A friend of mine, J of Chalcedon, left a great comment a couple days ago in the midst of a discussion about Lebanese electoral politics. I reproduce it below:
“Greetings and salutations. I don’t comment here much anymore, largely because work and the general regional upheaval occupy my attention. I do check out the conversation from time to time, and am struck by the following: why isn’t a forum devoted to Lebanese politics talking about whether a mind-bending general moment affects the beloved kingdom?
“Big chunks of the U.S.-brokered regional security apparatus are collapsing like papier-mache castles; people long dismissed as irrelevant to the fates of their respective polities are forcing the question of their existence; and the idea of an Arab Middle East suddenly matters in a way it hasn’t for decades. And the local conversation basically amounts to who will be the second deputy dogcatcher in the Upper Metn. I get that all politics is local, but Jesus, who cares?
“If people think that Lebanon is so singular that none of what is happening elsewhere matters, then I’d love to have that view explained. And if the general view is that dominant politics can’t be pierced by grand tumult in the neighborhood, then great; let’s hear that explained too. But I look at what conversation takes place here and wonder whether there’s a news blackout that strikes this forum in particular. If nothing else, don’t you want ask why Lebanon can’t/won’t/mustn’t be a candidate for volcanic political change?
“Pardon for the interruption. I too care about the all-important appointment of the next Lebanese minister in charge of administrative reform. Some s*** matters, after all.”
To reiterate, here’s your question for today’s discussion: “Why can’t/won’t/mustn’t Lebanon be a candidate for volcanic political change?”
Here’s a very quick stab, from my perspective. At the end of the day, Lebanon is relatively inoculated from everything going on in the region precisely because of the lack of any credible center to rebel against. Who could possibly be the target of a nationwide revolt? Every political leader with enough clout to matter has his base, and the last time Lebanon successfully “revolted,” it was only because there was a (foreign) regime to revolt against.
This is not to say that the country will not be affected by the general upheaval. Obviously, in the long run, the new security architecture will have an impact. But trying to predict what that might be is pointless, given that no one even knows who is going to take the place of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and their comrades.
For more on Lebanon’s resistance to revolution, have a look at a couple of good recent pieces in the press: Maya Mikdashi at Jadaliyya, and Fida’ `Itani at al-Akhbar. See also Ghassan Karam at his blog Rational Republic.
And finally, a note to newspaper and magazine editors everywhere: it seems likely that you’ll be running stories on Arab protest movements for at least the next several weeks, if not longer. Would it be too much to ask to dust off the old thesaurus and start coming up with a few different metaphors for what’s going on? You know what I’m talking about: …And now to Lebanon, where the winds of change sweeping the region have failed to rustle any leaves in the land of the cedars, while the bedrock of Lebanese sectarianism remains firm even as the sands of Arab authoritarianism shift beneath the feet of their subjects…
Winds of change? Shifting sands? Please. You’re in the word business; why not try to use some new ones? If you’d like, I could help.