I remember when a main military checkpoint that greets you as you enter the North of Lebanon on the coastal highway was handed to the Lebanese Army from the Syrian, a couple of years back. I was in the car with my father. He stopped at the checkpoint, lowered the car window, smiled and said: "Marhaba watan!" He told me that we should be proud of our Army and I obliged.
And now I watch on TV Lebanese Army covoys heading south. They've been working since the ceasefire took effect to build and repair makeshift bridges so they could make their trip south.
They have a tough job ahead of them? Yes, no one can deny it. So little is known from the beltway here about the soldiers' morale and thoughts. Are they ready for such a move? And what mandate has the Cabinet empowered them with? Is it disarming Hizbullah or simply protecting the southern borders? We shouldn't forget that there is perhaps an extremely negative image of the Army in the eyes of many Lebanese right now because they did not get involved with Hizbullah in resisting the Israeli incursions.
In my mind I believe that the worst thing we can do to is embroil the Army in politics. Soldiers have a mission and must fulfill it, it's the job of the Cabinet and Parliament represented by the people to take swift action towards resolving the issue of Hizbullah's arms, our standing issues with Israel (end of air and sea blockade, POWs, Shebaa Farms), and Syria (especially ensuring that there is no smuggling of arms taking place). But resolving these issues should take place within a very tight deadline, lest the Army loses its grip on itself.
I am most disappointed by our President who is a former Army General and was forever touted as the "unifier", namely bringing in former militiamen into the fold of the Army after the end of the civil war and building a strong, nationalistic institution. Despite this history, he has not shied whatsoever from criticizing the Army and claiming that it's weak and possesses no substantial arms (which is true), and instead supporting Hizbullah as an alternative on the southern border, because, in his words, guerilla warfare is the way to deter Israeli aggression.
President Lahoud, who was so fervently elected to the Presidency eight years ago, carried the banner of strong state institutions. Where does that figure in his stands lately? Not that he is significant whatsoever on the political scene.
All what I want to say is that I root for our Army. I am proud of them. When I see a Lebanese soldier, I see my country. Yes, yes, of course this is a romanticized view of this institution, but this is what we've got.
I can never forget how the Army took a nationalistic stand when they were ordered to stop protesters from heading to Beirut right before the March 14 mass demonstration and they instead allowed them to go through. The Army has always served as an internal security force; perhaps today will be the day when they will resume their real role, protecting the borders of Lebanon.
"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."