservatism.
    Oh, and cynicism doesnt exist 😉

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 2:25 pm
  9. alhaqid

    What is there to say about May 7? Where does one start? Does one start with the act itself (which violated the Hizb’s vow never to turn its weapons against its fellow citizens), or with M14’s action against the communications network (which violated the agreement reached between them and Hizbullah at the national dialogue talks), or the sit-in (sought to secure an unconstitutional demand for an opposition veto), or the Saniora cabinet lineup (which was unrepresentative from the start), or, or, or…

    Yes, May 7 was a catastrophe. I lost much of what was left of my respect for the Hizb at that moment. But I do feel that M14 missed opportunity after opportunity to avoid a disaster earlier on.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 3:01 pm
  10. One starts at action and then judges reaction.

    I thought the sit in was initially demanding the govt. resign or provide proper representation?

    Posted by mo | April 7, 2009, 3:41 pm
  11. ok, we seem to disagree on something, apart from the rationale you decided for the sit-in (that is of the “unconstitutional veto quota”, a rationale invoked much later when in fact the sit in wasn’t getting anywhere in making siniora resign), a subject raised by mo.

    I’ll stick to your “disappointment from Hezbollah after may 7”, for it seems to contain the main essential points on which we could disagree. Why would you be disappointed? because of his use of his arms on an inside aggression? or was it not an aggression he was facing inside?
    the cabinet’s decision on the telecom network had consequences that would put Hezbollah in an outlaw state, and that was unprecedented (aaaaargh i hate English).

    why would you think that M14 lost opportunities? when in fact M14 was looking toward escalation, in its sectarian statements against “the shiias”, in its treason of Hezbollah’s electoral pact etc. (some, like i, suspect it of working with the Americans and the israelis).
    Those two disappointments seem to suggest that you don’t see a political conflict in Lebanon with serious local and regional (anyway structural) reasons other than a mere misunderstanding.

    But maybe i’m wrong, for you haven’t clarified the reasons why you would be upset.

    i know why i consider may 7th a failure, and a mistake: the doha settlement was an unworthy price. Hezbollah should have asked for more, for with the sectarian hatred it provided proof for, the opportunities may 7 provided were worth and enough for changing the whole political game of the years 2005-2008. The old’ game got to a point of saturation, or what talal salman would clumsily call (back before it reached that point) the “federaliyyat al tawa’if”.
    And yes, i side with hezbollah and aoun, in any battle that involves fighting hariri, jumblatt, geagea, gemayel and, later on, berri (those are the terms of my “partisanship”).

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 4:16 pm
  12. alhaqid

    I’ll try addressing your points beginning with the last one.

    “And yes, i side with hezbollah and aoun, in any battle that involves fighting hariri, jumblatt, geagea, gemayel and, later on, berri”

    Any battle? Are you saying that the ends justify the means? In a democracy, you fight your battles in parliament, not in the street. I am with you 100% in going after corruption and letting the heads roll, but the current opposition has done very little in this regard. And even if they had already proved themselves as corruption-fighting white knights, the ends do not justify the means.

    “i know why i consider may 7th a failure, and a mistake: the doha settlement was an unworthy price. Hezbollah should have asked for more”

    What did you want them to ask for?

    why would you think that M14 lost opportunities? when in fact M14 was looking toward escalation

    Of course they were looking for escalation, and of course they were working with the Americans. This is the entire point. March 14th’s entire identity is based on a single basic principle: put as much distance between Lebanon and Syria as possible, using any and all means. These include the international tribunal, UNSCRs 1559 and 1701, and winning electoral victories against Syria’s allies in Lebanon. Hizbullah’s weapons, from M14’s perspective, maintain Lebanon’s status as a card in Syria’s hand, vis-a-vis Israel, and so this is why they were targeted.

    This is not a secret nor is it an uncommon sentiment in Lebanon, and unless you want to accuse a significant proportion of Lebanese of being American/Zionist spies and collaborators, you have to accept that the legitimacy of Hizbullah’s weapons is not a self-evident truth.

    Let us go back to 2007, when the ministers walked out. What do you imagine the goal of that move was? To bring down the Saniora government? Ok, so let’s say that Saniora resigned. What next? March 14 had the votes in parliament to appoint another prime minister who would have then created another government that would have adopted the same stances.

    This is why I’m mostly just confused about May 7th (and the sit-in that preceded it). What was the point of it all, really?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 5:06 pm
  13. Mo,

    “I thought the sit in was initially demanding the govt. resign or provide proper representation?”

    From the very beginning, the whole issue was about a veto. The Shiite ministers resigned when talks broke down over expanding the opposition’s presence in the cabinet to at least a third plus one.

    When M14 refused to acquiesce on this — because it would give the opposition the ability to torpedo Lebanon’s participation in the international tribunal — the ministers walked out. The primary goal was a veto; bringing down the government was a means to that end (because a new government with no veto for the opposition was equally bad).

    The problem is, the Constitution says nothing about granting an opposition the same proportion of seats in the cabinet as it has in the parliament. Strictly speaking, therefore, there is no constitutional guarantee. If March 8 wins in June, they technically have the right to assemble any kind of cabinet they like, provided that it respects the confessional (not the political) balances.

    In the context we are speaking about, with their politicians being blown up left and right, with a crucial decision vis-a-vis the tribunal coming up, why would M14 hand a non-constitutionally-guaranteed veto to their political opponents on a platter?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 5:29 pm
  14. I will ramble a bit to disclose bias… I do get to the topic of May 7.

    I returned to Lebanon in November 2007. I had been away for 12 years, working a great job on a tropical island paradise in SE Asia. Life was great!

    My wife (who is not Lebanese) and I decided that we had had enough of being so far from home, and she really wanted to experience living in Lebanon. Her last experience was fleeing in July 2006.

    So against every bit of advice from friends and relatives we decided to start our own consulting firm and base ourselves in Beirut. Before returning at that time I was a devout March 14ner. It is difficult to live outside Lebanon and not be with March 14. Most English news sites and blogs lean to 14. All non-Lebanese news outlets lean 14. In fact Landis was the only regular reading I did that was not 14. I only read him to get a sense of the other side, but I laughed away all the ‘propaganda’ he spewed. Sorry Josh.

    So now we are in Beirut and of course I want to get my daily dose of news. At the time it was vital with shootings and other unpleasantness happening on a daily basis. My wife who does not speak Arabic and not familiar with our politicians names would always confuse who was who on TV. Let’s say a debate would be on, and she would say… that MUST be the Hizballah guy. Her assessment was always based on the tone of speech. She was wrong 100% of the time.

    Soon enough I realized that all my friends, who are all very well educated, are March 8. The discourse I would see on TV. The March 14ners who are supposed to be civil and represent me and my interests… Were the exact opposite of what I had been reading in the news and on the blogs. Could it be that I was on the wrong team???

    Then May 7 happens. It confirmed to me that I am not exactly on the wrong team. I am a pacifist and hate violence. I did not appreciate what Hizballah did. But when it was done the country changed. The change was for the better. The ends definitely do not justify the means, but the governing coalition was not responding to its citizenry. I’ll preface this with saying that there is not much good about Karami, but at least when he sees sit-ins and mass demonstrations against his government… he resigns.

    The saving grace for the hizb was they would immediately turn over secured areas to the army. It was evident that they knew precisely what and who they were targeting. It was evident that they were not attempting a coup. It was evident that it would be sunshine and roses after it was all done.

    To make a long story short. DO I agree with what they did? No. Am I glad they did it? Yes!

    This brings me back to who the hell can we vote for in this place? The alliances are not clear. If March 8 rids itself of the SSNP, Berri, Wahab and the other Syrian clowns I am with it 100%. But I can’t bring myself to vote for Syrian stooges. As for March 14… They need to go.

    I would get behind an FPM, LF and Hizb list. I know I am dreaming here, but if Geagea and Aoun were taken out of the picture I think these three parties would find a lot of common ground.

    Posted by Johnny | April 7, 2009, 5:42 pm
  15. dude, your looking at historical events from today’s evaluations: at first, when Hezbollah’s ministers resigned, there was no particular talk about the “veto quota”, there was just frustration because of the international tribunal that was to be discussed on monday after a weekend of negotiations. The idea of hezbollah was to play it sectarian, as they are a sectarian party, to say that the shiias are now out of the state and that this goverment is not in the mithaq al watani’s spirit. Anyway, im not insisting on that point for i dont care about the law, and my arguments come from this condition: the law is biased to some over others.

    Under these terms, here is what happened: Hezbollah have staged a sit in and demos, along with the aounists asking for a goverment change. The goverment did not reply. This is where democracy doesnt work. Hezbollah were betrayed in an electoral pact and they consider that march 14 first betrayed “democracy” (although i dont believe may 2005’s elections were democratic)
    so the reason of their sit-in wasnt just the unconstitutionnal one of adding the opposition to goverment, but that of the treason of the electoral pact. Although not stated in the “laws of the democracy”, it is still a legitimate treason to its principles i guess. But i am not in that logic, and i believe we would have been far better if “our democracy” wasnt like it was, and we had a decent representative electoral law. And i merely stated this episode as an answer because its a “reasonable and democratic” mediocre answer to a mediocre challenge, as were the rules of the battle in those days between the two camps and as they were played by the actors. Medicore as it is, it is still an answer to this problem. The question of the telecom network hadnt yet appeared. I relate, in my partisanship, to other reasons, structural ones of my analysis and that the local players wouldnt specifically car about or even conceive. In my analysis, the ehzb shouldnt have waited for the telecom problem, but should have acted as of august 2006, when the treason was at its peak and the sectarian agitation on hold (the i love life campaign of division of society began just after the 2006 war, as an answer to hezbollah’s success)

    And as you said, “I am with you 100% in going after corruption and letting the heads roll”, and so, i dont want a “significant proportion of Lebanese” to pay, i look only for the heads. And the heads only are guilty of treason against the other part of the population and against their political opponents of hezbollah and aoun (there was israeli talks of bombing rabyeh after all). Hezbollah and Aoun, although sectarian (religiously or in their political demands), have done nothing to hurt the “others”, meaning the population. And this is why i refer to the shiia by adding ” “, just so i wouldn’t be hinting that this entity of animosity or of division socially exists. This is why also i go with aoun and hezbollah against the war criminals and the sectarian agitators (let me be specific, everyone is sectarian in lebanon, but some encourage hate and division of the territory — the aounists fell in that trap after the “i love life” campaign, they were brought to that option).

    Anyway, i felt from some of your positions that our disagreement would be on the terms of the conflict and not its “invoked reasons”. Plus, you want to preserve “democracy” (your main argument to counter that of the demands of the opposition) while i think it just doesn’t exist.
    So Hezbollah did wrong because he just used his arms, that was his error, right? But what about, in institutionnal democratic terms, his exclusiveness in bearing arms? (while taef stated the banning of militias), his exclusiveness in the resistance (not stated in taef that it should be only for shiias)? in that sense, hezbollah is guilty of many things, as are the others (i wont even start in their case), so i don’t understand why should democracy start in the year 2007 and be valid as an argument?

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 6:44 pm
  16. Qn,

    I was going to make a similar point alhaqid.

    You say from the very beginning, the whole issue was about a veto. Well, no, if we want to go to the beginning, it was about Hizballah not trusting Saniora et al because of the way they behaved in the Summer war. It was not so much a veto as protecting themselves from Feltmans boys.

    The Shiite ministers resigned when talks broke down, which is their right.

    That the Constitution says nothing about granting an opposition the same proportion of seats in the cabinet as it has in the parliament is not exactly relevant here, especially “In the context we are speaking about” because the situation was dire enough to look past the legalese. March 14th wouldn’t have been in power or at least wouldn’t have had much of a majority without Hizballahs contribution in 05.

    Johnny,
    I actually agree with you that personalities aside, the political platforms of FPM, Hizballah and the LF would be quite similar. But while not having encountered that many, the LF’ers I have talked seem to be so in step with their leadership vis-a-vis the special kind of secterian or religious racism that I think that while the slogans about sovereignty and freedom may be similar, what they actually mean by it, I suspect is very different.

    Posted by mo | April 7, 2009, 7:10 pm
  17. alhaqid,

    Thank you for your comment. Actually, we agree on many points. But here’s where we don’t:

    The veto quota was at the heart of the dispute from the very beginning. This is what Hizbullah was demanding. The sectarian strategy (Shiite ministers walking out) was the strategy by which they chose to try and bring down the government, after they did not succeed in obtaining a veto through negotiations. If you go back to the news reports from that weekend, you will see that the main issue was a veto. It did not surface later.

    Now, you are right on two things. (1) The Shiite walkout was grounds for declaring the unconstitutionality of the cabinet representaiton, which is supposed to reflect the confessional balance. Lahoud tried to make this case, but Saniora tried to avoid it by not accepting the resignations. This argument is quite convincing to me. (2) When you say that “I believe we would have been far better if “our democracy” wasnt like it was, and we had a decent representative electoral law,” you are absolutely right. The problems are systemic, and not related to the specific players. This is why we need comprehensive reforms… I’d like to see the Hizb take a stronger role in pushing for them.

    You ask: So Hezbollah did wrong because he just used his arms, that was his error, right? But what about, in institutionnal democratic terms, his exclusiveness in bearing arms? (while taef stated the banning of militias), his exclusiveness in the resistance (not stated in taef that it should be only for shiias)? in that sense, hezbollah is guilty of many things, as are the others (i wont even start in their case), so i don’t understand why should democracy start in the year 2007 and be valid as an argument?

    Are you saying that Hizbullah is guilty of many things or are you asking me? 🙂 If you want to talk about Taef and sectarianism and reforms and Lebanese history, by all means let’s do it. I don’t believe that democracy began in 2007, but I do believe that it needs to begin someplace. We can’t keep justifying actions (by anyone) by containing to complain about the injustice of the system. Let’s address the issues, one by one, if you like.

    But… if we are NOT going to address the entire picture, then the reason we can focus on a specific case like 2008 is because, unlike 2007, it was not “a “mediocre answer to a mediocre challenge, as were the rules of the battle in those days between the two camps and as they were played by the actors.” It crossed the line into something else. Now Jumblatt’s move against the telecom also crossed a red line, but this is my point: we are inevitably going to continue crossing red lines over and over until we replace informal consensus with formal mechanisms of authority.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 7:23 pm
  18. Mo

    You wrote: Well, no, if we want to go to the beginning, it was about Hizballah not trusting Saniora et al because of the way they behaved in the Summer war. It was not so much a veto as protecting themselves from Feltmans boys.

    Ok, but let me play devil’s advocate. Don’t you think that Hizbullah’s political opponents (and indeed, at least half the country) did not trust HIZBULLAH after the July war? There are many things we could agree on vis-a-vis the Hizb (see upcoming post), but I’ve just never understood where its die-hard partisans get off complaining about March 14’s “betrayal” and “treason” during the July war.

    If someone was collaborating with the Israelis and feeding them intelligence on the locations of the resistance’s leadership, that’s treason. But if someone (not necessarily a politician) criticized the Hizb for its operation and dragging the country into a devastating war… how does that constitute treason?

    They didn’t trust Saniora? Too bad! I don’t trust him either! Who trusts anyone in politics? It’s still not an excuse. If we are going to bring down the government because we don’t trust each other, let’s just ask Syria to come back and run things for us.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 7:35 pm
  19. Mo,

    I have a very weird and mixed background. Half my family is FPM the other half LF. Based on where I grew up and went to school most my friends are Hizb. I interact with all three regularly, and when I mix them up for dinner at my house it is quite enjoyable to see the interaction. You are right about the LF’s sectarian and religious racism. It is prevalent in the mindset. However it is easily overcome by simple dialogue. When I mix the LF side of the family with my Hizb friends they always come away surprised at the similarities between themselves.

    I especially like when I introduce them to parents and they see that a mom from Nabatieh has the same style, sarcasm and sense of humor as a mom from Chekka.

    I believe the FPM and the Hizb were able to come to their MOU based on the civil debates and forums that were established so the two memberships could interact. This set the tone for the leaders to come to agreement. These forums can go a long way to reconciling the differences and possibly melt away the racist side of the LF.

    The leadership may be irreconcilable. And this is the stumbling point in my mind. If only the old timers would just step aside and let the new generation take care of it.

    Posted by Johnny | April 7, 2009, 7:44 pm
  20. QN,
    Do I think that Hizbullah’s political opponents (and indeed, at least half the country) did not trust HIZBULLAH after the July war? Yes I do (although at that time I’m not sure I agree it was half the country but thats by-the-by).

    But that mistrust was not existential. Hizballahs was.

    I do not believe anyone criticizing the Resistance for its operation and “dragging” the country into a war is committing treason. And I would challenge any M8er who would so.

    But you know as well as I that the mistrust of Saniora was not that shallow. I won’t accuse anyone in M14 of any specific act that I don’t have evidence for but I do certainly believe that many in M14 would rather have seen an Israeli victory, which in my book constitutes a betrayal by the government of at a good proportion of its own people.
    And if a government acts in support of a foreign nation against its own people then it is politically, morally and even constitutionally right for the people to demand its resignation – And I would believe this equally if it were a M8 govt. supporting a Syrian move at attacking the LF.

    Johnny,
    Your dinner parties must be worth a tv show! I think you are very right about dialogue. I used to cross the green line a lot during the civil war. I used to watch the way people drove in Beirut and the way they drove in Jounieh and used to wonder how two people who never mixed could be so equally appaling at driving.

    But saying that, it is, like in most political environments, the youth that is most extreme and most radical. I would say rather than step aside, the old guard has to drive the conciliation. Youth is too impetuous for reconciliation.

    Posted by mo | April 7, 2009, 8:52 pm
  21. 1) Qifa, when i talk of “mediocre” scales, it means i am already referring, in my terms of argument, to “the entire picture” and the lebanese history 😉 and i know you are up to it. I know it cant be disregarded on my terms, for there is an estimated “historical” 50 billion dollar public debt (not counting the central bank’s debt) to deal with in my equations, add to them 18 thousand “mafqoud”, and militia men in power positions etc etc etc.

    2) My questions about Hezbollah were rhetorical ones, im not asking you anything and i surely hope your not gona contradict those facts 😉 (another wink)

    Where we disagree PARTLY seems to be here:
    “I don’t believe that democracy began in 2007, but I do believe that it needs to begin someplace. We can’t keep justifying actions (by anyone) by containing to complain about the injustice of the system. Let’s address the issues, one by one, if you like.”
    i am willing to accept “democracy” as a political game under the condition that it STARTS at the advantage of the members of the opposition. hehe, dude, its not a coincidence that “democracy” in the west went to the advantage of the right instead of the left (you do agree that western-leftist discourse is at its lowest standpoint since the end seventies?), “democracy” or “bourgeois democracy”, to be more accurate, is not a neutral system. And the american neocon example shows you that people under 300 years old democratic traditions can be very… undemocratic.

    Now, we seem to agree on this:
    “we are inevitably going to continue crossing red lines over and over until we replace informal consensus with formal mechanisms of authority.”
    yes, you may see them as red lines, i may see them as crisis and conflict, necessary ones in my terms, but we are both normative in our hopes for a better place, and norms do pretend to achieve “stability”.

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 9:18 pm
  22. you say to mo:
    “They didn’t trust Saniora? Too bad! I don’t trust him either! Who trusts anyone in politics? It’s still not an excuse. If we are going to bring down the government because we don’t trust each other, let’s just ask Syria to come back and run things for us.”
    hehehe, i know you are trying to be “democratic” but there is more than mere mistrust, just a hint (if you read french):
    http://alhiqd.blogspot.com/2006/07/temoignage.html
    But i will add the story of the planes of saadon that were evacuated from the airport and that got “us” a ceasefire of an afternoon.

    johnny says:
    “The leadership may be irreconcilable. And this is the stumbling point in my mind. If only the old timers would just step aside and let the new generation take care of it.”
    I think not only that this is entirely true, i find it even sad that we have to state it to make a point. The use of the sectarian language of the media-political arena have done more damage in these last few years than ever before. And im not being lebanonisinz here.

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 9:33 pm
  23. Mo,

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that “many in M14 would rather have seen an Israeli victory,” because I remember talking to many different people (citizens, not pols) during the war, whose basic attitude was: “Thank you, Israel.” Sad but true.

    Now, you and I may think that that is unconscionable but I would not go so far as to say that “it constitutes a betrayal by the government of at [least] a good proportion of its own people.” Why? Well, at the very least, aren’t you conflating Hizbullah with “a good proportion of its own people”? Again, playing devil’s advocate, couldn’t Hizbullah’s unilateral decision to carry out its raid be construed as “a betrayal” of a good proportion of Lebanon’s population, given its consequences?

    And if a government acts in support of a foreign nation against its own people then it is politically, morally and even constitutionally right for the people to demand its resignation

    Right, but you admitted that you had no evidence that any one in M14 did, so then the demand for a resignation falls short. No?

    alhaqid,

    You wrote: “Where we disagree PARTLY seems to be here: … i am willing to accept “democracy” as a political game under the condition that it STARTS at the advantage of the members of the opposition.”

    No disagreement on this. I would like to see the opposition win and prove its mettle as a majority. I’m even tempted to hope that the Hizb calls Hariri’s bluff and withdraws its offer of a veto. Then there will be no excuse for heads not to roll, right?

    Johnny,

    My family is similar. There are Hizb lovers, FPM lovers, and M14ers of all stripes. So far, though, they’re not seeing eye to eye.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 10:03 pm
  24. “I’m even tempted to hope that the Hizb calls Hariri’s bluff and withdraws its offer of a veto. Then there will be no excuse for heads not to roll, right?”
    wrong.
    im counting on the awnist, for as the billboards you published show, they are the only ones structurally in a serious conflictual position with Hariri, geagea, joumblatt, gemayel and berri, a parallel project of hegemony.

    But Hezbollah and Berri are in their way. Berri would ally with Hariri against awn, he longs so much for the days where he shared money and governance with abou baha’ (that fat f***)

    Only when awn will have free hands in power, there will be no excuse.

    oh, and this is all the minimum standard i would accept, the maximum would be something similar to a soviet council in power 😉 but im disgressing…

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 10:25 pm
  25. You said that Berri AND Hizbullah stand in the FPM’s way. Berri is obvious, but why do you think that the Hizb has no interest in reform?

    So you’re a communist?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 10:32 pm
  26. yes i am, a commy, or something like that.

    Well, isn’t it obvious, and we already mentioned it in our debate, the Hezb has a sectarian oriented politics, and unfortunately since 1987 a very conservative one. (i prefer the old “thawra islamiyya fi loubnan”). And Berri wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Hizb.
    it seems that the Hezb would only accept of a “shiite” power in the state apparatus to guarantee his position and stability outside the state. Ok, i dont blame him, for the awnist present no guarantee if awn dies, but then again, aren’t they calculating the damages that berri is doing to the state? couldnt they replace him by another “shiite”? no, for they have their own “shiite”-internal sectarian policy.

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 10:47 pm
  27. lol… Ok, I nominate you resident communist and pessimist extraordinaire.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 11:18 pm
  28. hehe coming from a harvard student, i would’ve been surprised if you had called me anything else 😉

    Posted by alhaqid | April 7, 2009, 11:37 pm
  29. I seem to regularly meet Communists in Beirut; maybe because I live near Barometre and frequent it often.

    So alhaqid, it sounds like your best hope is an FPM with Aoun alive… Let’s imagine they win a crushing victory and persuade Hizb not to give M14 a veto and Hariri boycotts.

    What reforms/executions would you like to see?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 7, 2009, 11:42 pm
  30. No, I don’t think I’m conflating and I think you know that.

    Hizbullah’s decision to carry out its raid was not as unilateral as some make out. In early 06 Nasrallah made a public speech where he said that part of the agreement of the last prisoner swap was that the last Lebanese hostages would be returned. But when Olmert took over, he reneged on the deal. Therefore, Nasrallah said, he was saying in public that henceforth, Hizballah would try and capture Israelis to swap. Furthermore, he added that if anyone in Lebanon disagreed with this, they should say so.

    So you could say that the action was, rather than unilateral and a betrayal, an act of patriotism that was pre-announced.

    And if the act is right, then the consequences, even if you believe that the Israeli attack was not pre-planned, were unfortunate but not blameworthy.

    In terms of evidence I said I would not make a public claim with no evidence. That does not mean that I do not believe it. But what evidence I have or do not have is irrelevant. Its what they have.

    Posted by mo | April 8, 2009, 1:28 am
  31. I’m not sure why democracy seems to be referred to as an all-redeeming quality.

    First, party support for democracy tends to correlate very strongly with the possibility of either increasing power via democracy or promoting an agenda via democracy. Hizballah is not an outlier. I don’t see any inherent moral merit in this kind of a decision.

    Second, what’s the use of a democratic demon. I’m not making a moral judgement on Hizballah, necessarily. Bad ideas can get democratic support.That doesn’t make them god ideas.

    What’s the connection between being democratic & terrorist(ic?)? Assuming the first has any meaning, why should the second anul it?

    The example that comes to my mind (Most Israeli minds really) is Hamas. The whole of the worldwide campus-left went with the concept of Israel not having the right to reject the Palesitian democratic decision. What’s democracy got to do with it. (I’m going to horrendously simplify) Israel opposed the Hamas charter, which amounted to a declaration of War. The fact that Palestinians had come to this conclusion democratically, has no significance. It doesn’t change its moral weight or anything else.
    I suppose its rational to vote for Hizballah if: (A) Hizballah is Democratic for more then its own purposes (B) They will make Lebanon any more Democratic (C) This is so important to Lebanon that it overshadows the other implications of giving Hizballah power, including another potential war. or(D) you agree with their platform on the whole.

    If D is the case, then the whole democracy thing is a moot point isn’t it?

    Posted by netsp | April 8, 2009, 7:14 am
  32. Mo,

    Maybe we’re beating a dead horse, but I disagree with your characterization of the prisoner swap. When Nasrallah made that public announcement, he was speaking directly to various politicians and journalists in Lebanon who had been questioning the wisdom of precisely this strategy. It was a public challenge on Nasrallah’s part, but it was not a real invitation to come and disagree with the strategy. At the end of the day, Hizbullah does not change its military strategy if people disagree with them.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 8, 2009, 8:46 am
  33. Anyone want to tackle netsp’s question? Mo has worn me out.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 8, 2009, 8:52 am
  34. netsp,
    Say the word ‘democracy’ enough and you end up sounding like George Bush. The previous administration’s propaganda concerning democracy (spreading democracy, pro-democracy forces, democratically elected Prime Minister) has reduced it to this abstract all-redeeming quality and in the process divorced it from all meaning.

    So to get back to school: democracy is that form of government that derives its legitimacy from the collective choice of the people. It is not meant to moral, nor is it meant to be effective, just legitimate.

    Morality is enforced via the legal system, which protects against mob dictatorship. This prevents the majority from voting to murder the minority. There are limits to democratic power in any sane constitution. (As an aside, I can accept the Hizb’s actions on May 7 mainly because I believe the majority had destroyed the legal system, preventing legal challenges to state abuse of power).

    Effectiveness is built in via an executive authority which can assume extra-legal powers. Governments don’t go to parliament to make every decision. Its not democratic, but it is understood a purely democratic system would be glacially slow.

    Democracy is simply meant to be legitimate. So Israel does not have the right to choose which authority represents the Palestinian people. It can choose to be hostile to that authority, but it cannot choose other entities to represent the Palestinian people.

    Internally, this legitimacy is primarily concerned with avoiding civil wars. If everyone gets their say, they are willing to accept the majority choice. But this is only up to a point, you can never get someone to accept a vote that negates him or her.

    And yes, (I realize that this will come as a shock to everyone on this board 😉 ) the fact that Lebanon has frequent civil wars means our democracy is broken, despite all the voting that goes on.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 8, 2009, 10:53 am
  35. “the fact that Lebanon has frequent civil wars means our democracy is broken, despite all the voting that goes on.”

    Maybe it’s not the democracy that is broken, but the nationhood.

    The reason I brought any of this up is from one of the earlier comments:
    “It’s truly amazing that the party the world refers to as terrorist is the closest thing to an actual democratic party in Lebanon.”

    Anyway, I wouldn’t blame Bush for this nonsense. His accent may have made freedom & democracy sound more harsh, but the same fallacy can be heard in the social science faculties of Europe just as often.

    Posted by netsp | April 9, 2009, 1:42 am

Are you just gonna stand there and not respond?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Browse archives

And the people say…

netsp on On Reza Aslan’s “B…
db on Maronites, Arabs, Phoenicians,…
Akbar Palace on Assad and ISIS
Vulcan on Assad and ISIS
Steve Keville (a.k.a… on Bistraynti `Alaykun

wordpress stats plugin
%d bloggers like this: