Lebanon, QNMZ

The Prodigal Son

As many of you know, the Lebanese-Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helou was in Lebanon last week meeting with political and business leaders and discussing various projects of interest. Slim, who recently regained his title as the World’s Richest Man, was given a medal by Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman, and fêted in the Lebanese press for demonstrating the inherent superiority of Phoenician DNA in producing successful traders.

Lucky for you, we’ve teamed up again with the wonderful Maya Zankoul to bring you an inside peek at Slim’s meetings with Lebanon’s leaders.

Click the image below to see the entire comic strip.

Click the image to see the rest of the illustrations!

Thanks to the wonderfully talented Maya Zankoul for the illustrations. For previous collaborations between Qifa Nabki and Maya, click here.

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81 thoughts on “The Prodigal Son

  1. What do you make of this?

    Click to access 268.pdf

    Do the Lebanese results look reasonable?

    Posted by AIG | March 15, 2010, 3:46 pm
  2. I left the same comment on Mayas blog: I love the last frame the most: All Is For Sale by everyone, as it has always been.

    I have seen some reports about this study. On the surface they are a very reputable outfit and so I do not think that the results are intentionally biased and so I will accept them in the same spirit that you would accept any survey. The biggest problem in such surveys is the trustworthiness of the respondents. At times they tell you what they think you want to know. Such a bias is very difficult to recognize or protect against.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 15, 2010, 3:58 pm
  3. Really like Maya’s illustrations. Very artistic.

    There has been few positive news about lebanese folks lately. Like Carlos Helu becoming the richest man on earth (try to top this AIG) just kidding!!!

    The other good news is how well lebanese haute couture designers did at the Oscar.

    Not bad for a small country. God bless Lebanon and its people.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | March 15, 2010, 11:59 pm
  4. Okey Master Qifa, we realize you’re immerged in fatherhood matters, and I appreciate that your new responsibilities affect your non-family life, and yes, your blog. Too bad for us, and I personally wouldn’t appreciate it at all if you seemed to be able to go around “business as usual”(smile)
    But now, please, tell us, what do you really think about 1) this guy being in Lebanon practically the same day he is consecrated richest man of the world, 2) all the emotion about it the media, with little or not sound information 3) is Lebanon really for sell 4) would he be the Hariri version, maybe for other people, 4) does anybody thing he is regarded as a hero, like many people observing Lebanon think, etc…5) who organized the trip, from the Lebanese side? Some media outlet that got the rights (or he just bought) and is going to publish a monographic about him and his projects? 6) Or was the whole thing a circus for the entertainment of the people?

    I’m being bold here, just trying to shake the thread up. Besides, it was a beautiful folding screen you hid behind : thanks Maya for this lively version of the Prodigal Son’s Return…

    Posted by mj | March 16, 2010, 7:35 am
  5. Hi MJ

    Yes, I’m too busy with family matters to do much blogging anymore.

    Actually I don’t think Carlos Slim has any desire to get involved in Lebanese politics at all. He may invest in a couple of ventures, but why would he bother his head about the Lebanese and all of our problems? Mexico has enough problems.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 16, 2010, 8:19 am
  6. It is funny how you people nitpick about everything.

    I think of it as an opportunity to give lebaneses a sense of proud. He can be a model to those lebanese that wishes to go the entrepeneurial path.
    He is a businessman and sure if an opportunity comes he will do business in Lebanon, let’s hope so. After all that is what people think of us, a bussiness drive people.
    And as far as I can see that is what all the secterains leaders in this country do, cheap business at the expanse of the population.

    Posted by Alberto | March 16, 2010, 9:41 am
  7. Mj,
    I think that you have raised many interesting questions that actually need to be asked and even answered:-)
    At one public gathering Fischer Black, the 1997 Nobel Laureate in Economics and of the famous Black-Shoales option pricing formula was asked by a member of the audience the popular question: If you are so smart how come you ain’t so rich” to which he answered instantaneously : “You are so rich , how come you ain’t smart”.
    The unbelievable thing about the Carlos Slim Helou circus is the strong belief by most that wealth implies mental and intellectual superiority when arguably the opposite is true. Have you ever had the opportunity to listen to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet , Larry Ellison or Carlos Helou speak about anything besides money? If you have not then count your blessings.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 16, 2010, 6:55 pm
  8. Ghassan,

    With all due respect, I think there is a huge difference between Black and these businessmen. Black as smart as he is, his job or passion is to come up with theories about the economy. if he’s wrong about his theories or forecasts, I doubt he’ll be out of business or a job.

    On the other hand, Gates, Buffet, Ellison & 7ello have a big payroll to deal with twice a month. They do not have the luxury of just throwing darts at the board and hope to hit the right spots. They are accountable for their decisions as there are painfull consequences if they miss their forecast, unlike Black.

    Bottom line, I think you are comparing apples to oranges, as running a business and being an economist theorist are way two different fields.

    Besides, why should Carlos’ visit be a big deal and subject to second guessing? Jezzine is his ancestorial hometown and I think it’s great that he is visiting.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | March 16, 2010, 10:51 pm
  9. Qifa,

    Why the title “Prodigal Son”? Just curious.

    Posted by Joe | March 17, 2010, 2:05 am
  10. GK, thanks, I feel much better know:)

    RB, I’m not sure obsessing with “having a big payroll to deal with twice a month” is the right mindset to become a billionaire. C Slim himself said something about it, I can’t put my hand on it now, but sounded more like “spending as little as possible and eyeing your millions all the time” (lol).

    Posted by mj | March 17, 2010, 2:16 am
  11. Joe,

    dunno. Couldn’t think of anything else.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 17, 2010, 7:38 am
  12. I just returned from a lecture by Carlos Slim at AUB under the title “The New Civilization of Knowledge & Technology” .
    Three things I would like to share with you readers:
    1. The talk was not inspiring at all;
    2. If it was not for the fact that I was in the sitting in front row, I would have left well before the of the talk;
    3. The horde of audience, in hundreds of businessmen, academics, politicians, clergymen, students, media and security officers piled up to listen to him is disappointment by itself.
    Oh well, it is this shallow community that we dead in Lebanon.

    After all what I said, you may wonder why was I there. May be I have been infected with this disease having lived here for 10 years. What a shame.

    Posted by i.e. lubnan | March 17, 2010, 12:17 pm
  13. AIG
    It so happens that I share the conclusions of most of Mr. Bisharas’ analysis except for one.
    I am still of the opinion that war is rather imminent and that it will not be started by Israel. My crystal ball informs me , as cloudy as it is I trust it :-),that some form of a development related to Iran will take place and that the Lebanese Pasdaran will feel obliged to demonstrate its supreme allegiance to Qom. That will then unleach an all out war on the whole of Lebanon and Syria. If this turns out to be true then Lebanon will wind up in paying a huge price for its inability to take a position based on its national interest.
    The state and a major force opposed to it cannot coexist forever. Ultimately this unholy alliance will have to end and it will not be because Hezbollah moderates its ideology. It cannot do so even if it wants to unless it is to forget about its religious roots. If it does then it is no longer a Hezbollah. Lebanon might be important to Hezbollah as a place of residence but it will always be sacrificed for Qom.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 17, 2010, 4:18 pm
  14. Ghassan,

    Unfortunately I can’t argue with your analysis.
    But one can hope that Hezbollah will act independently. It will save the region a lot of grief.

    Posted by AIG | March 17, 2010, 10:56 pm
  15. ghassan,
    As a general matter, when it comes to hizbullah, you seem to be in the realm of delusion similar to those zionist fanatics that constantly pollute this blog.

    But let me ask you one (leading) question. As you probably know, over the last several weeks, the zionists have crossed into Lebanese airspace, Lebanese waters, captured Lebanese farmers, and crossed into Lebanese land.

    Now, considering these well documented events, if Hizbullah responded by firing at the Israelis, and, say, destroying a tank or sinking an Israeli ship or killing one of the zionist kidnappers, and then Israel started to heavily bomb Lebanon in retaliation….. Would you consider that Hizbullah “started” such a resulting war?

    Posted by Joe M. | March 18, 2010, 2:45 am
  16. Joe M,

    It scarcely matters who starts a war. What matters is that Hizbulla, despite all the propaganda, is not capable of standing up to Israel’s army and air-force. It can certainly inflict casualties but it can prevent nothing. Thus, what you may view as a Hizbulla response to violations of airspace, etc.. ends up with the destruction of Lebanon and the death of countless Lebanese civilians. Any sober cost/benefit analysis would reveal that this is a losing enterprise… of course unless costs and benefits are calculated differently by Hizbulla :).

    In any case, Hizbulla would have knowingly signed the death warrant of its civilian compatriots and would have caused the destruction of the country.

    Posted by R | March 18, 2010, 4:50 am
  17. … of course unless costs and benefits are calculated differently by Hizbulla


    I agree with you as well as ghassan. Sorry about that. I know that agreeing with a Zionist and not adhering to the “resistance” dogma isn’t a pretty sight.

    For the leadership of Hezbollah and Hamas “benefits are calculated” by the number of “martyrs” they manage to send to Paradise as well as the number of dead Jews they can kill.

    All the other stuff, like the $billions in damage as well as the pain and suffering is not part of that calculation. Now that Israel’s enemies are in possession of many more accurate and long-range missiles, Israel cannot do anything less than make the cost of aggression so high that even the fanatics will have to think twice.

    Overflights in exchange for breaking UNSC 1701 sounds like a fair exchange.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 18, 2010, 7:41 am
  18. Joe,
    Have you stopped beating your wife? 🙂
    The answer to your question is not either a yes or a no, just like the above question. Lebanon , as a sovereign state, has the right to oppose and to stop any and all actions that impinge on its sovereignty. But does that give Hezbollah, a foreign financed, trained and armed militia to take action on its own and on behalf of the Lebanese people that have not empowered it to do so? The clear answer is no. You might disagree with the current official position of the Lebanese state but disagreeing with the authorities is one thing and acting as a vigilante is another. Nothing, absolutely nothing can justify vigilantism.
    An argument can be made that Hezbollah has already taken over the Lebanese state in a de facto way. Let us stop this charade and either have them take over officially ,de jure, by mounting an actual revolution so that they can be held responsible directly for all their missteps or let us restore the monopoly on violence to the state.

    Hezbollah has no right to maintain a militia and the Lebanese state has the right to respond to any and all acts against its sovereignty.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 18, 2010, 7:46 am
  19. It’s funny how no one ever goes around saying Bill Gates of English descent. No one goes around saying Warren Buffett of Scandinavian descent.

    Slim is MEXICAN. Is there so little for Lebanese to be proud of that they have to jump on his ancestry as a justification for their existence?

    The fawning over him is disgusting. No, not disgusting. Just sad.

    Posted by Cruella | March 18, 2010, 10:29 am
  20. for those who are in lebanon or close enough


    Posted by Alberto | March 18, 2010, 11:56 am
  21. Ghassan,
    let’s have a reasonable discussion here, it’s much better than you going on and on with your childish rhetoric.

    you said, “Nothing, absolutely nothing can justify vigilantism.” but, i hardly believe you believe this statement yourself. For example, if your hated hizbullah did take over the state, and then had an election after they took over that was ratified by 50.1% of the electorate. I am sure you would be all in favor of vigilantism against their administration.

    As far as I can tell, you like to act like you are principled, but in reality you are really a strong defender of confessionalism.

    Then, by your standards, Lebanon has no right to defend itself against any aggression, regardless of the popular and administrative legitimacy of those defending against Israel. If I extrapolate the view you expressed above, you are saying that no weak party has the right to defend itself unless they can guarantee they are powerful enough to fully protect the whole of their society from the wrath of the strong.

    Is that your view?

    Posted by Joe M. | March 18, 2010, 2:01 pm
  22. Joe, I don’t know whether I should respond to your last post? You have decided to have your cake and eat it to. Of course you are entitled to your point of view but do not think on my behalf. If I say that I am opposed to vigilantism then I am opposed to it whenever and whereevr it rears its ugly head. If I do not like Hezbollah when they take over legitimately then I have the right to oppose and fight their agenda through legitimate channels ONLY.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 18, 2010, 2:22 pm
  23. Ghassan
    how would you have dealt with hamas’ victory had you been in the PA’s shoes. Did they not have a clear majority in the elections. Were they not faced with the same fate you argue against.

    Posted by Edgard | March 18, 2010, 3:19 pm
  24. Ghassan,

    How do you respond to the fact that the system is biased against Hizbullah and the Lebanese Shia? This is clearly evidenced by the fact that Hizbullah’s coalition won a solid majority of the vote in the last election, but were not given a majority of the parliament because the system clearly fails to properly represent the Shia? Or that the state abjectly failed to protect the Shia from decades of zionist occupation, and never provided social services to the Shia?

    My point being that you speak of “legitimate” channels, but what provides that legitimacy? if Hizbullah wins a vote by 50.1% and then changes the laws to give themselves even more “legitimate” power and control over the state, when do you resort to “vigilantism”?

    Also, Edgard makes a good point. Does Hamas act legitimately when they oppose the coup of Fatah against the election results? what if they violently opposed Fatah’s coup?

    Posted by Joe M. | March 18, 2010, 5:21 pm
  25. Joe,

    I don’t want to give a long answer so here is my attempt at a short response.

    Lebanon has a right to defend itself against agression. That is clear. What I contest are 2 things.
    1) Hizbulla is not Lebanon (therefore it lacks the legitimacy to defend it – but I would rather not be dragged into this discussion).
    2) Even if I were to concede the right of HA to defend Lebanon, or more importantly, if HA claims that right for itself, then: it has the responsibility to ensure that its so-called defence does not lead to a worse outcome than the initial agression.
    Otherwise, whats the point?

    It goes back to a sober cost/benefit analysis of the outcome of any action (taken on behalf of a country) and to accountability.

    Posted by R | March 18, 2010, 6:30 pm
  26. Joe,
    It looks like there is a failure in communications between us 🙂 I keep telling you that vigilantism is always and forever wrong and not acceptable and then you ask me when would I accept it. I just do not know how to be more clear than this: There is never a room for vigilantism by anyone.
    Before we go anyfurther I feel that I should remind you of at least clarify my position vis a vis the March 14/majority. I have been one of their constant critic for years. I am not sure that I am in agreement with many, if any, of their policies or should I say lack of policies over the years. They have acted like the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” , they have been incompetent bumbling bureaucrats with no spine and no ability to rule. Yet that is what my fellow citizens electedand so they are legitimate but open to criticism.
    This idea of accepting the outcome of a game appears to be novel to you. Hezbollah were awarded a seat for every district that they have won. That is how the game is played and they have agreed to its rules. Winners and or losers are not determined by the overall votes won by a party but parliamentary seats are awarded to whoever wins a specific district. This point that you bring up is totally unacceptable. If one does not like the rules of the electoral system then one should try to change them but no one has the right to accept the rules only if they benefit his/her side and then oppose them when they do not. As for Hamas and Gaza, one of us is misinformed. I thought that Hamas took over Gaza by force and threw out Fatah .
    BTW, you are not serious when you ask what provides legitimacy in a democratic system? Are you? In a democracy there is only one form of legitimacy, votes at the ballot box.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 18, 2010, 11:50 pm
  27. ghassan,

    As for the palestine, you are clearly mistaken. Hamas conclusively won a majority in the palestinian authority parliament and were given the right to rule on that basis. As a result of international pressure, Fatah attempted to take power from Hamas, and Hamas defeated them in Gaza and retained their position as the legitimate government. Fatah was able to make a coup in the west bank with the help of israel and the usa. This is the clear, undebatable history.

    As for the other issue, you seem not to understand what i am saying. “Democracy” is a theory, an idea. In practice, elections do not make a “democracy”. Mubarak is routinely “elected” as president in Egypt, but no one would claim Egypt to be a democracy. They have a ballot box, but they have no legitimacy. “Democracy” is a continuum. But even democracy does not make something legitimate by definition. Slavery in the USA was part of the constitution, and was “democratically” supported for decades. It took vigilantism to overturn that injustice.

    So, calling something a “democracy” does not automatically provide it with legitimacy. And even if there were a “democracy” with full participation and highly-educated voters, that does not automatically provide legitimacy. For example, is it legitimate for israel to oppress the palestinians? the minority clearly support that policy…

    So that said, you may believe that Lebanon has enough “democracy” such that everything the government does, by definition, is legitimate, but i do not. I believe that some acts of outside groups, such as hizbullah can also be legitimate. Particularly when it comes to defending themselves. So, for example, if Hizbullah were to shoot an Israeli plane, and Israel were to launch a war, the question I would ask would not be whether Hizbullah had the right to start a war for the whole country, but whether the country had the right to abandon the Shia to such a degree that they had no alternative but to defend themselves through vigilantism.

    Also, I never claimed you supported M14. I am simply talking about your criticism of Hizbullah.

    So, please respond to the above. I am trying to see the critical point of difference between us. the point from which the rest of the differences grow…

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 12:47 am
  28. i meant to say that the majority supports the policy of oppressing the palestinians, not minority…

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 1:05 am
  29. Cruella: It seems to have something to do with size and power of a community/nation/sect/state, even gender or group age. The smaller the group, the bigger its own perception of weakness facing other groups with which it feels in competition, the deeper and more irrational the sentiment will be. When one is vindicating somebody else’s potency, prestige, etc. as one self’s merit, the identity “gene” is at work. It can be very good and necessary to help people holding together in difficult times. It is necessary for people to live together in peace, because it gives you a sense that your share important things with them and it promotes team work. It is also an important way of letting off steam using its mechanisms in activities that are in theory innocuous as sports, or singing contests. And it can also be easily turned to a murderer, as Amin Maalouf described it.
    You maybe don’t find often Englishmen boasting about sharing their origins with successful people, but I don’t think it is because they’re not as “stupidly” nationalistic as, i.e., the Irish. I think it is because Great Britain having been such a powerful entity not so long ago, they are usually satisfied with the use of non political identity “weapons”.

    I’m afraid that, socially, we haven’t evolve much from our initial ape settings…

    Posted by mj | March 19, 2010, 3:11 am
  30. Nice discussion guys.

    I’m reading in the background, trying to find time to put up a new post, perhaps later this afternoon.

    Thanks for the links to the Pew study and to Azmi Bishara’s post. The former is very surprising to me, and I’m inclined to be suspicious of the results on purely impressionistic grounds. The latter (Bishara’s article) is entirely persuasive. I think he describes the status quo very accurately.

    More later.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 19, 2010, 9:18 am
  31. R,
    sorry, i missed your later post.

    I take what you are saying seriously. but the next question i would ask you is who gets to judge whether “so-called defence does not lead to a worse outcome than the initial agression”?

    There will be times when Hizbullah has a different view of the costs and benefits than will Samir Geagea.

    I have great respect for the generally democratic nature of Hizbullah. I believe that they have been remarkably sensitive to the concerns of the rest of the lebanese. Particularly considering how the rest of the Lebanese have systematically left the Shia for dead and tried over and over again to behead Hizbullah. As a result, I give great deference to the decision making of Hizbullah.

    On the other hand, I do not give much deference to the likes of Geagea. He has never missed an opportunity to express racist, and uncompromising positions Shia power in Lebanon. So, we have to make decisions. when Hizbullah acts, do we trust their actions, or do we trust their critics? Hindsight is 20/20, so the critics have the ability to capitalize on flaws in hizbullah’s actions, but hizbullah is acting contemporaneously and actually has to do the cost/benefit analysis in real time…

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 12:45 pm
  32. Joe,

    Ideally, there are two important things to note here.

    1- In a democracy, the judges of a political party’s actions are the voter and the judicial system. But for this to work, a party needs to act via the state not despite the state’s institutions. In other words, whats the point of electing someone to office if some party chooses to wage war regardless of parliament?

    Which leads me to:

    2- For a state to be credible, it needs to maintain a monopoly of violence over its territories.

    On to other things: You find HA democratic? I would certainly love to hear your reasoning and your definition of democracy.
    Moreover, I would like to know how the Lebanese left the rest of the Shia for dead, any more than the “rest of the Lebanese” left the Christians or Druze or Sunnis (etc…) for dead?

    Posted by R | March 19, 2010, 1:40 pm
  33. R,
    I think hizbullah is generally democratic in the sense i spoke of above. I think they are largely a representation of the will and needs of the population they serve. I think, more than any other party in Lebanon (and more than the vast majority of parties in the world), they are organically of the people. I am highly skeptical of equating elections with democracy, but even by that standard, hizbullah is also one of the most responsive parties to electoral democracy in Lebanon. Unlike most other lebanese parties, they have a political program that takes community needs in consideration, they actually work to fulfill that program, they also are more responsive to the desires of the other political factions in Lebanon than any other party (i realize this is debatable).

    but i part company with what you said above. for example, it’s easy to call for respect of democratic institutions in the abstract, but lebanon’s institutions are hardly democratic. I may begin to agree with you if Shia were represented in the parliament proportional to their population, but that’s not at all true. So when you claim to be calling for democracy, you are actually calling for the Shia to accept subordination. that’s not democratic.

    as for leaving the shia for dead, this is so obvious that i don’t feel the need to explain any further. But i will say that the very fact of Hizbullah’s existence and desire for independence is a reflection of the fact that the state ignored their needs to a greater degree than any other population.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 3:13 pm
  34. Joe M,

    There is no debating that the lebanese system is flawed, not least in terms of representation. However, the Shia are not unique in being under-represented. For example, the Sunnis are equally under-represented. Seculars are practically unrepresented, etc… In any case, your point is not an argument for acting outside the state but for reforming the state, don’t you think?
    In addition, to claim that HA is a democratic political party is disingenuous in my opinion.

    To begin with, they are armed to the teeth and they don’t hesitate to use their weapons (outside of the state) regardless of the will of their compatriots – sometimes even in spite of it. Additionally, their social network, while it certainly fills a need in their community, also acts outside of the state. In fact, come to think of it, they are an armed entity that also operates an educational and healthcare system. For all practical purposes, they operate a state of their own. All they need to do is levy taxes…

    Once more, your arguments for HA are in essence arguments for reforming the state, and I agree with you that there is a strong need for that. However, I do not agree that relinquishing the role of the state to them is productive for Lebanon. Quite the opposite. But its not like they leave us a choice. Unfortunately, while you and I may argue on the blogosphere, in practice they get to do what they want on the ground because of their military might (compared to the state)…

    Posted by R | March 19, 2010, 3:39 pm
  35. Joe
    happy saint Joseph day!

    Posted by Edgard | March 19, 2010, 6:34 pm
  36. R,
    I wasn’t proposing a solution. I didn’t say whether I am in favor of Hizbullah acting totally independent of the state, or their integrating completely into the electoral political system.

    I am saying that I am very uncomfortable with those who argue that Hizbullah should respect “democracy” and thus subject themselves to the will of a corrupt, unrepresentitive state.

    I personally think that Hizbullah would voluntarily restricted their independence of action in proportion to the relative democracy of the state. Thus, if the state becomes more democratic (in a true sense, not just elections – though they would have a demographic advantage based on fair elections) then Hizbullah will have less reason/justification/desire to act outside the state.

    And I never said that I think Hizbullah is totally democratic. But we all know that it would be utter bullshit to think that Jumblatt and Geagea demanding that Hizbullah’s military communications network be dismantled was a democratic act. In the context of Lebanon, it is my view that Hizbullah is significantly more democratic than Hariri’s money, or Geagea’s fascist forces…. and so on…

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 6:38 pm
  37. Just to go one step further… I am in favor of reforming the state, particularly to it’s relationship with the Palestinian refugees. But it’s a process, not an act. You can’t snap your fingers and the state will become democratic. it also requires that citizens of lebanon adjust their relationship and conception of the state. And that will take a lot of time.

    In the mean time, as that process continues, as I said before, I am willing to give deference to the decisions of Hizbullah. Particularly as I think they are far more representative than the vast majority of other political organizations in Lebanon. Also, while they did use their weapons against other Lebanese when their communications network was threatened, and that is a big concern, it came at a time of extreme provocation against Hizbullah, and is the exception rather than the norm. The norm has been that hizbullah has participated in elections, has accepted biased security council resolutions that were negotiated by the other factions, and has responded to the needs of its community where the state systematically and deliberately ignored them…

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 6:46 pm
  38. Joe,

    I never mentioned anything about Jumblatt or Geagea or Hariri. Neither did I mention anything about Aoun or Franjieh or Wahhab or Arsalan.
    On this forum, it is not any of the above who are calling HA undemocratic. Rather it is the commentators on the blog. I don’t understand the need to keep trying to drag me into this comparative nonsense.

    Having said that, you brought up the dismantling of HA’s military communications network. I wonder what was worse, the cabinet (a legitimate branch of government) decreeing that the network should be dismantled, or the response: nothing short of a military take over of parts of Lebanon. What kind of democracy is that? It is as if the state tried a peaceful coup against HA which then cracked down hard on it.
    It seems to me that you question the very legitimacy of the Lebanese state but have only minor issues with HA, its impersonation of a de facto state with its monopoly of violence, control of war and peace, civic services, public construction, etc…
    That’s a lot of trust to place in those guys in the face of much evidence.

    It basically boils down to this. Do you accept the Lebanese state and work to improve it (and boy does it need work) by democratic means, education of the public, etc… or do you accept a de facto HA state operating in parallel and possibly eventually substituting the actual state?

    Posted by R | March 19, 2010, 6:53 pm
  39. I gotta like the circular logic here.

    So according to Joe, it is ok to act on one’s own whims, regardless of the rules, if one’s decided, in their own mind, that said rules are flawed.

    So, I guess, by that same logic, Joe would support the rights of child molesters to commit their heinous acts, cause, really, who cares that it’s against the law, as long as the molester feels self-righteous in committing the act.

    Or, to play with this idiotic and irrational logic, I guess today, it’s fine for HA to reject the state’s authority based on their feeling that the shia have been “deprived” in the past.
    So, who’s to say if, say, in 10 years, HA got their way, and sectarianism is abolished, and due to demographics being what they are, the country is “run by the shia”, would Joe, at that time, support the sunnis or the druze or the christians forming some kind of armed forces outside the state, with say, support from Israel (replace Iran, in the current scheme of things) and take it upon themselves to ignore the now shia-dominated state, and start wars on their own accords (or under Israeli directive) against Syria or Iran?

    I wonder if Joe would still be riding high on his high horse if that were to happen.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 19, 2010, 7:40 pm
  40. I never said you mentioned Jumblatt, Geagea or Hariri (you don’t seem to be reading what i say very carefully). But I will say that when you talk about the lebanese state, you are intermingling some weird ideological belief in the state’s inherent legitimacy and the flawed nature of the actual system and people who populate it.

    As far as I know, for the average Shia of Lebanon, yes, Hizbullah is rightly more legitimate then the state. And that is because Hizbullah has been far more effective at meeting their needs, and the state has been so useless. Im not opposed to recognizing a state, but I don’t automatically recognize a state as being legitimate just because it tries to claim it represents me. The state, especially such a pathetic and politicized state as in lebanon, has to prove it’s legitimacy to gain my allegiance.

    And the lebanese state suffers from a deficit of legitimacy. Hizbullah does not. Hizbullah wants to be a party of the Lebanese, but it knows it is a party of the Shia. The state, on the other hands, claims to be a party of all the people, but in reality it is no where near that. The state can prove its legitimacy with the Shia by meeting the needs of the Shia. Hizbullah won legitimacy over time through good works for the people, but the state has not.

    So, all Im saying is that the burden of proof is on the state, not on Hizbullah. Hizbullah doesn’t need the state, but the state needs Hizbullah. So, like I said before, I am for reform of the state. And that reform is how you can solve the problem that those like you have with Hizbullah. But it is the responsibility of the state to become more representative, not Hizbullah.

    That said, there is a significant minority of Lebanese would not accept a more democratic Lebanese state. And the hypocrisy of calling for the sovereignty of the state, though rejecting the democratization of the state is a very serious issue that needs to be reviewed. (and i am not claiming you are in that camp)

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 8:40 pm
  41. Bad Vilbel,

    Before I directly respond to your argument above, let me ask you:

    Do you believe all laws of all states should be respected, by definition, and the people of any state should simply accept the ground rules by the fact that they were born in some particular place?

    so, for example, the palestinians should respect the sovereignty of Israel, the egyptians should respect the legitimacy of mubarak, the burmese should accept the legitimacy of their military rulers? Or, on a less drastic scale, should any oppressed minority population respect the legitimacy of an oppressive majority?

    Posted by Joe M. | March 19, 2010, 8:50 pm
  42. Joe,

    I am not intermingling anything. I am saying that in order for Lebanon (or any other place for that matter) to not be a land of do as you please, it is necessary for there to be a state – with a monopoly on violence. There is in a sense a contract between the citizen and those she entrusts to manage some of her affairs.

    Additionally, in a democracy the state gets its legitimacy primarily from the vote of the people BUT it must also satisfy several other very important criteria including respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independece of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc…
    Now, if believing the above makes me ideologically intermingled, then I stand guilty :). But based on your posts, where does that leave you?

    You say you support improving Lebanon but justify such things as HA’s use of weapons because they were “provoked” and the situation was “exceptional”. You grant them automatic legitimacy and you claim that they are more representative than other parties and leaders. But representative of who? And how are they more representative than others? Couldn’t they have provided services to “their community” via the state. They have their share of MPs and allies and they were in quite a favorable position to do so if they pleased when the Syrians were in charge. Why didn’t they? Equally important, you are willing to defer to the judgement of HA and you are free to do that. But the fact of the matter is that HA coerces everyone to acquiesce to their wishes, so you doing it voluntarily is irrelevant. The test is when you disagree with them. Of course, you might then run the risk of provoking them and that may force them to act exceptionally :).

    Sorry for the long post.

    Posted by R | March 19, 2010, 9:53 pm
  43. R,
    It’s unfortunate that this discussion has to happen via text. i find that we are talking past each other. If we were in person, I think you would see that you agree with me more than you seem to think. But, please clarify for me:

    1) If hizbullah won the last lebanese elections, and ran the government as they desired, and if they ended up going to war with Israel, would that be legitimate in your opinion? If, as you say, you believe electoral politics provides a state with legitimacy, then I would expect your answer to be that it would be legitimate, and the proper response of the lebanese people would be to simply vote Hizbullah out of power next election…

    2) I really wish you would not conflate electoral politics with “democracy”. but, as you above noted, electoral politics are not enough to provide a state with legitimacy. do you see that when you say the state must also have “respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independece of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc…”, you are essentially agreeing with me when i say that Hizbullah should not necessarily respect the state? I mean, you picked your own criteria, which i don’t fully agree with, but you basically said that elections are not enough, which is what i have been saying about Hizbullah.

    I was going to ask you a couple more questions, but i have to go.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 20, 2010, 3:29 am
  44. Joe,

    I think the problem is not that we are talking past each other. I think I understand what you are saying 🙂 and I have a pretty strong feeling you understand what I am saying. The problem appears to be that we have different value systems and different bottom lines.

    To answer your points.
    1) No that does not make HA’s war legitimate unless (at least) the following conditions are met
    a) it integrates its militia with the army and relinquishes command. In other words, in my worldview, the army must obey the civilian branch of government regardless of who is in power (as long as it is democratic of course).
    b) the war is in self defense.

    2) I am not conflating democracy with elections. You are conflating necessary conditions with sufficient ones. So lets go over my point one more time. Respecting the results of elections and the will of the people is a necessary condition for democracy. Hezbulla acts regardless of the will of the Lebanese, (save perhaps what you call its community). That means it violates the necessary condition. That makes it undemocratic.

    Like I said, we seem to have different value systems and this discussion is already taking up too much of Qifa’s space, so maybe its best to leave it at that?

    Posted by R | March 20, 2010, 4:27 am
  45. why do you think i am sympathetic to seeing hizbullah’s power as legitimate? (regardless of it’s relations with the state)

    Posted by Joe M. | March 20, 2010, 1:27 pm
  46. Sorry for the late reply, Joe. But I’ll answer your question by quoting R on this:

    “(…) in order for Lebanon (or any other place for that matter) to not be a land of do as you please, it is necessary for there to be a state – with a monopoly on violence. There is in a sense a contract between the citizen and those she entrusts to manage some of her affairs.

    Additionally, in a democracy the state gets its legitimacy primarily from the vote of the people BUT it must also satisfy several other very important criteria including respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independece of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc…”

    That is R’s, and my, and pretty much every civilized person’s DEFINITION of democracy/state legitimacy.
    Now if you wanna go ahead and create your own dictionary and define your own meaning of words and concepts, contrary to what most people have agreed upon for centuries, then there’s not much we can debate. But the rest of us here tend to stick to globally accepted definitions.

    Certainly, no system (democracy or otherwise) is perfect. And even fully legitimate democracies (Mubarak does not qualify, btw, going by the above definition) are open to change based on legitimate means (as opposed to unilaterally deciding that you don’t recognize the system).

    I am pretty sure this is what R, Ghassan and others have been repeating over and over throughout the course of this discussion. But some people just can’t really be argued with. Specially those who make up their own definitions.

    Btw: You did not answer my hypothetical scenarios of whether you support the child molester doing as he please because he does not recognize the law’s legitimacy.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 22, 2010, 12:31 pm
  47. Bad Vilbel,
    I didn’t answer your hypothetical because it’s an idiotic question and has nothing to do with the situation at hand. we are not talking about a case where one person is acting outside of a clearly accepted norm when we are talking about Hizbullah. We are talking about the Hizbullah supporting MAJORITY who is being asked to prostrate itself to the will of the M14 MINORITY, after the MINORITY had completely ignored the rights and needs of the MAJORITY for decades, leaving the MAJORITY undereducated, without proper healthcare, without economic prospects, and without defense from foreign occupation…

    So the question is whether this MINORITY government has the legitimacy to demand that the MAJORITY do as the MINORITY demands. Now, had the MINORITY attempted to help the MAJORITY in their time of need, then I could understand the Minority expecting the MAJORITY to reciprocate. But to selfishly demand that the MAJORITY stop defending themselves when they are under direct attack is illegitimate and stupid. And you should not expect the MAJORITY to comply.

    (and, although it’s immaterial to my argument, I will add that I don’t care whether Hizbullah represents an absolute majority or not. It seems that they do, as they won the most votes in the last election. But even if you want to argue that they are just the plurality, not the majority, fine. they still represent the most dominant political trend in Lebanon, and they are the vast vast majority within their population. So, when you use your civilized bullshit to say “respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independece of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc…” what minority rights are you talking about? Because the Shia clearly believe they have a right to defend themselves as a community, even if the rest of the country wants to have tea with the occupiers.)

    Posted by Joe M. | March 22, 2010, 1:40 pm
  48. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway because it’s important. The Hizbullah supporting MAJORITY created a “state within a state” because the MINORITY were too selfish and stupid to ever see the MAJORITY as worthy of anything. And now they come and have the audacity to attack Hizbullah! If you feel threatened by Hizbullah, that is your own doing. Because they are there for their community, and that is their goal. That there are some cases where Hizbullah’s defense of its people will spill over to the rest of Lebanon is good, as far as im concerned. Because those Lebanese who have spent the last 50 years selfishly fighting for their own power and ignoring the Shia deserve to know what it feels like!

    You’re just lucky that Hizbullah is much more democratic than the other Lebanese communities, and is actually willing to engage in a process where they address the concerns of the Lebanese MINORITIES. If other lebanese communities were in the position of the Shia, i am sure they would not be so generous!

    Posted by Joe M. | March 22, 2010, 1:48 pm
  49. Can’t really argue with delusion. Sorry to have bothered you. Carry on.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 22, 2010, 4:05 pm
  50. Your problem is that you see yourself as “legitimate” and “civilized” while ignorantly viewing those with different sets of needs are less worthy. But Hizbullah has just as much right to maintain its power as the state does.

    That said, I am not against Hizbullah integrating with the state. But it would require that the state become more democratic. Not the result of petty zaim trying to gain a better position for their personal interests.

    If the state were democratic, it would work to fulfill the needs of the people, and Hizbullah’s operations would become obsolete. I recognize that they are in competition right now, so it is not as easy as all that. But considering that Hizbullah has vast legitimacy within a solid 40% or more of the population (and with their allies, won an outright majority of the votes in the last election), it strikes me as rather idiotic and self-serving and cynical for those like you or M14 or whoever to make any demands of Hizbullah. If you want to move forward, reform the state to be more democratic (since those like you claim the state is legitimate, and you have control of the state), and progress slowly in dealing with Hizbullah, and things will work out. But trying to make absolutist demands on Hizbullah will rightly provoke a negative response from them.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 22, 2010, 4:54 pm
  51. I don’t know how i can put it any simpler than this:

    No.HA does NOT have as much the right to maintain its power as the state does.

    If you can’t agree to that very basic premise. Then there is no point discussing anything.

    It does NOT matter how fair the system is or isn’t: The state is a representation of the people, through a previously agreed-upon mechanism (in any country).
    Is said mechanism perfect? no. In Lebanon it’s terribly flawed. But it’s still the mechanism we all agreed on back in the day.
    Do we wanna change it? Sure. Through non-violent means.

    HA, on the other hand, is not the result of a mechanism agreed upon by the people of Lebanon. It is an entity that was created, funded and put in place unilaterally.

    How you can compare the two in the same sentence and tell me they have the same rights is RIDICULOUS.

    By your logic: The Israeli funded LF of the 1980s had every right to protect their power too. Right?

    Let’s see how these 2 differ:

    – Foreign funded: HA yes. LF yes.
    – Representing only one segment of the Lebanese: HA yes. LF yes.
    – Running parallel to the state (and sometimes at odds with): HA yes. LF yes.
    – Not a product of a democratic mechanism that put them in place: HA yes. LF yes.
    – Claim to want to liberate and defend the 10452 km2. HA check. LF check.
    – Call themselves “resistance”. HA check. LF check.

    Ok. So I guess the 2 are exactly the same.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 22, 2010, 5:21 pm
  52. Joe,
    You do realize that your opinions are quite totalitarian right? Basically what you are saying is that HA has a right to exist as an armed entity willing to use its weapons internally because it gives itself said right and has the arms to back it up? You give it equal status with a state that – at least hypothetically- a vast majority of Lebanese agree on. You ask the state to reform itself before HA integrates itself into the system. I bet that your definition of reform is in effect integrating the state into HA. You do realize that your words draw from the language of totalitarian regimes and revolutions, right? It is certainly not the language of those who have their country’s best interest in mind.

    Having said that, we may not agree on the definitions of civilization, but let us at least agree on the rules of civilized debate. I never called any of your opinions “bullshit” despite the fact that they qualify. On the other hand, you have the audacity to call “respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc…” , “civilized bullshit”.
    I knew in my last comment that we had different value systems, but it appears now that I underestimated how different yours is from mine.

    Posted by R | March 22, 2010, 5:23 pm
  53. R,
    First, just to be clear, I am a secular leftist of Palestinian and Iraqi origin. You seem to be implying that I am religious, but that is simply not true. And I think all humans have a roughly similar value systems, even if they are expressed through religion or otherwise, and even when there are variations in their behavior that might imply different values…

    that said, my opinions are not totalitarian, they are more leaning on anarchist. but as i said several times, I am for the state integrating Hizbullah. I simply believe that it is the responsibility of the state to make room for Hizbullah, not the other way around. And, as i said above, the reason the state has the primary responsibility is because hizbullah is legitimately filling the needs of their community in ways that the state is not. If the state were making genuine efforts to defend against Israel or hep improve the social and economic needs of the Shia, or were actually representative, I would be much more willing to accept the state’s goal of integrating Hizbullah… But considering the issues i mentioned above (particularly in other posts), I see no generalized reason to believe that Hizbullah has a responsibility to the state.

    Also, my reference to “civilized bullshit” was a reference to the use of the term “civilized” not necessarily to the list of issues related. and it was also directed to Bad Vilbel, not you.

    Bad Vilbel,
    You are totally senseless. There is no inherent reason to grant a state sovereignty or legitimacy. That is my point. A state must earn its legitimacy. Particularly a state that is clearly illegitimate, like the Lebanese one. If the Lebanese Forces were a legitimate popular movement, like Hizbullah is, then I would agree that they deserve to be respected similarly as I believe Hizbullah must be respected. But the clear difference is that the Lebanese Forces or the SLA or whoever you like, collapsed when their outside support was pulled. While Hizbullah might receive some outside support, it is not the outside support that sustains Hizbullah. And that is what makes Hizbullah both a democratic expression of the people’s desires (because they have legitimate indigenous support).

    Let me put it this way. Earlier you said that the Egyptian government does not qualify as a democracy, and thus is not legitimate. Ok, we agree on that. But a more interesting question is who is more legitimate overall, the Akhwan in Egypt or the Mubarak regime? I would say the Akhwan. I am not saying that the Akhwan should rule egypt, but where they represent their population, they genuinely do represent them. while mubarak hardly represents anyone. Are mubarak’s decisions to oppress the Akhwan by the mere fact that Mubarak claims the legitimacy of the state? I don’t think so. similarly, what you said above is totally senseless.

    Lastly, there is a famous american legal scholar names Mark Tushnet, who made much the same point I am making now. He has a particularly interesting article about the american supreme court’s decision to give George Bush the presidency over Al Gore in 2000. He ends one of his articles by explaining why people believe in the law, and says something that will hopefully help you see what i am saying (though, obviously in a different context):

    “A final technique of renormalization is in some ways the most interesting.
    It involves the generalized invocation of rule-of-law norms, typically in the form
    of assertions that the Supreme Court’s decision, while perhaps incorrect,
    nonetheless deserves respect because the Court is our nation’s voice of the law.
    The qualification in the preceding sentence is important. A decision can be
    justified by the rule of law standing alone only if there are no other reasons
    justifying the decision. That is, rule-of-law ideas have force only when
    someone who disagrees with a decision is asked to accept it nonetheless. Not
    surprisingly, this creates something of a psychological difficulty, related to,
    but not quite the same as, the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. People find it
    hard to think that decisions with which they disagree are nevertheless justified.
    People also find it hard to give up on the ideal of the rule of law. The outcome
    is predictable. As time passes, people come to think that the decisions with which
    they initially disagreed were actually not wrong. I think we can expect to see,
    and I think reasonably soon, progressives asserting that, as a matter of fact,
    Bush v. Gore was correctly decided.”

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 12:59 am
  54. just to clarify, i meant to say:
    “Are mubarak’s decisions to oppress the Akhwan legitimate by the mere fact that Mubarak claims the legitimacy of the state?”

    and also:
    “And that is what makes Hizbullah both a democratic expression of the people’s desires (because they really represent a sizable indigenous population) and legitimate.”

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 1:05 am
  55. Just to be totally clear, the point i was making by providing the quote above is that you seem to be saying something like (in the context of tushnet), “Perhaps the Lebanese state is broken, but the Lebanese state is sovereign because it is the state, and thus Hizbullah should submit…” or, “the law is the law because it is the law”.

    and I am saying that I do not believe we should voluntarily submit to the “law” just by the fact that it is the law. That doesn’t mean we must all violate all laws, but that we must judge the legitimacy of the law on the basis of its legitimacy. And in the case of Lebanon and Hizbullah, the internal legitimacy of Hizbullah is far greater than the internal legitimacy of the state. The primary factor that could make the state more legitimate than Hizbullah is if the state actually was representative, and if it provided for people’s needs, and worked on the basis of justice. Hizbullah does that for the people it represents. The state doesn’t even provide justice, protection or representation to the people it claims to have power over. As a result, I do not accept the state’s claims that it has authority over Hizbullah. When the state is more just, more representative, and does more to protect the people than Hizbullah, I would be all for Hizbullah submitting to the state. But until that time, I believe the Shia should support and defend Hizbullah against the state or any other unrepresentative organization that attempts to force them to submit to outside power.

    my last point, as i have made many times, is that I would like the lebanese state to become more just, democratic and increase its ability to protect and provide for the people. But if the state wants legitimacy, it is the state’s responsibility to improve!

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 2:43 am
  56. Joe,

    It may be true that HA (along with AMAL by the way) is supported by a vast majority of the Shia, but Mustaqbal is supported by a vast majority of Sunnis and Jumblatt by a vast majority of the Druze. They all view their representatives as working for their community. From that point of view all have popular support and by your definition are “legitimate”. But your view is short-sighted. While each of the above “serves” their “community”, they have little “legitimacy” among other communities. In other words you would be hard pressed to find many Shia willing to trust their fate to Jumblatt but you would also be hard pressed to find any Druze or Sunni (or Christians for that matter) willing to entrust their fate to HA. That is precisely why the state is necessary. It organizes the relationships between the representatives of multiple groups and organizes the way by which said representatives are produced, etc… It also organizes the decision making process in the country.

    Now, this type of organizational relationship cannot continue successfully if one group holds a military balance of power over other groups, and is willing to use it. The relationship cannot continue successfully if that group is also willing to partake in actions that have consequences on other Lebanese without them having a say.
    That is, in effect, dictatorship.
    If we were to take this model to its extreme, Jumblatt could get external financial support to provide an educational system and a health care system as well as an armed militia for the Druze. So should Hariri for the Sunnis. After all, this can only make them more “legitimate”.
    In fact, why stop there, why not every few hundred people with a half baked idea? Then with a multitude of armed factions with foreign sponsors – that are allll legitimate (by your reasoning)- where do we go?

    It is far easier for each sect or sub-sect to go its own way than to build a citizenry that is responsible and cares about the collective good. That is precisely why the HA model is extremely dangerous. If it continues, and if HA uses its arms a few more times against other Lebanese, you can rest assured that the house of cards will come crashing down.

    Don’t you see any of that?

    Posted by R | March 23, 2010, 3:41 am
  57. R

    Very nicely put.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2010, 7:07 am
  58. Ok, I’ve stayed out of this so far but I can’t resist any longer….

    A state has a right to a monopoly on arms? No. A state has a DUTY and RESPONSIBILITY to provide a military defense for its people. If that state is officially at war, it is doubly duty bound to do so.

    If the state cannot do so, it is the absolute moral and legal right of any individual whose family and property is threatened by war to take up arms and defend themselves. It is only logical and natural that those individuals should band together to form a better defensive unit.

    So Hizballah doesn’t give itself the right to exist as an armed entity, the failure of the state to do its duty gives it that right.

    In fact you say yourself “There is in a sense a contract between the citizen and those she entrusts to manage some of her affairs”. You get that works both ways right? You get that that means my “entrusted” PM shouldn’t be embracing the woman that is supplying the bombs that are killing my friends and family, right?

    I dont speak for Joe but yes, I do grant them “automatic legitimacy” because they have proved in deed what no-one else has.

    But you talk as if you know Lebanon really well on one hand and then say things like “Couldn’t they have provided services to “their community” via the state”

    What state? You mean the one where money goes in one end and never reaches the people on the other? The state that has one of the highest debts per head in the world but cant provide basic services? The one that historically and traditionally provided its services to everyone but the Shia? That one?

    The fact of the matter is that we have no “real” state and while yes, lets get on with solving that, but next time you need medical or social help and are busy waiting for the “state” to help you, I will get it from those that can and will help (and who won’t ask me what my religion is first).

    You also seem to forget or ignore that unlike any Sunni, Druze or Christian social services, Hizballah’s came about as a result of the states wilfull neglect of the Shia and the South in general. While many non-Shia areas suffer extreme poverty because they have no “zaim”, it was traditionally and historically the Shia that were ignored by the state en-masse.

    Are you suggesting that the Shia should have stayed the pathetic huddles masses they were?

    “They have their share of MPs and allies and they were in quite a favorable position to do so if they pleased when the Syrians were in charge. Why didn’t they?”

    Because the Syrians were all about their cut and it was only those willing to provide that cut that the Syrians wanted to work with. If nothing else, you should know that Hizballah doesn’t do corruption.

    You say:
    “But the fact of the matter is that HA coerces everyone to acquiesce to their wishes, so you doing it voluntarily is irrelevant. The test is when you disagree with them.”

    Do you have any examples of this? I don’t suppose you mean the events of 08 as I am sure the difference between disagreeing and attacking is obvious to everyone.

    Saying that if said state wishes to take away the individuals ability to defend his people BEFORE providing a realistic alternative, then the state shouldn’t whine when it is treated as an “enemy”.

    Hizballah is the people of the South and it is the people of the South that bear the brunt of any Israeli hostility. So if you want that they should not have their arms, don’t sell them the “the Israelis just want peace” bullshit; Provide them with an alternative.

    And if the state can’t then the state and all those who have never exprienced Israels “peaceful” intentions should stop whinging and start asking why the state cannot defend its own people.

    Firstly, I would not be hard pressed to find Druze, Sunni and Christians who would entrust their fate to Hizballah as I know very many that both support and/or live in Hizballlahs own areas.

    Secondly, you ask what if Jumblatt and Hariri got foreign aid to pump into their own communities? Are you posing that as a hypothetical question? really?

    You want a citizenry that is responsible and cares about the collective good? Good because I’ve not seen any organisation or party that pushes this as much as Hizballah, in fact that is precisely the HA model. Hizballah wont and hasn’t used its arms against “other Lebanese”. It has used when there was a clear and present danger to its effectiveness as a defensive organistion. If they were as totalitarian as you imply, they could have gone a lot lot further than they did.

    I have said it before and I will say it again, if Hizballah ever were to threaten respect for freedom of (and from) religion and expression, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, minority rights, etc I will stand against them.

    But in your list of what a state should be, you seem to leave out defender of the people. And this is what it comes down to. And until you or anyone else can demonstrate to the people who will bear the brunt of any Israeli aggression, the people of South Lebanon, that you can do the job of defending their families, their land and their honor (and do not underestimate the importance of that last one) then when it comes to Hizballah’s arms, theirs is the only opinion that really mattters.

    Posted by mo | March 23, 2010, 9:47 am
  59. mo,
    There are things that simply don’t mix since they are the antithesis of each other. Hamlet has the right to question whether he wants to be or not be because he knows that he cannot be and not be at the same time.
    This analogy, if you will, is equally applicable to a condition similar to that of Lebanon and Hezbollahs armed wing. No one questions the right of Hezbollah to promote its philosophy, ideas and beliefs. To do so would be undemocratic. What I oppose vehemently is to give a militia to exist as a super entity within the state. No one has the right to do so.It simply is illegal and discriminatory of the rights of others to pretend that the militia is not in existence only becasue it is above the law and also stronger than the law.
    There is a way out. As you have already alluded to it, citizens have the right to revolt when their rights are being abused and they have the right to form a different kind ogf government. I have no problem with an outright take over of government and the Lebanese state by Hezbollahmilitia. If Hezbollah feels that they have enough support among the populace and that their grievances are substantial and major then let them take over by force if they have to. That would restore the integrity of the state. Once they take over then the internal contradictions will just disappear.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 23, 2010, 11:05 am
  60. As I said before, and I mean it this time, there is no sense in trying to debate with folks who not only have a different value system, but also cannot agree on the very definition of things.

    The circular logic and downright irrational statements make it near impossible to argue anything.

    I laid out a simple analogy between the LF of the 1980s and HA today. Point by point. Joe brushed over the whole thing and gave me some line about “but HA has the support of a community” (for the record, so did the LF in the 1980s. That doesn’t change the points that I made).

    I give up. You can have your fantasy world. I hope you enjoy it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 23, 2010, 12:33 pm
  61. R (and QN),
    I have basically said this above, but just to be clear, Jumblatt and Hariri are not democratic in the way Hizbullah is. If they were, I would completely agree with your point. But Hizbullah has true, grassroots support that is built from the ground up. QN knows my view, but i think it is because of this legitimate democracy that Hizbullah is probably the most successful political movement in the world. I wish Little Hariri/Mustaqbal and Jumblatt/Druze were democratic (that they reflected the people of the community) in the way Hizbullah is, but they are not. Little Hariri and Jumblatt are top down, they have been given their power from the outside. Hizbullah has outside support (which is fine), but it developed true and deep support that is totally independent and distinct from any outside support that exists. Hariri and Jumblatt are basically just ad campaigns backed by money or communal opportunism, Hizbullah is a true socio-political movement and I don’t think that can be denied. It’s the difference between political parties in the USA which don’t exist except to get votes and money every two years, and the popular support of an actually representative organization. That difference is very significant.

    That said, it would be in Lebanon’s best interest if Jumblatt and Mustaqbal were legitimate reflections of the people’s needs and desires. Hizbullah’s strength is its democratic and legitimate popularity. And that is why Hizbullah deserves to be respected and the state doesn’t. you said, “While each of the above “serves” their “community”, they have little “legitimacy” among other communities.” I agree with you in the abstract, and that is why I am in favor of Hizbullah integrating in the state in the end. I think it is in everyone’s best interests to ultimately cooperate as you can gain so much from dynamic relationships. But currently it is a question of legitimacy. And you can’t simply demand that the more legitimate and democratic organization integrate into a less democratic, less legitimate, less useful one, just by the fact that one calls itself the “state.”

    By doing so, you are essentially asking the more legitimate organization to become less legitimate, to give up some of it’s abilities and capabilities (and I am not talking about power, I agree that power should be sacrificed for unity, as long as it is done so equally by all parties, in a way that reflects the true social and political nature of society). And that is why I have been saying that the state needs to improve before it can expect Hizbullah to submit to its authority. If the state was able to provide the Shia with a solid defense from outside aggression, could provide them with education, health, and adequate power and representation, Hizbullah would be justified in granting the state authority.

    But, obviously, currently there is no doubt that asking Hizbullah to submit to the authority of the state today is wrong. In effect, it is asking the self-empowered to submit to an empty bureaucratic institution, and therefore transfer power from the historically marginalized to the historically powerful. It is an expression of a continued effort by the historically powerful to disempower the marginalized. Alternatively, Hizbullah should demand that it will not submit until the state can provide something to the Shia, something significant. And the state should respond by becoming more democratic, representative, and a more efficient and just distributer of social services. That is just obvious.

    Also, I will say that R said, “this type of organizational relationship cannot continue successfully if one group holds a military balance of power over other groups.” But that is a distortion of the reality. Hizbullah holds military superiority, but it does not do so “over” other groups. It does so to defend itself from aggression BECAUSE the state fails to defend them. Again, if you want to eliminate that problem, the state must become an adequate defender of the Shia. It’s as simple as that. Hizbullah has shown an amazing willing to accept the grievances of the other Lebanese (far more so than any other party). It doesn’t accept the demands of the other Lebanese where there are true vulnerabilities, and where the demand appears to be more cynical than legitimate.

    Im in general agreement with you. I made many of those same points above, I am just trying to keep things at a generally theoretical level. But thanks for the bailout. I think it is completely obvious that Hizbullah was born as a result of the failures of the state and as a result of a deliberate effort to disempower the Shia. The state simply can’t expect that those who’s needs are being fulfilled by Hizbullah will just accept selfish a selfish and cynical power-grab, now that the Shia have become self-empowered.

    If Hizbullah is a “super entity within the state,” it is because they have historically been a people without a state, and they decided collectively to provide for their own needs. Blame the rest of Lebanon for this, do not blame Hizbullah and the Shia. Hizbullah’s power now is not illegal (that’s for sure), and nor is it discriminatory. It’s not discriminatory because it was the result of self-empowerment. Martin Luther King Jr. was not discriminating when he desired his people to fight for their freedoms and equality. Similarly, Hizbullah is not discriminatory in its effort to gain and maintain power. They have done it in an effort of self-defense.

    It is really cynical and vial to attempt to speak out about discrimination now that you feel threatened by Hizbullah, rather than before, when the Shia were occupied, economically destroyed, and totally unrepresented in the halls of power.

    sorry for the continuing long posts.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 1:25 pm
  62. Ghassan,
    We have of course had this debate before. I think we know each others thoughts well.

    I believe that if one is threatened by another state, one has the right to demand protection from his own state. If the state cannot provide that protection, one has the right and the duty to defend oneself.

    You believe that is wrong under any circumstances.

    But as I said, it is those that will suffer the most whose opinions matter most to me. Everyone else is arguing through ideology, fear or hatred, all great reasons to debate but not life or death. For the people of South Lebanon, the debate is not about civic responsibility, democratic values or the such. Its about who stands in the way of the IDF the next time they come a’killing.

    Maybe its our definitions of “vigilantism” but my take is that its only a “super entity” if it is usurping the states role.

    You can only usurp the states role if the state is able and/or willing to assume that role. I will change and temper my support for the Resistance when the state is able to take on that mantle.

    To borrow your reference to Hamlet, the people of the South will no longer be the victims of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

    But more appropriately, I prefer Sun Tzu’s

    “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

    Posted by mo | March 23, 2010, 1:33 pm
  63. Again with the perversion of the english dictionary:

    “If Hizbullah is a “super entity within the state,” it is because they have historically been a people without a state, and they decided collectively to provide for their own needs.”

    Ok. So declare your own state in South Lebanon (just like the LF wanted to do in the 80s, another similarity) and have your own state and leave the rest of us alone.

    “Hizbullah’s power now is not illegal (that’s for sure),”

    Look up the word “illegal” in any dictionary. It comes from the word “law”. Like it or not, the LAW is what is written in the constitution and in the laws of the state or jurisdiction. Whether you think the law is fair or unfair is a different matter. But there is absolutely ZERO debate about whether HA is “legal” or not by LAW.

    “and nor is it discriminatory. It’s not discriminatory because it was the result of self-empowerment. Martin Luther King Jr. was not discriminating when he desired his people to fight for their freedoms and equality. Similarly, Hizbullah is not discriminatory in its effort to gain and maintain power. They have done it in an effort of self-defense.”

    Last I checked, MLK did not arm his own militia, run his own police and spy force, point weapons at Washington, or demand power at the point of a gun. Your comparison is laughable. It’s beyond laughable, it is SAD.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 23, 2010, 2:00 pm
  64. Mo and Joe,

    I have said my peace and I have made my points. I don’t think that much can be said that hasn’t been said before and I don’t think that we are bound to agree.

    I would like to thank you both for your medal worthy performance in mental gymnastics. What mental gymnastics ? posts 61 and 64. 10/10 :).

    Posted by R | March 23, 2010, 2:08 pm
  65. Bad Vilbel,
    Discussing with you is like discussing with a 2 year old. Are you Little Hariri?

    And, MLK did take power by force, you need to learn your history (just not with guns). I could give you 1000 examples like that of MLK. If you want another, let’s not forget that Mendela started an army within the ANC to fight apartheid. But Hizbullah is not demanding anything of the state, and Hizbullah is not directing its violence against the state, it is the state that is demanding of Hizbullah. And, I will add one more time, a state with no legitimacy.

    Further, how legal was the appointment of the current lebanese president? How representative is the lebanese parliament, where the majority gets less seats than the minority? What law prohibits Hizbullah from having weapons? They were allowed under Taif (if i remember correctly).

    I enjoyed the discussion. Unfortunately, you seem to lack a foundation to your assessments. The whole time i have been arguing that legitimacy is key. As far as I can tell, you simply think the state is legitimate by the fact that it is the state (though i suspect that you simply are trying to justify weakening Hizbullah. I really think it is ironic that so many people did care one bit about the fact that the Shia have always lived outside the state, and that the state was used to disempower the Shia, but then when the Shia finally have power, NOW the state is so important and its integrity must be respected). Hizbullah deserves the respect it developed, and deserves the legitimacy that it has. The state has not. nor has any other group in Lebanon.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 2:38 pm
  66. If you believe that the state should be sovereign and legitimate, why don’t you direct your energy to making the state more legitimate, representative, just, equitable and democratic (rather than attacking Hizbullah for protecting its people and providing for their needs). if you did that, we would have no differences.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 2:40 pm
  67. in post 68, i meant to say that it is ironic that so many people DIDN’T care one bit about the fact that the Shia have always lived outside the state.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 2:43 pm
  68. R,
    You made your points yes. Shame you couldn’t debate any of ours.

    Posted by mo | March 23, 2010, 3:06 pm
  69. I thought i listed facts and made actual historical comparisons and analogies.

    Instead of debating them, you chose to call me a 2-year old. The irony there is amusing.

    Good for you.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 23, 2010, 5:21 pm
  70. Joe,

    I think that the picture you are presenting of Lebanese history and the relations among different sects and the state is a little too simplistic.

    Is the current system unrepresentative? Absolutely. When it was established in the 40’s, it was much less so. And yet, the Shiites of Lebanon remained “disenfranchised”, not so much as a result of structural problems of misrepresentation in government, but because the economic power in the country was held primarily by Christians and Sunnis.

    It’s not quite right to say that “the state” has worked for Christians, Sunnis, and Druzes while ignoring the Shi`a. The state has not really worked for anyone over the past several decades (and arguably since the beginning of the republic) because of its fundamental weaknesses. Tribal, confessional, communal, sectarian, and party-based groupings have been more powerful than the central state authority, and if certain tribes, confessions, communities, sects, and party-based constituencies have been better off, it’s not because “the state” has looked kindly upon then, but because of the socio-economic balance in the country.

    What we are faced with today is the prospect of beginning to actually strengthen the central state authority at the expense of all these other sub-state authorities. The question is: how?

    You are confident that Hizbullah would happily “submit to the authority of the state” if the state could provide more services to its constituents. I’m not so sure about this.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2010, 5:30 pm
  71. QN,

    The system may have been more representative in 41 but representation does not equal power. Furthermore, in the day, the President and PM had so much power between them that parliamentary representation was practically meaningless.

    And I think it would be a disservice to your readers to not represent Lebanon’s confessional state in context of the preceding years (centuries) mostly characterized by the sustained and brutal suppression of the Shia by the Mamluks and the Ottomans (oh the irony of the fact that Keserwan used to be a Shia town!). In fact, as a great example of history repeating, when the Shia fought back and established semi-autonomous regions in the South, they were accused of, yup you guessed it, having a state within a state.

    So in 41, the Shia already occupied the lowest rungs of society; It was the Shia that did much of the agrarian jobs and it was the Shia that rushed to the slums of Beirut in the 50’s to do the menial industrial jobs.

    Therefore, their representation was as weak as they were as a sect and minority.

    And to say the lack of investment in Shia communities is not because “the state” has failed but because of the socio-economic balance in the country makes no sense. If the state cannot provide for a part of its people because of the system then until that system changes where does anyone get off telling those people they cannot provide for themselves?

    Nevertheless, one only needs to drive north of Beirut and compare the level of investment in infrastructure and compare that to a drive South, even today. The fact is that no matter what the reason, it is state money that has been invested or not invested.

    Posted by mo | March 23, 2010, 6:40 pm
  72. QN,
    I do agree I was painting a simplistic picture of that relationship. I was mostly trying to focus on different issues (and my posts were quite long already). but I appreciate the dialogue and I think that the general content of my post remains intact.

    Just to clarify, I never said that Hizbullah would happily submit to the authority of the state. I said that the method that should be used to get Hizbullah to integrate into the state is by making the state more democratic and just. And that over time things would work out. But an illegitimate state making wild demands on a legitimately popular and effective socio-political org like Hizbullah is just a non-starter.

    Last, I am not as familiar with Lebanon as I should be (especially considering that I have family members living there), but I will say that literally every Shia Lebanese I know has extremely deep respect for Hizbullah and claims that Hizbullah has vastly improved their lives in direct and material ways. I know it is only anecdotal, but it says a lot to me when i speak to someone and they begin crying at the thought of how much Hizbullah has helped their family come out of poverty and oppression. And that is my general experience (even outside my otherwise natural tendency to support Hizbullah because of their opposition to zionism) talking to lebanese Shia. I know of no other socio-political organization that can claim a similar level of success.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 23, 2010, 7:59 pm
  73. Joe M.
    This line of reasoning that you have been employing is so flawed that it does not warrant an answer. But you don’t seem to realize the fatal logical error and so I will point it out:-)
    If something is good for some then it does not mean that it is good for the whole. The only legitimate question is not whether a development benefits a certain group but should be whether that development is good for the commonwealth. And what is even worse is the argument that since my tribe has been mistreated this gives me the right to tresspass on every one elses rights. No my friend you cannot do that. You either accept to live within the laws of society and work towards change from within or you revolt against the current order but you cannot have it both ways. You want to be a rebel when it benefits you and yet a member of the greater society when it suits you. This duality is totally unacceptable or at least it should be. Let me repeat what I told you earlier and I believe you chose not to respond to it.
    No one has the right to object to the existence of Hezbollah as a political movement. The objection is directed against the military wing which which exists inspite of the state. Hezbollah has the right, if they feel that the current arrangement is not legitimate, to revolt and remove the state by force. That will at least remove this intolerable duality that is bound to explode the longer that we deny its existence.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 23, 2010, 10:28 pm
  74. ghassan,
    1) i never made the argument you attribute to me. please reread what i wrote to clarify. In fact, I argued the opposite, that it should only be a secondary consideration for Hizbullah how their military position affects the rest of Lebanon. But i have been arguing that it is in the best interests of all Lebanese that Hizbullah does eventually integrate with the government more fully (provided the government becomes more democratic and representative).

    2) In respect to your latter point, were you complaining when the state refused to defend the Shia from Israeli occupation, or refused to provide equal representation to the Shia, or equal resources? Why should the Shia submit to a state that has done nothing to defend or empower them in their time of need? To answer you directly, I am not arguing that Hizbullah has the right to oppress anyone because they were mistreated, but they have the right to self-empowerment because they have been left for dead.

    For the most part, Hizbullah has revolted and removed the state’s power over the Shia. I prefer integration and equality (between the state and Hizbullah) on the basis of deep democracy. But to have that, the state must show itself to have legitimacy. Im just saying that the state must deserve the right to rule, up until now, it has lost that right.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 24, 2010, 1:19 am
  75. “For the most part, Hizbullah has revolted and removed the state’s power over the Shia.”

    And we finally come to the meat of it. After much mental gymnastics.

    The quote above, from Joe, is one I agree with, and one that most of us here would agree with. The difference is that Joe believes the above-quoted outcome is acceptable as a Lebanese, whereas I (and others) believe it is not.

    In short, the above quote translates to secession of the HA-dominated parts of Lebanon into an HA/Shia state.

    Now, there are 2 ways an HA state can go:
    1) Physical secession of South and East Lebanon, leaving the rest of Lebanon to the remaining sects.
    2) Overtaking the whole of the territory of Lebanon.

    What Ghassan means when he says you can’t have it both ways is that if you choose option 2 (HA taking over all of Lebanon, in terms of control and state), then it means the Shia (for better or worse, we’re equating HA to the Shia) are now imposing their vision of a state on the Sunni, Druze and Christian. Which is exactly what Joe was complaining about the Sunnis and Christians doing to the Shia in the past. In other words, you’re no better, for someone who complained about inequality of how the Shia were treated.

    One would almost prefer seeing the Shia going at it on their own (option 1) and leaving the remaining sects to have their own country.

    I frankly don’t know which of these two scenarios is worse for Lebanon. But neither one is good. And why anyone would aspire to either of those is beyond me, mental gymnastics aside.

    I mean, after all this talk of “but we were oppressed!” and “but the state didn’t defend us!” in the end, what you (Joe) are preaching, once you boil it down, comes down to one of the 2 options I just stated: You either are working towards a Shia/HA state in parts of Lebanon. Or you’re working towards imposing an HA/Shia dominance over the other sects. Right? I know you don’t think of it that way. I get that. But that IS in reality, what your aims end up getting us.

    And i don’t see how you reconcile a Shia dominated and controlled state as ‘democratic’. And before you bring up your complaint about the current state not being democratic. I think we all agree it isn’t. But it sounds like the one you’re proposing isn’t either.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 24, 2010, 1:16 pm
  76. Bad Vilbel,
    Did you read any of the other posts I wrote? I say very clearly what i think should and can happen. and that it is the duty of the state to repair its historic failure to address the needs of this Shia. The state can not claim the sovereignty only to oppress. If it wants the loyalty of the Shia and wants to become legitimate to the Shia, it must PROVE its worth to them. The state is not legitimate, particularly in its relations to the Shia. The Shia have a right to be protected by Hizbullah because the state has failed them. If you want to fix that, the method is to improve the state, not to weaken Hizbullah. I said that 1000 times. nothing has changed in my view, regardless of whether you think you achieved a “gottcha”.

    If you agree that the Shia have overthrown the state, we most likely differ on why that happened. Because if you recognize the same reason I do, you would agree that the Shia have a right to maintain their own power. You simply can’t subject them to your demands when it is convenient for you and inconvenient for them. That was the whole reason Hizbullah developed in the first place.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 24, 2010, 2:30 pm
  77. Bad Vilbel,

    you said:
    “Or you’re working towards imposing an HA/Shia dominance over the other sects. Right?”

    Stuff like this is why I assume you must be either a moron or a child.

    (Im going to assume, for the sake of argument, that you are not a bigoted fanatic. even though that is an open question)

    Just think about what it means when someone says something like this. Say, put yourself in the position of a black South African hearing an Afrikaner saying something similar. When anyone in a dominant social position makes a remark about a historically oppressed people like that, it just reinforces the fact that the Shia are right to be skeptical that anything has changed. If your goal of incorporating Hizbullah into the government is just to emasculate the Shia for your own benefit, go to hell. This is essentially the mentality of zionist colonialists looking selfishly at themselves while ignoring the needs of those they oppress. and you wonder why hizbullah is skeptical of granting the government power over the Shia? it’s laughable.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 24, 2010, 4:25 pm
  78. Joe. I’m not interested in gotchas, despite the fact that you seem very disingenuous in your arguments. I mean no offense when I say that. But that is how you come across.

    You keep contradicting yourself. I am using your own quotes here to try and understand these apparent contradictions.

    For instance: You say it’s up to the state to fix itself and improve how it treats the Shia (or any disenfranchised group really). So far we agree.
    Then you also say that HA needs to go about it on their own, because the state has failed the Shia. Ok. Let’s assume that makes sense. For the sake of this argument.
    How do you figure the state could fix things (let’s assume it wants to) when HA unilaterally goes about things it’s own way? (your quote “the Shia have a right to maintain their own power” i am quoting you verbatim!) I am not really understand how you hope to achieve A and B here when A and B are clearly diametrically opposites.

    Another quote of yours that I agree completely with: “The state cannot claim sovereignty only to oppress”.
    We agree.
    Now, how do you reconcile that one with HA having the right to exercise their own power? Wouldn’t that, by its very definition, be oppressing to the other sects in Lebanon? Or would you have HA break up the country into a Shia state (where they can rule without being oppressors, since it’s their constituents) and a non-shia Lebanon?

    Do you see why I am having trouble following your logic? You say things that I agree with, then you tell me HA has the right to power, etc. Which seems like a complete contradiction to the first thing.

    I don’t get it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 24, 2010, 4:33 pm


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