Friday, March 24, 2006

Choose your pickings!

So why is it that we support certain politicians and despise others?

I would like to think that there is at least a trace of rationality in our choices, as opposed to sectarian sentiment or simply, sentiment. Through this entry, maybe we will be able to clarify our rationale to ourselves, and each other.

Experience gained in debates with other Lebanese has taught me that in a single argument, several dimensions of a politician can be pertinent. When the argument revolves around a certain issue, like the geo-strategic position a politician takes, one or more other issues will be introduced, such as the politician's integrity and/or ideology (if one exists).

This reality has spurred me to attempt to breakdown the characteristics politicians based on several dimensions. The breakdown is not perfect, but it will help by (at least attempting) to lay all the cards on the table, for all of us to see.

The questions I ask myself when I look at the matrix are:

  1. Did I miss a dimension?
  2. Which of these characteristics are the most important to me?
  3. Which characteristics constitute red lines?
  4. Which political entity should I support based on this matrix?
  5. Do I merely support those who I percieve to effectively challenge the political entities I despise irrespective of their own qualities?
note: If you are having problems seeing the table below, it may have to do with your screen resolution. 800x600 is not the appropriate setting. 1280x800 is.

note #2: The boxes articulate fleeting descriptions of public perceptions as opposed to reality which is definitely much more complex. Of special concern are the categories of "agenda" and "corruption." Agendas, for their complexity, and corruption, for the lack of figures and an effective judiciary. Moreover, one commenter who goes by the name, Aounopolis, suggested a third dimension: time. Considering Lebanon's history, I am sure that time is a relevant variable to consider in this matter of selecting "favorite leaders."

My main worry however, is that if any reflection of reality were to attempt to represent too many facets of that reality, then it would become too complex, and ultimately useless. So while this particular table definitely needs more details, we all walk on a very thin line.

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frencheagle said...

few comments

some mistakes

first of all
international alliance
there are some mistakes
aoun is not really in the syrian/iranian axe as far as also he is enjoying some western supports
i guess he s on a sort of cross road

hezbollah and hariri
most prominent agenda
it is to keep the interest of their own community

hariri low corruption ...
well i guess it s a big mistake
dunno if u saw the last forbes stuff
hariri fortune passed from 5 to 16.7 billions

however aoun and hariri as the least secterian power bases

joumblatt... khaddam...
question do u really think that khaddam in power would be toward lebanese interests?

hariri, joumblatt interest as well
as was saying metula in french:
"Et, parallèlement, mais vous l'aurez deviné, la volonté des musulmans, désormais majoritaires, de conserver certains des acquis de l'occupation syrienne..."
maybe this is why the dialogue is a failure, they are not negociating they are trying to put their own puppet in the place of another puppet

Aounopolis said...

I love your blog and visit it regularly. However I have to take issue with your attempt to map Lebanon's political mess in a 5x6 table.

Your matrix is too simplistic for my liking. Your subjective analysis as to who is corrupt and who has high integrity is shockingly naiive.

I appreciate what you are trying to do, but caution against such broad generalities. I can make a case to contradict almost each and every label you slapped on these guys.

The ideologies, principles and agendas of our politicians are obviously far more complex than what you have illustrated.

Nice try in attempting to bring sanity to the adhoc sphere of Lebanese politics, but it's not quite there yet.

Anonymous said...

Raja, come on. You had to know you were going to be bombarded with criticism on your "corrupt" category. Was it intentional?

Anonymous said...

Why not admit that this country of Lebanon has never constituted, and based on recent events, will never constitute a Watan? From the beginning the different ethnic minority groups, Maronites, Shia, Druze, etc., found in the land that is Lebanon a refuge, and eventually were stuck together when the much-admired Western powers carved it out of their own hegemonic imagination. Maronites and some elitist Sunnis despise the Shia and their new-found powers (hence the new alliance and the purported and expedient across-sectarian-lines support for Hariri). The Shia distrust the Maronites (specifically the LF) owing to their bloodthirsty civil war practices, their collusion with an invading enemy (Israel), and their constant racist and elitist remarks. The Druze, being the minority they are, will always shift alliances (it was not long ago they were massacring Maronites in the mountains) based on the current political winds. And the Sunnis? Their traditional base has always been corrupt Arab regimes that are totally beholden to the West (hence the international dimension of the cross-alliance between the Sunnis and the Arabic-speaking-Western-oriented Maronites).

I fear this national dialogue taking place today is for naught. There will never be a Watan until each faction abandons its sectarian leanings, fesses up to its past crimes (the Maronites can start by canning the criminal Jaegae and his LF; the Druze: the ridiculous Jumblat; the Shia: the corrupt Berri; the Sunnis: some worthy leader besides the incompetent corporate Hariri). But since that will not happen, Lebanon will always be a battle ground for various regional and international players and their self-serving local stooges who are more than willing to do their bidding at the expense of their cherished Libnan.

Raja said...

aounopolis and others,

regarding the matrix, please note that I threw it out there to provoke discussion. You are all right in noting that it is merely a very poor reflection of reality.

The point was simple: we all like to think of ourselves as rational people. So why not ask ourselves why we "choose" our leaders or our "favorite politicians"? Do we really choose them? If we do, then why not ask ourselves why? Or are we merely hiding our sectarianism behind pretty words?

The way I filled out the matrix was almost haphasard! I did it in 10 minutes... but what I think is usefull is the matrix itself. It could be a usefull tool in helping us answer some really tough questions.

Aounopolis said...

If all questions could be answered in such a black and white fashion, then our planet would be free of poverty, no wars would ever be fought, and large, plump, pink elephants would fly around in the sky like butterflies.

By overlooking all the intangiables, and essentially the politics and complex history of each political player, you're providing a very limited snapshot, which can mislead people into believing half this stuff is actually true.

If you're looking for ways to improve, I think adding a third dimension to your matrix would help build in a time element. I also recommend you not judge corruption... too open to interpretation. Think of more tangiable elements that are less open to interpretation.

hummbumm said...

Guys, Raja threw this out as a tool to provoke introspection, and for his readers to articulate why they support a particular person/policy. The goal is not to build the most robust framework nor to reach consensus on how to populate the fields. The goal is for us to understand why we support any particular candidate.
For myself: My overarching goal is to see a free market, liberal, independent democracy in lebanon. Yes of course this is aspirational but that i was I hope for. I assess candidates by seeing how their statements and actions further this goal. At present, the Jumblatt-Hariri-Gaega camp is in favor with me (please don't hassle me this is my POV not yours). Aoun could well be in, he was in, but is no longer. As such I can never support HIzbullah. Their goals are not my goals, I don't care if they are not corrupt, or if they were the "best" militia.

AbdulKarim said...

Nice try Raja. I applaud your try to rationalize the Lebanese political reasoning. As for whom i support, its the Hariri/Jounblat/GaeGae axis for the same reasons HummBumm outlined above. It would be also nice if you try to enhance the matrix and invest more thought and time in it.


Anonymous said...

Raja, what is your take on the Forbes issue mentionned in the first comment?


Raja said...

Pat, I don't know. But if anything, I think the Hariri family's political aspirations are a drain on their finances. If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that the increase in the Hariri fortune is more related to oil prices than anything else. (BUT we should not forget Solidere. We have all read about the more-than-doubling of the value of Solidere shares).

Pat, I think that the corruption practiced by the Hariris was more in the form of breaking/bypassing rules to do as they liked (i.e. abuse of power). It appears highly unlikely that the family depends on the State coffers to enrich themselves or distribute patronage (ala Franjieh, Berri, Jumblat, and the rest).

I don't know... I may be wrong.

Aounopolis said...

With respect to the additional notes you added onto the article, I agree that a true model would be overly complex and difficult to interpret. Over simplifying complex political equations can unfortunately lead to false interpretation by casual readers who don't know have the necessary background knowledge to interpret your assessment within context.

You cited "fleeting descriptions of public perceptions" as a source for the content. I have a hard time believing any one of us is truly capable of making the kind of assessments you are maing without interlacing bias.

As I mentioned previously, I frequent your blog and usually agree with your political perspectives, so don't take this as a partisan motivated response.

frencheagle said...

hm about the fortune

well i ll talk about it in a shadow prices as i cannot state who are my sources, i ll just say that my sources are foreigners are close to the people managing some part of their businesses

well they were many time in competition on markets especially in east europe (for the part i know) and the way they were getting the contracts were done through illegal practices.

the thing which is the most funny is that most of the time their competitors were as well "family members" as far it was concerning the husband of one of hariri's daughter.

what i heard about it (and still i m remaining on purpose not very clear about that) is that theses practices were also applied in the middle east and also might be done in lebanon as well and i cannot think that in lebanon due to their prime place of rafic hariri, that he didnt use his position to make his fortune passing from 5 billions to 16.7 billions
maybe in lebanon we didnt have a corruption method due to his position, the incentive was done through other practices

i m making supposition for the middle east

however no one succeeded such growth of wealth without the incentives i was talking about in the beginning

frencheagle said...

ll just add that my sources are just financial sources and non lebanese , and not related to any lebanese politician

Anonymous said...

Raja, Thanks for your reply.

Thing is I always though the Hariri's didn't need to be corrupt, I mean I would understand the people surrounding Hariri being opportunistic and corrupt but why would a billionaire business man need to do that!

Oh well ... Sometimes my naivety shocks me :-)


Anonymous said...

How do you explain Hariri Future bloc as low corruption when the debt after the civil war was $6 billion and after the reconstruction period it was $33 billion and growing. Maybe the Hariris themselves are not corrupt but I wouldn't be too sure about the bloc and the circle around him.

frencheagle said...

@ raja and pat
after a shower, clearing my ideas
i guess there s something very unclear in this table

what do you mean by corruption?
being a source of corruption or being a someone getting money to be corrupted?

well hariri was a source of corrpution, do u remember the statement of ghazi kenaan before his death showing to mehlis copies of bank checks ?

besides that corruption can also not be in money terms but interest terms, giving contracts
do you remember the frem during his first government that was fired because he refused to have an envelop of a italian firm when he used to be the ministry of energy?

besides that how many money was spent during the latest electoral campain (okay okay this is his son)

besides money, positions , social welfare, goods offered, i dont know, there are many other ways to corrupt someone.

Anonymous said...

frencheagle, you will eventually make perfect sense, but only after I get totally hammered tonight.

A for effort.


Anonymous said...


Hariri owned only 7% of Solidere and his share of profits went to charitable projects, never to his pockets. And to answer your question, my pick is definitely Hariri/Jumblatt/Gaegae.


It is ironic to accuse Rafic Hariri of corruption when he was highly respected and well received worldwide for his honesty, integrity and trustworthy. And what's wrong with spending one's own money for campaigning?


frencheagle said...

@ dalal
"It is ironic to accuse Rafic Hariri of corruption when he was highly respected and well received worldwide for his honesty, integrity and trustworthy. And what's wrong with spending one's own money for campaigning?"
well first of all i m always basing myself on facts
one fact is inside mehlis report, stating that ghazi kenaan showed him checks, and telling him that he wasnt having any interests to kill him since it was one of his "source of financement"
see report one

honesty ?
i m sorry i never saw once complete honest guy in business, there s always something wrong with rich millionnaire and billionnaire businessmen and i know many of them
just dig u ll find out something

integrity trustworthy?
he was in power for 15 years, during this period it s known that 4% of the money of any economical contract was given to the syrians
in case he was really honest, he wouldnt have been accepting that.
i m sorry

this matrix forget about considering the people as a source of corruption or getting corrupted.

this is on the side of the matrix

i might therefore say that he was less corrupted but more effective in the way he was corruptiong people as far as he knew to whom money had to be given. and you cannot deny that

second thing
there s nothing wrong to spend ones's own money for campagning , marketing etc... but there s something wrong when it s about to buy voices, i cannot forget the fatwa passed in north of lebanon asking people to vote for the future. i cannot forget as well that each of the candidats got 5 millions from saad hariri not only for campaign.this is as well a corruption of the free minds. When u re paying someone to become your scrutator, it is considered to be corruption everywhere in europe and for sure i cannot accept to go along these kind of practices as far i m a believer in democracy and not in the way of buying votes to gain or to keep power.

i think that most of the people are just making rafic hariri appearing as a saint, i guess people should be more realistic and more pragmatic in the way to see the guy.
due to his relation, maybe he understood it was the moment to switch his alliances against the syrians but this is what killed him.

what happened last year was more a convergency of interests due to the international situation but his death was more a catalysor of a chain reaction toward a free lebanon, but the chain reaction was already about to happen due to the geographic and strategic isolation of syria (starting from 2003)

rafic hariri as a successful business man might have been understanding this logic

however, this convergency today is over, we have new games that are pulled in place, unfortunatly most of the people are not aware of the new dynamics that are pulled in place.
this is why this matrix is as well past.
few mistakes:
syria the syrian axe is agonising, however what is keeping it "alive" is that the international community is not finding an acceptable sucessor to bashar
if u re looking to the last US statements about aoun u ll see they are not as well against aoun and his discussion with the hezbollah, on contrary they asked joumblatt to calm down during his last stay.

the US/saudian axis might also disappear, (as a result of the 09 /11 event) and would be replaced by a US / iraqi / shia alliance in the long term future (about 10 years) leaving saudia alone.
saudia to protect itself would try to gain influence back on some countries and i wont talk about the instruments of this country.

this matrix is made from past elements and logics that are not really applicable today to forcast what going to happen in the future.

it would be more interesting to see the impact of the current regional situation and their implication on the future of lebanon.

how can the emergence of a new pole of influence Ie iraq would impact lebanon? or how a civil war in iraq as well would impact it?

what the different alternatives political that would replace bashar in syria and what would be their reflection on lebanon as well and on the lebanese parties?

what is the current games in place in the middle east as well and how things would turn to be in short/ medium / long term (as scenarios) and how theses scenarios would impact lebanon as well.

this matrix is not an answer to theses questions and therefore i dont have anything to pick up as it s reflecting past situation and not future situation. i m basing myself and my picks about how things will turn to be and not how things were in the past

Anonymous said...

"Et, parallèlement, mais vous l'aurez deviné, la volonté des musulmans, désormais majoritaires, de conserver certains des acquis de l'occupation syrienne..."

french eagle,

people paid blood to destroy political maronism. It's gone forever, it's history, khalas. Neither you nor Aoun nor anybody can turn the hands of time back to the maronite dictatorship of pre-1975. You have to get this through your head once and for all.

Anonymous said...


And I have to believe the lies of Arslan, Wahhab, and Baathist propaganda. We have to remember, when Rafic Hariri started his political life, the Syrians were already ruling the country and he had to work his way around them. And yes he was not a saint, however he was the closest to being one. Everything that Hariri did was in Lebanon's best interest.

Second point, there is no glory and fame for entering the sticky Lebanese political game. Saad is making a huge sacrifice by becoming a politician. He is putting his family, personal and business life on hold. Saad decided to run for office because he wants to pursue his father's mission and he has the people's support. His main concern is to move the country to prosperity. Yes he has a lot to offer but that's not enough he still needs the right environment and the cooperation and help of other team players. For example a national President and not a puppet would be a big asset. That's why it is citical to replace Lahoud.

No other nation, no matter how friendly, should decide for us. Yes we could use the support and we would be thankful for that but that's where it ends.


frencheagle said...

"We have to remember, when Rafic Hariri started his political life, the Syrians were already ruling the country and he had to work his way around them. And yes he was not a saint, however he was the closest to being one."
i m not denying this part as u can notice

however: "Everything that Hariri did was in Lebanon's best interest. "
this i m not so sure, leading the governement he compromised himself by participating to the occupation
his death leaded to the cedars liberation (i dont think it was a revolution as far i m still waiting for the lebanese to get ride of their feodalistic,communitaristic leader and to think lebanon first

"Saad is making a huge sacrifice by becoming a politician."
rafic hariri was stating by himself that he didnt want any successor among his family
what saad did is against his father's will

"Saad decided to run for office because he wants to pursue his father's mission and he has the people's support."
his brother was taking the business affairs from long time, he didnt commit any sacrifices

" he still needs the right environment "
i m agree on that but this is why i dont believe in him, when he s allying himself with joumblatt and geagea that sold lebanon

"That's why it is citical to replace Lahoud."
well on this part we missed this opportunity last year, we had to correct it through elections but legitimate elections, making all lebanese egaliterian through a new electoral law (i m repeating myself since 2005)
since it wasnt a legitimate election because of the electoral law we need to delay this goal to have a parlement really representative of the population
to do this from 2005 and long time before aoun or now lahoud i was proposing new elections based on a new electoral law with my preference for one circonscription for each seat to resolve the problem of legitimity and to have a new parlement 100% representing all the lebanese in an egaliterian way as it is in every democracy and to conduct political reform that this country needs even before economical reforms

we need to have the bases for prosperity and this is not what is happening right now.
we re leaving in an oligarchy and of course i can just be against.

more then that the mixture of the executive- legislative and media powers leads this country to dictature.

unfortunatly lebanese are too emotive and not really aware of the current threats lebanon is passing through since they are blindly following leaders based on secterians and feodalist bases

frencheagle said...

besides that i have to add
i dont think lahoud is really a problem, he s a puppet

since we are in a parlementary system, the real problem is berry and this is the guy that we should have been removing in 2005 when we got the opportunity to do so.
that guy blocked the adoption of a new electoral law last year and this is what lead us to illegitimate elections through the 2000 electoral law
that guy was the best advocate of the syrians since that time abroad in qatar etc...

that guy leaded to the situation we re in right now
dont forget about it

lahoud doesnt have any power, berry has

more then that, i dont care who ll be the next president as long it ll be a legitimate one
if we re continuing on the trail we are in right now, we ll face in the coming years legitimacy problems.
the same way the syrian occupation ended because a part of the lebanese population was rejecting it from the end of the 80's till the cedars liberation , the current system would implose because a part of lebanese due to this lack of legitimacy would not accept it.
the same mechanism would occur and we ll face a real cedar revolution and the rejection of those that collaborated with the syrian, the warlords etc...

i dunno if u watched "le grand charles tonight on france 2, the story of charles de gaulle, but some sentences he stated are fitting so well about lebanon.

he rejected the german occupation and was the only one but more the time was passing and more people were joining him because of the lack of legitimacy of the regime of verdun.

i participated to the cedar liberation but i m still waiting for the real cedar's revolution.

i believe that we do not need to continue to poursuit a kind of political system that lead us to division , communitarism and sectarism , we need to get ride of a community patriotism and build a nation.
we need to build up a constitution with a real executive that can take decisions and not being paralysed through internal or external influences that lead us through the cairo deals of 69 to the civil war of 1975 and the events that followed and this can be done without falling in a dictarure regime.

if the syrians were able to divide us and then occupy us it is due to our internal weakenesses and mainly because of the community division and as well because of our parlementary system.

this is not what is currently done because of personal interests of community- feodalistic leaders

i dont think u re reading israelien news but i was reading a article lately which stated the current prblems we re facing
in french here the link as far as i posted it on my blog!87518942521B2CF2!1364.entry
it is very interesting to read it as far it states the reasons why the lebanese model cannot be applied to israel

also another article
why the lebanese model cannot be applied to iraq

everytimes they are highlighting the weakenesses of the lebanese model and why it would fail.

we cannot affort this time to fail

frencheagle said...

"people paid blood to destroy political maronism."

this is one of the sentences of joumblatt during the war

and the same way he fighted the maronistism, because any kind of leadership is against his feodalistic influence, i believe he ll end to fight the sunnistism anyway in the coming years.
that guy needs to divide to have an influence and a political existence and this is the only point of view by which we can understand his policies

however due to the surrounding of lebanon by a dictarure and by a theocraty we need a strong executive to acheive reforms
why did dubay succed to tk over all the roles of lebanon?
why did singapore succeeded to be one of the richest country in the world?
because of a strong executive.
this is my believe. i dont care as long it is for lebanon's interest that we re having a sunnit or maronit or muslim or christian leadership over lebanon but i would have a problem in case it is in place because of a foreign influence over lebanon


mazoot said...

french eagle is a moron that tries to make sense by flooding the page with utter BS. If your argument requires you to be a comment whore, you clearly don't have an argument.

frencheagle said...

something i was thinking about after:

"people paid blood to destroy political maronism."

this is a war slogan used to flatter the maronists and to be the excuse of some others politicians to the civil war they were leading after.
however in the reality i dont see there was a maronistism as far there was a preponderance of the maronist but not a leadership
if such leadership would have been existing in 1975, decisions of reestablishing the civil order through the army action would have been taken, and due to our weak constitution it wasnt taken.
more then that it was paralysis.

therefore no maronistism at all, no leadership at all.

@ mazoot

when u care about writing an argument, i would have pleasure to answer you.
till now i dont see any arguments even any kind of intelligent statement at all. i see more a dead brain.
" If your argument requires you to be a comment whore"
so why did u answer. to appear smart .
i m sorry u just made the contrary, u appeared dumb

mazoot said...

spread eagle... you should stick to writing in french... that way you might be able to mask your lack of intelligence. You sound like a retard in english. The more you write, the more i laugh. so keep it up... i'm thoroughly enjoying how much of a spastic monkey you are!

frencheagle said...

@ mazoot
u need to buy a brain

i m feeling pity to hear such poor and bad arguments

u re never arguying u re just trying to insult the people

let s hear something intelligent for a change or is it the level of the politicians that are sponsoring you ?
u re what we can call a mouton de panurge

mazoot said...

it might be hard for you to realize this, given your piss poor IQ, but I was actually just insulting YOU.

I have much, much better things to do than trying to argue with a jackass such as yourself... i much perfer to just bash you, it's far more entertaining!

keep working on your english skills... one day you might be able to sit with the adults at the grown up table, although I highly doubt it.

frencheagle said...

tse tse tse

still insults

u re really showing how low you are
u re just showing off how stupid you are and also showing the lack of arguments u can oppose to me

continue ahead, i m enjoying to see how stupid you are

Anonymous said...

Come on frencheagle stop feeding the troll, why do you even answer him?