Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Aoun... Sectarian politics vs. Ideals and a Vision for Lebanon

The Sunni political elite’s alliance with the West - notably the US and France has put the Maronite political elite (specifically, General Michel Aoun) in a somewhat awkward position. Traditionally, Maronite politicians were the ones who were closely tied to Western governments, whereas everyone else was stuck with either the USSR or some other “brotherly/sisterly/motherly” Arab country. These strong political bonds between the West and the Maronites were manifestations of broader cultural ones (as well as economic ones) that go as far back as the early 17th century.

Today, the seismic shift of political alliances has made the chess board unrecognizable and provided Lebanon with a unique opportunity. The shift should have created an opening for the Sunni and Maronite political elites to, at the very least, form the most solid political alliance since Lebanon’s independence – one that is based on both parties’ strong relations with Western powers and a shared vision for Lebanon. Unfortunately, that reality has yet to take place. Instead, the top Maronite politician of today, General Michel Aoun, has lead the Maronites into a very unnatural alliance with Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Aoun’s calculation in refusing to join the March 14 forces was a short-sighted political one, and the support that he has received from the Maronite population is based solely on sectarian competition. He wanted to enter Lebanon the way Yasser Arafat entered Palestine. He saw himself as the true representative of the Maronites, and completely disregarded those politicians who stayed behind. His self-righteousness and short-sighted vindictiveness has, among other things, helped to destroy March 14 and has turned the Maronite population into supporters of Tehran’s agenda in Lebanon!

The justifications one would find in Lebanon for Aoun’s behavior on the Lebanese Maronite street are the following:

  1. He is actually “neutral”
  2. He is protecting the Maronite population while the Muslims duke it out amongst themselves
  3. He is teaching both Jumblatt and Nasrallah a lesson because they formed their Baabda-Aley electoral alliance and left him out in the cold
  4. Finally, there is old Dr. Victorino’s line, that the Hariri’s are nothing more than Wahhabists in disguise – and that if the Maronites had to choose between Wahhabists and Khomeinists, they prefer the latter.

It is so disheartening to witness how sectarianism manifests itself in politics… Whereas this conflict could easily have been framed as a conflict between Culture, Ideals and Visions, it is now framed in purely sectarian terms. If the March 14 alliance had included Aoun, Hizballah would have been isolated and had no choice but to face all of Lebanon. Given those circumstances, this current crisis we now face would have ended a long time ago.

Of course, the cement – or glue – that would bring all of the March 14 forces together (with Aoun) would not have been sectarian – there is no sectarian reason why Druze Sunnis, and Maronites should converge against Shi’as. Rather, the glue of the coalition would have been:

  1. a shared vision for Lebanon and Lebanon’s future – one that is modern and economically prosperous as well as one that is not in a perpetual state of war with Israel (fighting for Tehran’s and Damascus’s interests)
  2. a shared belief that modern civilization along with an open society and liberal economy is the path that Lebanon will take in the future – rather than a religiously conservative one that suggests visions that compete with modernity and secularism.

Of course, rather than take this path, Aoun has decided that political calculations are the more pertinent ones. Just look at the way he handled MP Naim’s death! Ultimately by doing so, Aoun may have gained more political stature – and consequently given the Maronite community the loudest voice they have ever had since the late 1980s. But at what price???

Where will this take Lebanon as a country??? Where will Aoun’s politicking lead us?

I believe that the Maronite population will eventually regret Aoun’s entry into Lebanese politics. For the first time in Lebanon’s history, the Sunni and Druze political elites screamed “Lebanon First” with the backing of the West, and the Maronite elite quietly swam in the other direction! What a shame! This lost opportunity will be recorded in our long, sad and bloody history.


hummbumm said...

What irony Raja. Camille Chamoun would be crying in his grave. Oh how the maronites were attacked unjustly for not being Arab enough, putting lebanon first etc... and now that other groups have seen the light, suddenly this?
It is so sad, i just left a post on LP on how I always underestimate the power of sectarianism, but it is certainly on display here when a group walks away from all it held dear because its leader says so

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Dunno dude…

Your “East” vs. “West” or shall I say Oriental vs. Occidental macro-civilizational categorization applied Lebanon’s micro-political jockeying looks cool and dandy on the surface…

Ah, if only it were true!

The Druze aren’t exactly “allied with the Sunnis”…
And the “Sunnis” themselves aren’t all looking “West” for that matter.

As a general rule, a slave is never “allied” with his master: and, with all their bravado, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea are just minor sparing partners to the Harirista political ogre: the Saudi show is run out of Riyadh and it’s based on the following deadly marketing mix:

1) Cynical use of Wahhibi wolves in technocratic sheep’s clothes (PM Saniura)

2) Ownership of more than 90% of the Lebanese print and audio-visual mass media (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Future TV, Al-Nahar, The Daily Star) to better brainwash the populace

3) Active corruption of influential Western officials such as:
a) Vice-President Dick Cheney whose Halliburton conzern generates more than 50% of international revenues from its Saudi operations
b) President Jacques Chirac who helped found French-Saudi construction giant Oger SA back in 1978 when he was the mayor of Paris, and has been enjoying a steady flow of “disinterested” Saudi cash contributions to all his campaigns ever since

Last time I checked Lebanese opinion polls, Gen. Michel Aoun was credited with 40% approval rates among Lebanese voters, which compares quite favorably with Nassib Lahoud’s 14% and Samir Geagea’s 3% !

Michel Aoun is on very good terms with all anti-Saudi regional “Islamic” powers be they Sunni such as Qatar and the UAE or Shiite such as Iran.

More importantly, Gen. Aoun is backed by the secular (as opposed to say Evangelical or Wahhabist) foreign policy establishments of both France (Quai d’Orsay) and the US (State Department) who resent the Chirac-Cheney axis of Saudi corruption.

Not to mention Michel Aoun’s rising popularity at home: yesterday, the council of Maronite Christian bishops issued a strong statement condemning the inertia of Fuad Saniura’s collaborationist government, less than a week after the Druze Sheikh Al-Aql’s unprecedented condemnation of both Jumblatt and Hariri, and the mounting attacks on the Future/FL gang coming from Hizbullah and Amal…

Anyhoo, within a few days we’ll reach the long-awaited moment of truth: I’m willing to bet a lot of petro-Riyals on Aoun’s candidate for the Baabda-Aley by-election!!

Anton Efendi said...

Must we in every post have to listen to this dumbass repeat his stupidity over and over, thinking, w hon il nayke, that he's funny and insightful? Meshe...

To think that the Christian base has any interest in HA's ideological outlook and regional ties is nonsense. There may be an element as you suggest of Aoun not wanting to be the one facing the gun (both internally and vis a vis Syria), and one can debate the merits of such an approach. Although at the end of the day, there's also an element of pure mediocrity as well. But in order to be fair, Aoun has been consistent about HA's need to disarm completely and the issue of para-Lebanese regional ties at the expense of Lebanese sovereignty.

Anton Efendi said...

What drives me crazy is his petty insistance on screaming like a lunatic and not being able to read some important messages that are being sent. Plus, and this again has to do with mediocrity, there's his inability to see how he may in fact be outsmarted (as opposed to him thinking he can play everybody), and disposed of in the end. Frustrating? Most certainly.

Macey Young said...

General Michel Aoun, has lead the Maronites into a very unnatural alliance with Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

do you believe what you write?? i doubt!! let us be fair here.. UNNATURAL alliance!??! are we adopting the George Bush Rhetoric (either with us or against us).. Good lord man wake up!!

their is NO AOUN Syria alliance. are you dellusional??? By Not being in an Alliance with Saad Hariri Aoun has placed himself in the "MIDDLE" of the Political Spectrum between the NEO Mu3arada (PSP, FM) and between March 8th.. This is by far the MOST LEVERAGED position in the Country.. Their is NO alliance with either part! The Fact that you see an alliance speaks Folds of how emotionally entangled you are in this political web..

good luck and break free..

p.S: the SYRIA ALLIES are in the GOVT again, Mabrouk the FM, LF, PSP, Hizb AMAL alliance (i.E: hizb tehran)



frencheagle said...

if some people read "les secrets de la guerre du liban" and i doubt about it , they would understand that it is not today the role of the christians and of aoun particulary to support the sunnits in order to apply the UN resolutions.
if a christian leader goes on the front line to ask the dismantle of the weapons belonging to the palestinians or to the hezbollah he ll be accused by the arab countries of selling the arabic resistances to the israeliens as it used to be during the old times.

therefore, let the sunnits leaders and joujou to make the dirty job first and clearly, but i doubt about it since now that the hezbollah is back inside the government, in order to accomplish 2 objectives
1- making a clear divorce btw the arabic cause and the lebanese cause inside their population
2- clearly explaining to the arabic world that lebanon today's must be united and cannot stand along anymore to pay the price of the israelian palestinian conflict.
as was explaining that book about bashir gemayel strategy etc.. lebanon cannot stand an economical embargo from the arabic country and therefore it is to the sunnits to fight alone about it.

Ms Levantine said...

Dear Raja,

"It is so disheartening to witness how sectarianism manifests itself in politics… "

What is so disheartening is how sectarianism manifests itself in your blog (and in the comments you are getting). I know you mean well but you cannot decry sectariamism and analyze the situation in sectarian terms. It would be better to use a non-sectarian "framing".

Eg.:"I believe that the Maronite population will eventually regret Aoun’s entry into Lebanese politics. For the first time in Lebanon’s history, the Sunni and Druze political elites screamed “Lebanon First” with the backing of the West, and the Maronite elite quietly swam in the other direction! What a shame! This lost opportunity will be recorded in our long, sad and bloody history.":
This is sectarian "framing", and the fact that you added "elite" after each sect does not change a thing. You know very well that the "elites" screamed nothing, it is the Lebanese population who screamed "Lebanon first", and the "elites" are still playing the same games.

Either you truly belive that sects and their elites form solid blocks and then you analyze the situation in in sectarian terms; or you don't and you forget about Maronites/Sunnis/Shiites...

frencheagle said...

and for those stating there is a syrian aoun alliance,
i m sorry for them for 2 reasons:
first of all did they read machiavel ?
the ex pro syrian that are for aoun are on his side on a base of a program that is against the syrian presence and they have sign for it
the second reason is that they dont understand the actual game in middle east with 3 threats over lebanon: 2 axes and 1 terrorist organisation that is trying to make more problems
it s a necessity to talk to everyone but not to join anyone and this is how aoun is doing.
unfortunatly he s thinking as a strategist and not as a politician and fails to explain it

the third thing i ll finish by is that most of the media in lebanon are belonging to politicians and no one is belonging to people close to aoun. therefore these media and maybe it s linked as well to my last point, fail as analysits and as impartial medias their role of informing what is really going on in this country

Anonymous said...

Aoun a stratigist !!!
My ass has more strategy.
His history from his army days is full of the "Join me or die"
Now its "I am president or you are corrupted".
He wanted to march against dahye in 1984 using the army he was not allowed.
He tried cancelling the Lebanese Forces, he couldnt, he waged a lost war. He wanted to become president, syria said No, he waged a liberation war while stupidly he was stuck in his area then he fought LF again with a single victory in Ain El Roumaneh.

FYI: I have heard Dr. De La Vega war raped by a wahhabist baya3 ka3k when he was 5.

frencheagle said...

dear anonymous
first of all, i dont like to answer to people that are hidding themselves.
second of all to make you noticing few things:
in 1984 he wasnt responsible of the army, as far as i remember he was appointed as chief of the army in 85 or 86. you commited a first mistake.
the second mistake i think u re confusing yourself btw the LF milicias and the army, the LF milicia obliged young people to fight.
we see here that you re a LF brainwashed guy anyway

second thing, of course in 80 he had to capitulate but when everyone was accepting the presence of the syrian army (LF collaborated with them till 94, PSP collaborated with the syrians and FM movement as well all the 15 years of official occupation), his fight leaded to put a question mark over that presence through the years of that syrian occupation
u should see about it a documentary of the french and german arte about it and if u really unhidde yourself, i m ready to send u the movie cutted in 2 parts of 14 mega each for you to understand more what was the strategy at that dark time.

to over that comment, i would invite u to be more pragmatic in your point of views and to use as langage that is more reflecting some courtesy sentences and not reflecting anger


Anonymous said...

Aoun is really uncomfortable with sunnis having good relations with the west. He explicitly says so in the latest ICG report about Lebanon. You should also read what boy genius Gubran Bassil says. So much for his "zegular" project.

btw, in this report Bassil explicitly mentions (for the first time) that FPM and Hizbollah are effectively protecting Lahoud because they don't want to have a Hariri-friendly president. They prefer having a syrian - khomeinite puppet than having someone with friendly ties with sunnis. It's so sad some young people are still tricked to belive that he isn't sectarian.
General Aoun when you first returned to Lebanon you said " iza takallamtu ta'ifiyan unbuzuni"; "If I use sectarian speech abandon me". My dear Grand Master General (PBUH), we have abandoned you a loooooooooooooong time ago.


Lazarus said...

i have too agree with mslevantine on that ...

zwixo said...

this is a joke right. even future television news don't believe what they are saying! this is mimicking the hariri propaganda machine, just like the "el balad mashi" propaganda campaign. I have a bad memory but I remember that slogan running on future 7000 times a day, and here we are; today was brought to my sad attention the 1000 millions LP of debts to Social Security, I thought i'd better use my social security card as a coaster.
I just have One reason to back the FPM, the FPM is not only Aoun you know. One reason, they havent governed yet. All the other a-holes have, I want someone new in the serail, then we'll know who sold this country for a handful of money... or more.

Raja said...

Lazarus I know you have just returned from Lebanon. Ms. Levantine, I am not sure how long it has been since you've returned home. However, I have just come back from that country (our country).

I bring with me the burden of reality in Lebanon. It disturbs me as much or more than both of you. But I have come to the realization that trying to change things through a blog that is read by very few people is an exercise in futility. I thought I was preparing myself to face Lebanon, but when I went, my jaw dropped and I was left speechless. I discovered that there is no rationalizing on issues of sectarianism, because the phenomenon is far from a rational one!


let us get Lebanon clear of the Damascus-Tehran axis, then we can start dealing with corruption and the Social Security issue.

Macey Young,

If Aoun is not allied to Syria and Iran, then he is definitely doing them a hell of a lot of favors! Whether or not he intends to do so, there is no question that he is doing it! No less of an "authority" (on matters pertaining to Syria) than Joshua Landis has conveyed to fellow Lebanese Blogger Firas, that the second most popular Lebanese politician in Damascus (after Hassan Nasrallah) is none other than General Aoun!

We need to seperate issues of administrative reform from the general strategic direction, vision and cultural outlook of the country. First we get the country on the right path, then we decide how best to travel on that path!

AbdulKarim said...

Dear Macey

When your country is under attack, when it is fighting a war, and when our political leaders are being assassinated one after the other, I think that there is no place under that situation called middle. Either you stand by your fellow country men under attack or you don't. Unfortunatley for us, General Aoun has decided not to.


JoseyWales said...

Ms Lev,

In defense of Raja, if what is happening on the ground is sectarian, then your analysis has to report that, and follow sectarian lines in that sense. It does not mean you are supporting sectarianism. What kind of logic is that?

Defenders of the new Aoun,

Of course, no one is saying Aoun's turned pro-syrian with a pic of Bashar over his bed. That is utterly stupid.

However, his recent stance (and at times he could have just shut up), is helping directly or indirectly Bashar and Iran.
Example: his attack on Khaddam. Shut up! Like I need you to tell me Khaddam is shit. Think of the political consequences of your words at THIS precise juncture.

zwixo said...

can u please tell me what the Teheran Damascus axis is doing here right now, the Washington Paris axis isn't doing anything either, but you know what's worse, the Beirut Government Axis isn't doin shit as well. No one is doin anythin'. When the Syrians were here, they were sucking our blood, but "El balad mashi". What is Teheran sucking now, backing Hezbollah, of course, can we stop this, tell me how, please. The people that should take things in hand arent doin anything, Siniora worked something out tonight, let's see if it's real solutions or just buying time. And we blame Aoun. makes perfect sense.

Lazarus said...

raja ...

you're right about a blog being an exercise in futility. but it is useful for one thing, and that is to sound our ideas. i'm sure if you go back two, three months into your archives, you will see a slight evolution of ideas, ideals, and opinions. a blog shouldn't be anything more than that.

however, the reason i commented what i commented is that although the natural drift in lebanon is to analyze everything in terms of sectarianism, nothing will change unless we try, as individuals, to try and break through the walls that just keep getting higher. it isn't just about changing lebanon. i've been guilty, as i'm sure many, if not all on this blog, of breaking things down into sects, simply because it is easy this way.

given all that, i cannot be persuaded that sectarianism in immune. this isnt an arguement that tribal minds do or do not exist. we will continue to divide people into groups. you may be a christian or a muslim or a druze, but you are also a male, in your twenties, a student, etc etc etc. there are so many groups that we can divide ourselves into, yet we (and by we, this isn't just a lebanese issue) have chosen to choose the one group that comes with the force of god. i.e. those who don't believe in our faith and our god are "morally wrong". that is where the danger is. and that is why sectarianism is irrational, as you say.

over the past 30-40 years several social experiments have been carried (one of which was in lebanon btw) that seem to point these lines of division can be redrawn into something related less to morality. and that is what we should be working for. but sadly, and unfortunately, alot of the blame for this continuous sectarian division does fall on the shoulders of our "leaders", who have, at many points in their career, played this tool to their advantage. and the first step to all this is to eradicate the bain of lebanon - our dear confessional/consociational/whateverfancynamewedecidetogivetoit system

anyways, enough said.

why-discuss said...

Raja, I am so surprised that you imply that if Aoun had joined this circumstancial 14 March amalgam, all will be well in lebanon. That is oversimplication! For whom is it good? Building a so-called sunni-christian-druze block leaving the Shia in the cold is not the solution of Lebanon futur! The sunni's relation with the West is purely a business and opportunistic relationship while the sunni's relation with Saudi Arabia is financial, historical, emotional and cultural. Because of that Saudi Arabia has a stronger leverage on the lebanese sunni leaders than the western powers.
As you mention it, the Christians continue to retain a very strong, cultural and historical relation with the Western countries.
The Druze have no support whatsoever with any power and they are the ones who desesperatly try to associate themselves to what they perceive is the group that will not kick them out of the political arena. They may change their mind if they see that the 14 mars group is loosing ground. Therefore that 14 march association is very shaky.
Aoun is the only politician in Lebanon who understood that he must deal quietly with the different powers at play in Lebanon now without the hysteria and manicheen view of the 14 mars wanabe politicians. It seems that Aoun wants Lebanon to become a real nation not an arena where factions spend their time insulting, loving, hating and fighting each other without reaching any result.

Anonymous said...

time will tell if aoun's politics is short-sighted or not, it has always been proved to be long-sighted...

Jurn El-Kibbeh said...

Last anonymous: Other than gaining 21 PM seats - garnered by the votes of a maronite population driven towards paranoia by screams of "PETRODOLLAAAAAAAR" (which Aoun has feigned to repeat since) - I fail to see what long-sighted success you speak of. Had the Sunni and Druze sects not rallied behind their christian counterparts to oust the Syrians, Aoun would still be in Paris...