Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Big Picture That I Missed!

As I write this entry, I am filled with anger and pain, but I know we should not stop writing...

In response to Tony and Mustapha, who posed some legitimate questions yesterday on the Opposition's stances towards Hizbullah and Amal, and particularly the issue that Michael Young has posed on a probable deal struck between Jumblatt and Berri, I say this:

Yesterday evening I watched Faris Khashan's interview with Jumblatt. In the back of my head I was praying Faris would ask the questions that have occupied our minds for a while and luckily enough, he did.

He asked Jumblatt: What do you say to some sources who are supposing that your alliance with Hizbullah and Amal would guarantee a return of Berri to head the Parliament? Jumblatt said that according to the process that has been always followed, the Shia political community usually nominates several figures and then the Parliament choses. (Just like the Maronites field names for the Presidency and the Parliament choses, and the same goes for the Sunni community when chosing a Prime Minister--my explanation).

So what do you say about this answer? Jumblatt is guaranteeing nothing.

Jumblatt is indeed a rarity in the Lebanese political leadership; who is able to knit an intricate regional and international geostrategic web of projections and analysis in one breath? He can. Yesterday he answered to the rationale behind allying with Hizbullah. He explained that after France's referendum that shook the prospects of a strong EU and Schroeder's shaken prospects as a Prime Minister, Europe as a contender to America's hegemony is seeming to falter. His fear is that some members of the political scene in the U.S. might be entertaining ideas of returning to the old way of doing business in Lebanon: namely resuscitating the Syrian presence in the country, now that any positive prospects after the Iraqi elections have failed and the U.S. is stuck in a quagmire of blood there; it would just be attractive to return to the status quo. That is why more than any time before, he explained that there is a need for the Lebanese to work together to come up with viable solutions to our internal issues before other countries step in to dictate to us the way forward. (And on that issue I say that there were some reports claiming that Saudi Arabia is pushing for regime change in Syria and the U.S. is being cautious to push for that yet.) He even extended an invitation to Aoun in the hope that they could work alongside one another for a better Lebanon after the elections.

As for Lebanon-Profile's question once that Hizbullah's disarmament issue is not an internal one but rather a regional and an international one, Jumblatt explained that without reaching a compromise and a settlement on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Hizbullah follower (and even him, he said) cannot be convinced that he should put down arms, because at the heart of resistance lies the issue of Jerusalem.

Michael Young (and Tony) assume Jumblatt as a political player operates from the stand of being threatened and weak. However, he does not appear to be as such; he confessed that he doesn't like to play the "we-are-a-minority" card and if he was to do so, the current political landscape would have by far looked different.

And to the question of why he changes his mind all the time, something that many criticize him about (and I always question that myself), he answered that he reacts to events and trends occurring around us, that go beyond just Lebanon, and tries to incorporate them into his political analysis and decisions.

I understand him. He is just like one of us eager to read into everything that happens around us, loves to look at the big picture, and tries to make sense of it. However, he is always judged from the standpoint of a Druze leader/warlord who plans his political moves based on parochial and domestic calculations. Even I confess that at times I seize to see the big picture; Lebanese politics has the tendency to consume the mind and to capture the heart and on a daily basis!

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."


ThinkingMan said...

I never thought that Jumblatt played the "minority" card, but rather he does a pretty good job (generally) at staying above that.

However, I don't think that always "reacting to events" is the way to go, because then we become the subject of these events which shape us, instead of allowing our own destiny to shape the events.
Meaning: I would rather have a strong Lebanon that is pro-active than reactive; i.e. if we stick to our own vision which is to become a stronger nation, the influence of external events will have a much lesser effect on us, because we will be well entranched into our own path, instead of dancing to the beat of what happens around us.
That's where Jumblatt (and most others) lack in their "leadership skills".

Doha said...

I agree with you thinkingman, but what Jumblatt was trying to say was that we need to work together, all the forces in the country, to be proactive and come up with solutions from within, before others come to dicatate their solutions on us and then we end up being reactive. And as you said, that's what we should be doing and I believe that we have a historical chance to assume that proactive role and we shouldn't let it slip out of our hands.

Charles Malik said...

By simply reacting to events, Jumblatt proves that he has few long term interests besides maintaining his own power.

Samir Qassir was the opposite. He reacted to events, but is similar ways. He had a specific agenda for Lebanon: ending sectarian tensions, Arabs getting over their inferiority complex about development, rights for Palestinians, an end to Syrian hegemony.

Jumblatt jumped back and forth on Syria, not because he was reacting to events for the good of all of us, but for the good of himself.

The thing I can never forget is the 2002 by-election in Metn. Jumblatt went from being anti-Syria to being a close ally of Lahoud, Michel Murr, and Syria. Did he do this because the regional and international sphere changed? No. He did it because Syria tightened the screws.

What did Samir do when his passport was revoked and he was constantly tailed? He shouted louder.

Doha said...


Afterall, Jumblatt did say that one of his mentors when he first assumed his father's helm was Hafez Assad, which means that of course his calculations are primarily to maintain his power, a realpolitik (almost machiavellian) tactic.

And I am in no way equating Samir Qassir to Jumblatt or anyone else. Qassir is in position of no comparison; he is someone who pushes me to shout even louder the demands he for so long called for.

hummbumm said...

Jumblatt is fitting arguments to do what he was planning on doing, which is protect his turf as best as possible. the rationale of the referendums in Europe is laughable. EU integration or not will have no impact on lebanon's affairs for a long time. And now apparently we have to wait for Jerusalem to be resolved! And that is total crap that the US would entertain having Syrian domination return, it is so against their interests. So either he is delusional, or once again, fitting people's fears and concerns to his benefit. the problem with him is you never know what he really believes, but his actions are focused on one thing alone, to keep total supremacy over the druze community and to maximize his influence in lebanon, anything else is secondary. He is smart and brave so it works sometimes, but god we would all have been so much better off if he was from the big three sects in lebanon, he could then have been consistent, knowing he would be a factor no matter what.

Raja said...

I don't think that Jumblatt's hunch about a new US-Syria agreement is too far off from reality. Before Jumblatt got on the talk show, I remember reading somewhere (unfortunately, I don't remember where) that whereas the Saudis desperately want to get rid of the Syrian regime, the US is vetoing.

I am inclined to believe that the current administration is seriously reconsidering "constructive instability" as a viable policy option in the Middle East - seeing what has become of Iraq. I am afraid that the "realists" in the State Department who have consistently advocated for stability in the region, no matter what the expense, have regained their status in foreign policy circles.

I remember watching some of the talk shows that were aired during the last presidential election campaign. Some of the more prominent republicans were talking of a "civil war" within the Republican Party. They specifically highlighted foreign policy, and claimed that the party had traditionally been the more "realist" of the two, and that they wanted it return that way.

In this second administration, Wolfowitz and Condi have been given new posts. Both of these positions, although prominent, imply less direct access to the President. I've interpreted this development to mean that the "neo-cons" have lost a considerable portion of their influence.

Could this imply a return to the status quo ante for dealing with the region in general, and more specifically, Lebanon? Frankly, I think that's impossible, considering how far things have moved... However, I wouldn't find it impossible to believe that the current US foreign policy team might find it convenient to deal with the current regime in Syria as a price for stability.

Yazan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yazan said...

I donno much about Lebanese internal affairs, but I know one thing bout Mr. Qassir..
he's the one person inside the lebanese opposition who was bold enough to demand a Democratic Syria as a guarantee for a democratic, united, sovereign Lebanon!!!

Not even general Aoun (The biggest enemy of the Syrian regime) was into such statement...

I'm looking from a far here, and I know it's non of my buisness, but I don't see how individuals who fought a fierce civil war based on sects and ethnicities can build a MODERN democracy in Lebanon... likewise I don't see how individuals who repressed Syrians (and Others...) for the last 40 years can flip-flop into democratic, reformers... it's not possible!!!! And.... it's not funny... cuz look at the news... that's what they're all doing...!!!!

Doha said...

Thank you Raja for your analysis. This is exactly what I was talking about. Jumblatt is not that delusional hummbumm.

Of how much the U.S. is advocating for democracy in the Middle East, it is not ready yet to face the big threat which is namely Islamic fundamentalist movmements that are also calling for democracy and fair representation in their political systems, just take a look at Syria and Egypt. Lebanon is indeed an interesting case because in the eyes of US foreign policy makers and strategists we are the only ones in the region who uphold moderate Sunnism; they actually like the fact that the Jama'a Al-Islamiyya has boycotted the elections (not that they ever were that influential on the Lebanese scene, but that's the way the view things from here).

Egypt was an amazing example of how the U.S. is willing to accept "cosmetic" changes made to the Egyptian electoral law, despite all of us knowing that that's not the change that many aspire for in the country. When Laura Bush visited Egypt, she angered many who questioned what sort of democracy the Americans are calling for as she extolled the reforms that Mubarak has put was funny that many Egyptians wanted more, so much more...

And as for Syria, perhaps the same would go...there is a true fear of the Muslim Brotherhood, even when they're calling for opening the political system and want to play a role as they are representative of a large portion of the Syrian population.

So at the end of the day, we really do need to take things in our own hands. We shouldn't trust the West so much; their interests shift, ours will always be focused on beloved Lebanon.

hummbumm said...

Please Raja, I remember a few months ago, Jumblatt wanting to decouple lebanon from the regional issues, and now the "resistance" keeps its arms till Jerusalem is resolved? Plus even if he was concerned about US rapprochement with Syria, alliance with Hizbullah is going to assure Lebanese independence from that? It will only accelerate it. Hafez Assad was a mentor? I know for a fact that He holds him responsible for the death of his father, so this is all gooblygoo to justify his alliance with Hizbullah to maintain his relevance. the reality is if the US takes its foot off the gas, then we are all hosed, and Jumblatt will be visiting Damascus in no time to bury the hatchet.

hummbumm said...

PS I would love it if we did take things in our own hands, but none of our leadership is capable, Jumblatt blows with the wind, as do the others. I am not for trusting the west, but I do not trust the political class in lebanon either. Maintaining Hizbullah's arms is camel's nose under the tent for Syria to get all the way back in. We shall see, let us hope I am wrong.

Doha said...

I don't trust much in the political leadership either, hummbumm. Again, I was saying that Jumblatt's strategic analysis is not totally off course, it was worth noting, and his words on the importance to take things in our own hands was justified. And we are truely in need of new faces...I look forward in earnest to the 2009 elections...

And I would like to note that when I write about Jumblatt or any other politician, I am in no way branding them as "good" or "bad"; it's a matter of whether what they said or did was interesting, provocative, worth writing about for debate, etc... Just to be clear.

hummbumm said...

of course, you are providing a great service by aggregating information. thanks

Raja said...


Don't put me in a position of defending jumblatt. I'm not! In your previous comment, you ridiculed the notion of an American-Syrian "agreement." I responded by making an argument that such a notion was not so far-fetched.

As for Jumblatt's statements concerning Hizballah and Jerusalem, I believe he's saying what we all know: no one can disarm Hizballah except Hizballah. For the moment at least, any such attempt would lead us into all-out civil war. Is this what I want? No! But, I think we all have to face hard and cold reality. Iran is too powerful of a regional player to just allow Hizballah to go down the drain. It is in a stiff and bitter competition with Saudi Arabia for regional dominance. Can we just ignore that? Even if we could, it would be at our own peril.

On its side, Lebanon is too weak and divided to articulate (never mind promote) its own “national interests.” The politicians are too busy trying to make sure the country can stand on its own two feet first. Again, do I like this? No! Do I think the current leadership are doing a good job for the "cause" of Lebanon (even at their own expense)? No! They are all selfish and power-hungry. But, as far as I can tell, most politicians would (for selfish reasons, mind you) rather rule an independent country, than one that is subservient to its neighbor.

programmer craig said...

Interesting discussion you guys have going here! I can't really comment about Lebanon's politics, because the politics in Lebanon confuse me now as much as they ever did :)

About neocons and the Bush Administration... a Neocon is now the Secretary of State, Amereica's top diplomat... how can that be seen as a set-back for the Neocons in the Republican party? I'm not a neocon, by the way, I'm a civil libertarian Republican - I'd generally be opposed to what Neocons want to do, but I believe they have the correct foreign policy, right now, particularly in teh Middle East. Their's is the only foreign policy that does not *necessarily* involve either isolationism or military solutions.

Hmmm... what else to talk about? I'll bundle two in at once. Syria and Iraq. The problem in Iraq right now, is suicide bombers, car bombers, etc... terrorists blowing people up just to cause anarchy, hate and discontent. Call em insurgents if you like, doesn't change what they are doing. In order for Iraq to become stabilized, those guys have to be taken off the table.

How to do that? The 1st Marine Division is not in Iraq anymore, they were replaced by the 2nd Marine Division a few months ago. The Army's 1st Armored Division is not in Iraq either. What would happen, if the 1st Marine Division invaded Syria from the sea, and the 1st Armored Division crossed into Syria from Iraq? That's more combat power than was used against Iraq 2 years ago. My guess, they are in Damascus in a week. Maybe less. What would the insurgents in Iraq do? I'm guessing they follow the US military into Syria. Which would take the heat off Iraq, and would have NO impact on the US military - meaning, US forces would suffer no more losses being attacked by terrorists in Syria than they do being attacked by terrorists in Iraq.

This is a *good* scenario. It's good for Iraq (very good) and it's good for the US - a terrorist regime falls. Why wouldn't the US do this, then? Because the US is already seen as a nation that believes in "right by conquest" - whether that's a justified opinion or not. The US needs clear provocation to do something like this. It would have been REALLY cool if the Syrians had refused to leave Lebanon.

I don't know what's going to happen with Syria, but the US government doesn't want teh Syrian regime in power, not now, and not ever. Syria is not Egypt. Syria has never served the interests of the US. The syrian government has never even PRETENDED to.

Egypt, though, that's a really tough call. There's no good solution for anybody but Mubarak. There isn't enough opposition to Mubarak in Egypt, and even if there was, the type of opposition seems to be a problem. There are worse things than dictatorship. So, the Bush administration is in the position of having to praise anything that looks pro-democracy, because the chances of real democracy appearing in Egypt any time soon are so slim.

Anyway, I'm happy to read thse comments about Lebabon. It sounds like Lebanon has a chance to achieve some good things.