If you’re a bit familiar with this blog, you must have noticed that I rarely talk about Syria, and when I do, it’s usually in the context of Lebanese politics.
But Lebanese politics disappeared. For the past two weeks, it has been all about Syria. About the likely American strike on Syria. About the Chemical Weapons in Syria. About the revolution in Syria. About the civil war in Syria. About the Syrian army. About the Free Syrian army. About arming the opposition. About helping out the regime.
In a country that has no budget since 2005, no government since March, no elections since 2009, no agreed-upon electoral law, extended mandates for everything ranging from a parliament to a commander of the army, and an outgoing president as a cherry on the top, you would think that the normal priority, or norm, would be taking care of any of the previously mentioned problems. But the very fact that no one is doing anything but wait for things in Syria to get clearer really sums it up. (You might want to check this post)
When the Syrian army left the country in 2005, it was thought that the controversial hegemony over Lebanese politics was forever gone. Who knew that 8 years later, a civil war in Syria will bring it back, yet this time with no controversy? There was always a Pro-Syrian coalition in Lebanon, at least to the extent that it was more pro-Syrian than the others. But as Syria turns into Syrias, pro-Syria in Lebanon becomes pro-Syrias, and Lebanon – at whole, probably for the first time since the 19th century – becomes no more than pro-Syria, or in other words, an affiliated country. With no side winning the civil war, the allegiances will get more and more dangerous until a civil war might find its way to Lebanon. By then it would be too late to separate Syrian and Lebanese affairs.
The Helleu Equivalency
Charles de Gaulle once said that by arresting all Lebanese Zuamas in Lebanon, Jean Helleu indirectly achieved in 48 hours what the French were meaning to do for 25 years: unify the Muslims and Christians (via their hate towards colonialism). The Syrian civil war is achieving what the Syrian leaders could not do for 70 years: Absorb Lebanese politics into Syrian politics. The longer the Syrian civil war lasts, the more Lebanese parties will get involved in it, and the more the decaying Lebanese system will self-destruct itself and find it harder to host the political turmoil.
A New National Holiday
When a Lebanese President makes a speech for the first time in the occasion of Lebanon’s forgotten 93rd anniversary of the creation of the state of Greater Lebanon, you know things are going very (very) bad. Lebanon already has another national holiday, the independence day from France. But the symbolism of the 22nd of November is different from the First of September. The 22nd of November is the day Christians and Muslims of the country united for the first time against a foreign power and set the basis of what would be the political rules for the next 30 and arguably 70 years. The Greater Lebanon context however is different. Until the 1940s, the Muslim population did not agree to the concept of an independent Lebanon from Syria (and a greater Arab state). The boundaries of such a state were considered to be controversial and artificial in 1920, and created problems among the Lebanese Christians and Muslims till 1937, when the Muslim boycott started to fade away with the nomination of Khaireddin Al-Ahdab as the first Sunni Prime Minister. To remember such a day would be to remember what would be the beginning of 20 years of occupation, colonialism, boycott and political confusion among the Lebanese. So why exactly did the president make a speech two weeks earlier on the occasion of that event?
Lebanon’s boundaries are Greater Lebanon’s boundaries. Whether the day symbolizes Lebanese unity or not, it is the day Lebanon became the separate, bigger entity that exists today. An entity distinct from Syria, where its politics would be distinct from the Syrian politics. The National Holiday that is independence day is not important in these times as Lebanon is not facing a Muslim-Christian strife. Lebanon is facing something far more dangerous than that, and it is the slow but steady absorption into Syrian affairs due to the M14 alliance with the Syrian opposition and the M8 alliance with the Syrian regime. Remembering this day would be a reminder from the president to all the politicians that Lebanon is not in Syria.
When the formation of a new government depends on an American-Russian deal about Chemical Weapons in Syria, you know something is just not right.