Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jumblatt and his perpetual desire to remain relevant.

Everything Joumblatt does, and I mean everything, revolves around his desire to remain politically relevant. Above all else, that desire is what guides his politics .

Arguably, a leader of the Maronite, Shi'a or Sunni community is automatically relevant, whatever he or she does. The mere fact that that particular person is in control of such a large community is in and of itself politically significant. Of course, such a reality is very far from the truth for a leader of the Druze, a community, which as we all know, is one of the smallest minorities in the country.

What irritates me so much about Jumblatt's drive for political relevance is the fact that his politics is extremely volatile. For example, today he's allied with the Future bloc. If, for some reason, he feels that they are "taking him for granted" and following their own agenda without consulting with him, he'll give a speech tomorrow that would confound everybody, and beg the question of what in the world the man is thinking. Although this tactic may be politically shrewd, it is the cause of one of Jumblatts most annoying traits: the man appears to have no political principles. The only things that are nonnegotiable for him are his personal significance and the security of his community (i.e. he is even willing to sacrifice on certain political demands of the Druze community if they stand in the way of his own quest for political significance).

This apparent "lack of political principles" has a good side that very few people acknowledge (well, there was that one Michael Young article a couple of months ago that did a very good job at analyzing Jumby). Jumblatt appears to be the most effective conduit between the political heavyweights in the country. Every once in a while he states his position with regards to where he thinks the country should go, or what he believes certain individuals should do, but of course nothing happens if it contradicts the interests of those heavyweights. In other words, Jumblatt simply has no power to enforce what he thinks are good ideas. However, his worth in Lebanese politics is exactly the consequence of his political impotence. He can be an advisor, a mediator, a visionary, a manipulator of the heavy weights, but he cannot publicly proclaim and seek his own position and be taken seriously by anybody. Jumblatt's proclamations are always some weird combination (i.e. compromise) of two or more heavyweights in the country, or some idea of how these heavyweights should work together to arrive at a destination that is close to their original desire.

Of course, this is where Jumblatt's selfish desire to remain relevant benefits the country. If the heavyweights are not talking, he is worthless. People may say that he will also be irrelevant if the parties merely talk to each other rather than through a go-between. My response is that in most cases, conflict resolution requires a third party that is (ideally, uninterested in the outcome of the negotiations - very far from the case with Jumby, of course). However, when it comes down to it, no matter how annoying Jumblatt may be, his worth in Lebanese politics should never be discounted.

In other words, I would never follow the man as a leader because I have no desire to be "relevant." Jumblatt perpetually seeks political relevance, and the Druze who follow him seek relevance through him - that's the way it works, there's no principle or "End" that is being sought after. Rather, I would feel much more comfortable with leaders who are comfortable enough to have certain fixed political objectives or ends; and who are working to achieve them - whatever the cost.

5 comments:

Ramzi S said...

Jumblatt's long term desires for the country have been relatively consistent.

The one time he did have almost complete power, and was not a "go between" or "intermediary" between more powerful politicians he did a very good job. i.e. As the most visible and active leader of the opposition between late 2004 and March 2005. The tide against Syria began to turn once he jumped ship and work with Qornet Shahwan. Anyone living in Lebanon at that time will tell you that.

That is when a really dangerous opposition started forming. And the Syrians started to take notice. Hariri rumored to be working in the background in support of this opposition also increased its threat to the Syrians.

Without there being an organized big name and public political opposition operating in the country (i.e. not Aoun in France) before the assassination of Hariri. Lebanon may not have been able to drive the Syrians from Lebanon. This is something that many manically anti-Jumblatt Lebanese avoid acknowledging.

Anton Efendi said...

Jumblat is still trying to get back in with Syria!

على ان المطلعين أنفسهم لفتوا الى ان جنبلاط أبدى أمام بري ونصرالله بعض الملاحظات حول الموقف السوري، خصوصاً لجهة اليافطة التي رفعت في التظاهرة التي شهدتها دمشق وتضمنت رسماً كاريكاتورياً له ولرئيس كتلة "المستقبل" النائب سعد الحريري والوزير مروان حمادة والنائب جبران تويني وأظهرهم على أنهم "حاخامون". وأشار المطلعون الى ان محاولات كانت تبذل قبل مدة وحققت تقدماً نحو ترطيب الأجواء والحلحلة بين جنبلاط والقيادة السورية، لكنها انهارت إثر صدور تقرير ميليس متضمناً شهادات لجنبلاط والحريري وحمادة وتويني والوزير غازي العريضي والنائب باسم السبع، إذ ان دمشق وجدت ان هذا التقرير بني على هذه الشهادات بالدرجة الأولى لتوجيه الشبهة والاتهام لها في جريمة اغتيال الحريري. وقد حرص جنبلاط على التأكيد لبري ونصرالله على ان هذه الشهادات جاءت مجتزأة، وقد أعلن ذلك إثر لقائه بهما عبر وسائل الإعلام.

It will be interesting to hear Nasrallah tomorrow, as he sits next to Lahoud as the rally, and tells us how Mehlis is an Israeli, etc.

Anonymous said...

Raja,

Thanks for a nice article. I agree completely that Jumblatt's main focus is to remain relevant, and that this comes at the expense of any lofty principal he might otherwise hold. But do you know any serious politician who is not like that???? Let me remind you...Aon opposed Syria and the pro-Syrian Lahoud, Murr, and Franjieh for a decade and a half when he was in exile. As soon as he fumbeled the political ball upon his return cause his ego wouldnt allow him to share the glory of freedom with equal partners (Hariri et al) he be-friended the pro-Syrians so he can win a seat or two in parliament. You call that lofty principals?

So Raja, if you are looking for someone to admire, look elsewhere. The Lebanese poltical arena has far too few of those.

Anton Efendi said...

A preview of some of the things we'll hear Nasrallah say tomorrow.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

"Arguably, a leader of the Maronite, Shi'a or Sunni community is automatically relevant, whatever he or she does. The mere fact that that particular person is in control of such a large community is in and of itself politically significant. Of course, such a reality is very far from the truth for a leader of the Druze, a community, which as we all know, is one of the smallest minorities in the country."

The Druses will always be represented in the Lebanese system because of the nature of this system. This argument cannot excuse Jumblat's stance. He can to become a positive force on the Lebanese spectrum, but he decided to be a destructive force, for whatever reasons - maybe personal reasons.