Thus, they beat on the drums of war.
The current vertical division is balanced in terms of power, and, therefore, neither side can override the other—each rallying around their own ideological base, repeating stale rhetoric without addition or subtraction.
The power balance is not only attributable to their quantitative size—this has been amply proven by repeated popular demonstrations, which challenges any assumptions of circumstantial coincidence—but also proves that the Lebanese’s loyalties are distributed equally between the two major camps. No, it is also attributable to the weight of external alliances that each side maintains and to the legitimacy each says comes from this. Hence, on the one side there is the United States and Europe, on the other Iran and Syria, while the Arab bloc tries to maintain its middle ground and prevent any explosion. The potential to cause harm that each of these players possess should not be underestimated. And this potential, which has intensified in Lebanon, is also expanding to the wider region. It constitutes one of the major engines of the current international conflict.
There is also a level of balance regarding the moral justifications of each party. In exchange for calling for retribution for the spilled blood of President Hariri and all the other assassinated people—which is no doubt a legitimate call—the blood of the resistance is also boiling after it successfully confronted the Israeli occupation, overthrowing it in 2000 and finally confronting it in the most recent Israeli aggression, for which it paid the price for its steadfastness.
In contrast to the questions of international legitimacy that surrounded the Lebanese situation in terms of various UN resolutions, the most famous being 1559 and 1701—resulting in a decision to create an international court—the bitter regional experience with these international resolutions is clear, which is that they are discriminatory in nature and are either applied or not according to the interests of the dominating power rather than towards maintaining the status of the UN. The most jarring examples of the impotence of international resolutions are those on Palestine. Further, there is the incompetence of the international community and the outright lies regarding Iraq. These tragic examples provide complete credibility to those who doubt the importance of respecting international resolutions or for those who intend to evade them.
There are a variety of forms of legitimacy around the world, some legal and others social. However, along with these, in Lebanon there is another component that confers exclusive legitimacy and leads to the rhythmic beat of the country’s political structure. And, even though this has been a source of admiration to some (who consider it a Lebanese stroke of genius that produced its structure, laws and mechanisms), it is also a point of contention to others of this politically sectarian system, and through crises of varying intensities, this periodically endangers the existence of Lebanon. In terms of Lebanese legitimacy, based on the continuous search for a point of conciliation, we can say that all parties in the current Lebanese division are actually involved in the crises and not striving for conciliation. They are joined by those Arab or international leaders who speak lightly about the “negotiation train reaching a dead end.” Does this mean the only option in Lebanon is to allow the violent civil conflict to explode, allowing this conflict to be defined by force, and to bypass all the various and balanced legitimacies?
This is the current state. There are three issues that impose themselves: the first is related to the boundaries of power. If the mutual show of power did not succeed, then neither will violent force solve the problem. There is no room in Lebanon for a victory through violence. This has been proven throughout its history, including the most recent horrifying episodes still fresh in our minds, particularly most recent civil war. And neither internal violence nor outside intervention will bring about victory. The latter will actually create more complications that cannot be controlled.
More precisely, what is the value of approving the convening of the international court under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, except to obstruct the court itself or to grant the defendants an excuse to be less embarrassed in rejecting it? Or it is a resort to blackmail vis-à-vis the threat of international intervention, considering this as a way to scare the other side, which it assumes would, “accept the heat instead of death.” This logic is extremely lacking.
Furthermore, if the memo sent by 70 parliamentarians to the UN and all of the positions that accompanied this action were aimed to intimidate, by way of Chapter VII, then this is a failed tactic. This is because the possible outcomes of this tactic are restricted. There is nothing to indicate that there are components capable of intimidating this or that party or to the possibility that the crisis could be solved through the retreat of one party through intimidation. However, using intimidation to grant the UN Security Council a justification to take the decision to hold the court according to Chapter VII only further complicates the crisis and adds increasing tension. The same applies to the current visit of international envoys to Lebanon and the region and the statements issued here and there, which immediately fall in line with the present conflict.
The second issue is related to possible ways out, the first being the actual desire for this, which until today is in itself unclear. How can we fathom a way out or possible settlements to a situation this tense and complex if we have not started to work on the existence of a bloc, in part formed by people who belong to the authority, whether they are from the opposition or the ruling party. The others would be those with varying affiliations and positions, the elite, the intellectuals and ordinary people who do not want war and do not accept the destruction it entails. They would all be seeking to cause a sort of shake up in this stagnant and barren division.
The need to develop such a position starts from an extremely ambition point, which rejects the political sectarian system and proposes alternatives that could be implemented; that is, they are realistic and not revolutionarily, rhetorical or theoretical. It ends at a point that rejects the logic of violent confrontation as a means of solving disputes. There are voices, but they have not yet turned into a power with the ability to polarize as opposed to simply paying lip service. There are approaches close to this position. However, the situation is bleak to the point that the slow and minimalist rhythm dominating it cannot endure. This is at the Lebanese level. As for the Arab responsibility in this regard, it is of another diplomatic nature and is also pressing.
Third, and finally, we should inquire about what is being planned for Lebanon and the region as a whole in terms of the multi-faceted Israeli and American aggressions, which seem to all be helping to maintain this state of crisis—not only in Lebanon but in the entire region. The worst possible solutions to the region’s problems include: pushing towards more breakdown; reconsidering the arrangements resulting from the Sykes-Picot treaty, which organized the situations in the area—that is, a return to the theory of “creative chaos” but in different frameworks.
Finally, there are the possibilities that we should not disregard with the excuse of being sidetracked by certain statements from local politicians. Nor should it be assumed these possibilities are non-existent or that they are in line with local aspirations. What does the United States want from the region? And what does Israel want from it?
This article was originally published in Arabic in al-Hayat, and translated into English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) by request of the author.