“Shaping Lebanon’s Future,” by Bilal Saab

Syria needs to make a clear statement about its Lebanon policy, explaining on what terms it will normalize relations. Bilal Saab is a balanced analyst, but in this short essay, he expresses the anxiety shared by many Middle Easterners that Syria is not prepared to recognize Lebanese independence. He advocates a strong but reformed US role in Lebanon, in large part to ward off Syrian influence.

Shaping Lebanon’s Future 
Bilal Y. Saab, Senior Research Assistant, Saban Center
Executive Summary 

Lebanon is mired in a long running and seemingly intractable political crisis. The country has been without a president since November 2007, a reflection of deep-rooted problems in Lebanese politics. Three years after the withdrawal of Syrian troops, Lebanon has become less, not more stable. The United States therefore needs to craft a Lebanon policy that can help ease the country out of its constitutional gridlock. Such a policy would seek to rebuild state capacity and shield Lebanon from negative foreign interventions, respect its internal balance of power, push for the convening of the international tribunal on the murder of Rafiq Hariri and other Lebanese politicians, and continue sponsoring moves towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. (read – Shaping Lebanon’s Future)

Comments (69)


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

Syria’s leadership must indeed articulate its long term Lebanon policy. This subject matter is critical. I would like to volunteer myself to expand on this topic in the near future.

March 19th, 2008, 11:24 pm

 

ausamaa said:

“he(Bilal Saab)expresses the anxiety shared by many Middle Easterners that Syria is not prepared to recognize Lebanese independence”.

P.S. notice the use of the word “Middle Easeternrs”, perhaps because he is writing for the SABAN Center: do we need to highlight what the leters SABAN stand for??!!

Have we not got tired of hearing this Syria rejects Lebanon’s independence lie??

However, cosidering history, economy, and geopolitics, and no matter how depolmatic we want to be about it and let no one fool himself,; Lebanese “Independence” stops where Syria’s National Security starts.

March 19th, 2008, 11:44 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani,

I for one would welcome your thoughts on this matter.

In two successive posts from Joshua, we’ve seen people calling for a clear Syrian policy on Lebanon.

This would go a long way to cutting the bluffing on both sides.

Yalla Ehsani, what is your take?

March 19th, 2008, 11:55 pm

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

The realistically cynical view:
– Syria made a huge mistake in assassinating Hariri
– Tried to do damage control by withdrawing from Lebanon
– Tried to reclaim influence through HA
– Is scared beyond reason of the international tribunal convincingly implicating Senior Syrian leaders, and reaching or coming close to Bashar
– All maneuvering by Sryia is driven ultimately by this survival need to dissolve or at least diminish and deflect the tribunal
Hence the insistence on HA’s veto in the Lebanese government, refusal to recognize the tribunal, and all other Syrian positions.

I know I’ll be asked for “proof” etc., as I’ve read in so many posts here. Instead, I ask you to consider that there are 2 possibilities: (1) Syria did kill Hariri and (2) Syria did not kill Hariri.
If (1) is true, all my statements above are validated
If (2) is true, what a lousy defense by Syria to proclaim its innocence. In that case you really have a bumblingly incompetent regime.

March 20th, 2008, 1:18 am

 

Enlightened said:

I also would like to hear what others have, thoughts on this particular matter.

Offended, Norman, Alex?

What do you think please articulate!

Zen, your thoughts also.

HP if your still listening we can all formulate a response with QN as well.

March 20th, 2008, 1:35 am

 

Georges said:

What a bunch of horse manure. Syria no more needs to articulate its long-term position on Lebanon than Egypt needs to articulate a long-term position on Sudan or Saudi Arabia on Qatar. As a Syrian, I reject the very notion, and refuse to continue to prove our innocence over and again. Syria has repeatedly expressed its recognition of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, and more recently, its willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Beirut once the current cloud is cleared. Why should Syria go any further? Indeed, she shouldn’t.

During the Lebanese civil war, Syria (unfortunately) intervened in Lebanon at the behest of the Lebanese, and with full diplomatic cover by the Arab League. During that time, Syria had every right to safeguard its national interest when there is a failed state whose war can easily extend to its own territory. It took a little longer for the Syrian government to pull its troops out (we now see the reason why). But, thankfully, we’re OUT now, and Syria is all the better for it – economically and politically.

Three years on, after repeated demands to leave Lebanon alone, Syria is now requested (indeed pressured) to actively intervene to influence one group (who is friendly to it) to vote for a President/Government/Agenda that is hostile to its own national interests. Does anyone see the irony and stupidity here?

In my opinion, Syria should:

1. Refuse ANY attempt to articulate a long-term position on Lebanon beyond the standard recognition of sovereignty when appropriate.
2. Reiterate its willingness to establish full diplomatic relationships, including opening of embassies once the current hostile government refrains from the constant accusations and attacks.
3. Reject any and all calls for intervention or influence with its friends in Lebanon to pass (or block) the vote on President Suleiman or any other agenda. This should be the free choice of the opposition alone. Let demographic (and other factors play out here). Syria can provide moral support based on the position taken by Lebanese players and their consistency with its own national interest.
4. Treat Lebanon as any other state with similar hostile political climate (as exists today), by cutting electricity and fuel subsidies, charging more competitive fees to trucks and transit passing through our territory, as well as reviewing contracts unduly awarded to Lebanese companies.

To me, this is pretty simple, straightforward, and surprisingly normal.

March 20th, 2008, 3:37 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one ,

These are my thoughts,

Lebanon has many problems , Syria only kept them under wrap during it’s stay , now that Syria is out everybody is trying to correct the wrong that is practiced in Lebanon , from Christians seeing their representatives elected by Muslims and Shia not having full representation and Sunnies hijacking the government and power and making the Christian presidency a joke ,

The government people try to use Syria as an scapegoat for the lack of political reform that will make the Lebanese feel that they are well represented.

The way i see a solution in Lebanon is to have small districts and have primeries to chose candidates from the opposition and a candidate from the ones in power then have an election to chose one of the two, districting could be done by an American university and no matter what the mix of people in these districts , with free movements and anti discrimination laws in housing and jobs , that mix will change having small districts will make it easier for people to elect people they know and like , each county in Lebanon can elect 4 senators to the upper house and like in the US , laws are made after passing by both houses .

The president would be elected by the total population after a primary that will chose the candidates for the opposition and the Government and can be of any religion , the time has come to have real democracy so the people can feel that they can be anything they want if they want to be in politics .

I think Syria just want Lebanon to stop being a tool to attack Syria,
We all know that Syria went into Lebanon because as Hafez Assad said that Jumblat did not want to eat grapes from the vainer he wanted to kill the keeper ( Christians ) and that he could not let happen , so the Lebanese of the government , they do not want to get rid of Syria’s influence in Lebanon they want to destroy Syria and that , the Syrian people will not allow to happen.

March 20th, 2008, 3:38 am

 

norman said:

Wow Georges , you are so right.

March 20th, 2008, 3:45 am

 

Alex said:

When there is a peace settlement betwen Syria and Israel, Syria will not mind recognizing Lebanese borders and sending an ambassador …etc.

Syria has no secret plans to integrate Lebanon … Ausamma is right, Syrian national security is Syria’s priority … Syria will require guarantees that Lebanon will not be used by anyone against Syria. Syria will probably require a solid guarantee from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel, that none of them will interfere in Lebanon

That’s all.

The rest will fall in place naturally … Lebanese and Syrian business people will invest in the two neighboring countries almost as if they are one country … there will be a return to warm relations … and the Lebanese will find out that Syria really does not want to send its army back in, and really does not want to destroy their “democracy” …

Syria’s “demands” are quite compatible with reciprocity … the Lebanese can also expect that “Syria will not be governed against Lebanon” … etc.

So .. there is no “Syrian hegemony” … only positive expectations for both nations.

March 20th, 2008, 3:56 am

 

ghassan said:

I never seen any Lebanese who likes Lebanon to be part of Syria, even the Hizballah people! Lebanon is an independent country and will never be part of Syria!
I agree with “TheOtherPointOfVieW” that Syria did a big mistake with killing Hariri and someone will pay the price.
Sooner or later the Syrian will wake up and overthrow its Asad Mafia regime. Then Lebanese and Syrian people will live in peace and harmony, and mutual respect.

March 20th, 2008, 5:12 am

 

Mr President said:

Lebanon is not a nation state. The Lebanese people know that. For you to know that you just have to pass by beautiful and rich Zahleh on your way to a ghetto called Balabek. the Sunnis and Christians robbed the so called Lebanon for so many years for their own self interests. They did that because they never thought and still never thinks that it is a country for everyone. it is really just a collection of warlords and their crowds. Also, economically it cannot sustain itself and survive on its own. It always needed the help of Syria in term of labor force, major food (grain,…), electricity, defense, law and order… also, Syria was and still the shopping center for all the poor people of Lebanon. Hence, Syria provides subsidies to Lebanese poor. That tells you that the two countries are so close and so interconnected. In fact, I have yet to find a Lebanese or Syrian family, yourself included, that does not have major extended networks of cousins and uncles in both countries. Syria is not interfering in Lebanon. It is the Saudis with the help of Bush and the king of Jordan the ones interfering in it. As always the warlords of Lebanon are asking outsiders to come and help them win, by force, against their own Lebanese brothers and sisters. This time the Druze and Sunni warlords of Lebanon ran to the Saudis/Bush to help them steal the country. In return, these warlords are offering to be the center for taking over Syria for the Saudi. This is nothing new in that area. As we all know just about every coup in Syria was started in Beirut. The French came to Syria thru Beirut without resistance. The last of the Christian Crusaders of 1095 fled to Tyre and stayed there hoping to come back against Saladin in Damascus. The Ottoman Turks got so tired of it all that they encouraged thousands and thousands of Sunnis to move from main Syrian cities to the costal cities of Lebanon.
The solution to Lebanon is One-man One-Vote democracy. Everything else will fall into place between Syria and Lebanon on its own. Just like everything else fell into place for the last couple of hundred years due the strong social, economical, and educational connections between the two areas.

March 20th, 2008, 9:58 am

 

offended said:

I don’t think we need to philosophize much about Syria’s policy toward Lebanon. It’s too futile at this point of time, me thinks. Simply because Lebanon is changing dynamics. Hence, the Syrian short term policy will have to be dynamic and flexible. Otherwise we’d fall in the trap of committing our self to a plan and then getting trapped within its confinements.

Long term policy? ….. the Al Ba’th party charter says it very clear:

“Arab unity is the ultimate goal of the entire struggle for freedom and independence”

…and I totally agree with it!

March 20th, 2008, 10:21 am

 

wizart said:

I visited the new, ultra modern and beautiful Lebanese museum at the American University of Beirut recently and looked at the historical map of Lebanon from the early days of the Pheonicians.

What stuck with me is how the country was always reliant on trade to sustain itself and it’s only natural for Lebanon to have an interdependent relationship with the country that surrounds it the most. Let’s not forgot Lebanon until very recently was actually a nice part of Syria before the French decided to divide and concur the area and create a separate Lebanon as an independent state which is very romantic although pretty stupid and unpractical in retrospect. Surely easier to control. Imagine if an imperial Germany or a colonial force had a chance to cut off California from the rest of the union, manufacture false pride, nationalism and hunger for independence among the California population and then wonder why they can’t live in peace and be governed independently!

Cutting off Las Vegas from California is a very bad idea. Cutting off Lebanon from Syria is a far worse idea for both countries. Nobody benefits except the war lords & special interest groups.

March 20th, 2008, 10:45 am

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

All this talk about Syria withholding the establishment of an embassy in Lebanon until some future event or development is precisely the kind of blatant evidence of Syria’s arrogant hegemony over its smaller neighbor.

“GEORGES” is a proud Syrian nationalist and should be commended for that. So is Norman. Commendation and respect for both. But the fact is that they are blinded by this pride to the point that they fail to have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the Lebanese. The Lebanese are just as proud and are asking for just as much respect.
“Mr. President” says “Lebanon is not a nation state.”
“Offended” spells it out frankly “Arab unity is the ultimate goal of the entire struggle for freedom and independence.”

You all probably mean well, but you unconsciously dismiss the inevitable momentum of the creation, through evolution, of a new Lebanon, completely severed from Syrian control. This does not mean a Lebanon that is the enemy of Syria, nor a Lebanon that will not deal with Syria. It simply means a Lebanon that will interact with Syria – cooperate, mutually support, jointly develop economic ties – from a position of mutual respect and complete independence.

Until and unless such respect is extended – including the establishment of an embassy and the halting of subversive actions of enabling illegal weapons flow through the border – Lebanon is and should be free to defend itself in the court of world opinion and claim the full airing and accounting of the true culprits in its assassination strings.

The US is treating Syria to no more than Syria is treating Lebanon. At least the US still has an embassy in Syria (even if the ambassador has been withdrawn) and periodic attempts are made by some US politicians (as well as Europeans) to re-connect with Syria. What has Syria done? Persisently insult the democratically elected government of Lebanon and call its Prime Minister a slave.

March 20th, 2008, 11:29 am

 

Georges said:

THEOTHERPOINTOFVIEW,

I am Syrian, and yes, I am proud. I also know and appreciate that a Lebanese (or a person from Mali or Denmark, for that matter) would also be proud of their country. This concept is not lost on me. So, I don’t appreciate you playing a psychologist to decipher what I may be “blinded by”, just because you may have read a couple of newspaper articles.

You got it wrong. I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with Lebanese independence, and I would offer my respect to ANY country and people, near or far, that respects itself. I didn’t want Syrian troops in Lebanon a long time before the assassination of Hariri and don’t want Syria to rule the Lebanese anymore than I want to be ruled by anyone else. That said, I do support a Syrian policy that actively supports those whose agendas and vision is shared by me and my country, particularly when they’re up against another group whose agenda is to spread chaos in my region.

So, I don’t “unconsciously dismiss” the blah blah blah. Please try to read before responding, and stop parroting the same thing. It is you and others who live in this endless paranoia about Syrian hidden designs on Lebanon. I know I speak for a lot of people in Syria who don’t give a damn. I actually mean this nicely. Since our troops’ withdrawal, Syria has adopted more (but not enough) of a Syria-first policy: With even the shy and inadequate reforms that have been made in the last 3 years, billions of dollars have been repatriated into Syrian banks from Lebanon, Syrians are now shopping in Damascus instead of Beirut….and foreign investment has been flowing.

If the Lebanese want my (and others’) respect, they need to demonstrate that they’re worthy of it…or at least that they’re not deserving of me withholding it. Over the last 3 years, they have failed to earn my respect…and I suspect that of so many others, in the region and elsewhere. Among the few characteristics that the Lebanese share with one another is mistrust, suspicion and agency to one foreign country or another against each other. I would not respect that – not in Lebanon…or Somalia!

March 20th, 2008, 12:00 pm

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Georges,

Thank You! Nothing in what you just wrote is disputed. Nothing. The Lebanese do have a LOT of problems and a LOT of evolution to go through to get their house in order.
The specific policy actions from Syria are what’s at stake:
– arguing against establishing at this time an embassy (the arguments don’t hold water and lead to the suspicions and accusations I level, or more accurately, I forward)
– refraining from controlling the border and hence enabling illegal weapon transfers
– denigrating the government of Lebanon by insulting its Prime Minister
Isn’t that interference? Everyone applauds a Syria-first policy and a strong, competitive, advanced Syria. The re-emergence of Syria as a beacon for the Arab world and culture is celebrated by all except the rotten extremists or bigots on the other end of the spectrum. These will be drowned if/when objectively valid cases are made for Syria. The Syria cultural exposition in Canada a few years ago was a resounding success and lauded by all.
Therein does NOT lie the problem. The problem lies in the actions and positions of the Syrian government vis-a-vis Lebanon. The information we are exposed to in the US, including international press and media, speak a different facts-on-the-ground than you tend to ignore, probably in all sincerity, but through either insufficient information or lack of seeing through it.

March 20th, 2008, 12:27 pm

 

wizart said:

George,

I really have a different far more positive views and observations about many of the Lebanese which I have met through the years.

For the most part I find them to be highly respectable people despite the challenging current state of affairs in the region.

Syrians are better off separating the Lebanese people from their problems to see how they individually earn their respect in their own way despite outstanding political or economic challenges.

TOPOV,

I appreciate your views and insights which I can relate to as well.

Pride is a two edged sword. Some of it is warranted. A lot of it is empty which translates into disrespect for others and leads ultimately to a lack of effective political institutions. More maturity is required to put one’s selve into another’s shoes.

March 20th, 2008, 1:00 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Georges said to TOPOV:

So, I don’t “unconsciously dismiss” the blah blah blah. Please try to read before responding, and stop parroting the same thing. It is you and others who live in this endless paranoia about Syrian hidden designs on Lebanon.

Georges, I disagree. I think you DO unconsciously dismiss the blah blah blah.

In fact, everything you say screams that you are dismissing the blah blah blah.

That’s the problem with you Syrians. You just don’t see how often you dismiss the blah blah blah.

That said, I think that we Lebanese could be better about not dismissing the blah blah blah, although, given our history, who could blame us?

😉

March 20th, 2008, 2:03 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

In all seriousness, though, I would invite Georges to consider that almost EVERYTHING that has been said by our Syrian colleagues on this thread could have been said by a Jumblatt supporter on a M14 blog, substituting the word Syria for Lebanon.

The Lebanese aren’t paranoid about Syrian designs on Lebanon. Paranoia implies an undue anxiety about an external threat. These anxieties are not undue! You guys like to imagine that what the Lebanese are worried about are ancient Syrian tanks lumbering back into the Bekaa, and bored 21 year-old Syrian troopers standing guard at checkpoints in the Chouf. This is not the issue.

As Alex said very clearly:

When there is a peace settlement betwen Syria and Israel, Syria will not mind recognizing Lebanese borders and sending an ambassador …etc.

This is not a secret position, and so the anxiety about it is not undue, and so does not represent paranoia. What Alex is saying is that Syria will continue to exert its control over Lebanon via its proxies until its own objectives are met. Forgive me if I am not thrilled about this, given the track record of the past several decades.

If Syria is serious about peace and about establishing proper diplomatic relations with its neighbors in the context of mutual security guarantees, then it needs to be clear about its policy. Anything less than a stated policy which conforms to reality will not be good enough for the Lebanese. You see, we also have our national security to think about.

And unlike Syria’s national security [which depends overwhelmingly on a Lebanese resistance group], we don’t have anyone but ourselves looking out for our interests.

March 20th, 2008, 2:20 pm

 

wizart said:

QN

What does evolution mean if not stable and intelligent co-existance?

Change is great when done out of a desire to be more relevant to the world around you not out of desire to be a utopian island of peace disconnected from regional realities. Evolution can be seen as a revolution against self destructive national pride and myopia.

March 20th, 2008, 2:38 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Wizart,

I don’t quite get your meaning.

If I could snap my fingers and bring about a situation of “stable and intelligent co-existence” with no “self-destructive national pride and myopia”, believe me I would.

As for the island of peace thing, I don’t support that because it is a fantasy… a utopia, as you said. However, this highly ambiguous phrase that you use (“disconnected from regional realities”) requires further sharpening. Anybody who accuses Lebanon of being disconnected from regional realities is completely insane. Lebanon is the epicenter of regional realities. It is also, ironically, the only semi-democractic country in the region. I would prefer that the rest of the region become more like us than the other way around.

And I think the millions of Syrians who work, study, get medical treatment, and go on vacation in Lebanon would agree, deep down.

March 20th, 2008, 2:47 pm

 

wizart said:

QN,

We both agree that we can’t snap our fingers and be disconnected from regional realities so there’s no accusation there only a request to stop the wishful thinking of some people which I often perceive.

I am not going to argue with what you prefer. That might be insane 🙂

March 20th, 2008, 3:00 pm

 

ausamaa said:

QN

1- Lebanon unfortunately does not have ONE national interest but at least two. Always had. The national interest of almost three quarters of the Lebanese is aligned with Syria’s and the overall Arab cause.

2- You claim:” we don’t have anyone but ourselves looking out for our interests.”

Ecexuse me, but what exactly do you call the continued support and interest of Bush, Olmert, Larsen, Koshner, and King Abdullah in supporting the Feb 14 gang? Not to mention the USS COLE and USS Philippines etc, etc? Unless you realise that they are just using part of the Lebanese chiftains and people to further their own interests which are not necessearily alligned with the intersts of the majority of the Lebanese in the long term.

BTW, since an Embassy is so important to Lebanon’s existance, why doesnt Saudi have an Embassy in US Occupied Iraq yet? And Syria has repeatedly said an Embassy, a demarcation, and a… whatever would be done but not under pressure from the outside.Bashar al Assad made a State Visit to quell your imagined anexity early during his term, but even that is forgotten. You can not cherry pick what you want from Syria, actually, given the size and nature of both countries, reality dictates that the opposite should be the norm.

So please, realize the relative size and importance of Lebanon and act according to it, and do not keep counting on either drawing the outsiders in to counter-balance Syria’s weight, or to induce temporary additional pressurs on Syria. It has not worked in the past, it is not working now, and it will not work in the future.

You first define what your policy towards Syria should be. Check it out with three quarters of the Lebanese and obtain their agreement, then take a taxi to Damascuse, see what adjustments Syria requiers, integrate those into the plan and then implement a Lebaneses Syrian policy that benifit both. And be very Modest while you at it. Very!

The Prima Donas of the Arab World; Guess who fits this discription best?

March 20th, 2008, 3:09 pm

 

mslevantine said:

This blog is suffering form a serious firehouse syndrom: the same 6 guys convincing each other of strange ideas. Some of my favorites are:

-“Lebanon” has always been part of “Syria” until the nasty Frenchies came along. Has any of you bothered to look at maps of the M-E before making such an elightening comment?

-Lebanon has always been a source of destabilization for Syria: Landis came up with 100 guys training in the Chouf in the 50’s. Any other insights you care to share?

Sorry for disturbing the self-congratulatory ciclejerk.

Tata.

March 20th, 2008, 3:18 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

It’s so refreshing to hear the female perspective on things.

🙂

I’m so ashamed.

March 20th, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa,

1- Lebanon unfortunately does not have ONE national interest but at least two. Always had.

Agree.

The national interest of almost three quarters of the Lebanese is aligned with Syria’s and the overall Arab cause.

Disagree. (And by the way, you equate Syria’s cause with the overall Arab cause. But who’s in the dog house in the Arab world, allying with the Arabs’ current enemy? Yes, you guessed: it’s Syria!)

Ecexuse me, but what exactly do you call the continued support and interest of Bush, Olmert, Larsen, Koshner, and King Abdullah in supporting the Feb 14 gang?

Actually, amazingly, we agree on this point. Bush and co do not have Lebanon’s best interests at heart. Did he come to Lebanon’s defense while Israel was bombarding us? No. Did Syria? No again. (Syria was offering to sell Hizbullah out, if you believe Alon Liel).

There is no question that we are the prima donnas of the Arab World. Keep fawning secretly… it does wonders for our complexion.

March 20th, 2008, 3:31 pm

 

wizart said:

Ms Levantine,

Merci for bursting some limited circulation bubble here as Mars and Venus do speak different languages sometimes and I appreciate that.

You also made a courageous first step posting here and if someone lied to me and there was no French that ever meddled in Syrian/Lebanese politics please feel free to reorient my views. I was not born back then nor yesterday so I may know a few verifiable facts.

Bon Voyage!

March 20th, 2008, 3:47 pm

 

ghat Albird said:

Congrats to most all Lebanese in asserting their common sense humanity and self respect in hav
ing survived the absence of a government that could not or would not be representaive of the reality of Lebabon on 2008.

From a vantage point several thousands miles away from the Cedars its appropriate too to acknowledge the posture of Syria at this time.

Lets trust that the commonalities that typify the Lebanese of 2008 will in time translate into demanding from the UN that its time for all the refugees in Lebanon to return to their homes asap.

Best wishes for ‘sham el nessim” and Easter.

March 20th, 2008, 4:08 pm

 

wizart said:

🙂 Happy Easter 🙂
🙂 Happy Mother’s Day 🙂
🙂 Happy Birthday 🙂
🙂 Happy Anniversary 🙂

Best Wishes For Regional Peace, Progress And Prosperity!

Cheers 🙂

Ariz 🙂 Lebnan 🙂
Fi 🙂 Bilad El Sham 🙂

March 20th, 2008, 4:17 pm

 

Georges said:

WIZART,

For clarity, I have a lot of Lebanese friends and business associates, some of whom are very dear and close to me. When I talk about ‘respect’, I don’t mean it on a personal basis toward individuals, but rather in political terms. So, what you say goes without saying. Again, everyone slides immediately into assumptions about some harbored animosity that we somehow have toward our brothers and neighbors.

I’d argue that it is you and TOPOV who need to open your minds and see things from our own perspective, rather than through the eyes of classic media.

TOPOV, though I have my opinion of Siniora, I don’t agree with calling him a ‘slave’. Having said that, if you go through print, broadcast and online media over the past 3 years, it is simply IRREFUTABLE that the insults came from the Lebanese side – both leaders and even segments of people. For a small example, do a search on “Syria” on facebook, and see the numbers of HATE groups and insults that are hurled at Syria – both government and people. Read Elaph.com and monitor Lebanese writers and note for yourselves the baseless accusations, insults and attacks. Please go back and review the tons of footage of the numerous, documented broadcasts of Mar 14 leaders and crowds calling Syria and Syrians epithets. And, to culminate it all, remember the dozens of civilians and workers who were killed in the past 3 years for no reason but that they’re Syrian nationals, due the incitement of leaders from Hariri Jr to Jumblatt and Geagea.

Compare ALL of the above with what has come from Syria. With the exception of the ‘slave’ remark by Assad, SHOW me where Syria has been insulting to the Lebanese? Show me where Syrians have chanted against Lebanon? Where were Lebanese insulted or attacked in Syria? Substantiate, PLEASE, how we Syrians have disrespected the Lebanese. Enough with the sound bites and manchettes…I want to know what you people are basing your accusations on?

Saudi Arabia withdrew its Ambassador from Doha (Qatar) due to tensions far less substantial than what is going on between Syria and Lebanon. Do you people think it’s reasonable to expect Syria to ESTABLISH an embassy in Beirut at a time when key members of the host government is openly calling for our regime overthrow? Are you NUTS? Have you lost all sense of objectivity and reason?

As for TOPOV’s point about what you’re exposed to in the US media, I’m rather intimately familiar with it first hand, as well as that from Europe. Are you claiming that what the US puts out in its mainstream media is objective? A recent poll found that only half of AMERICANS believe most of news in their own media, and about 24% don’t believe their own media’s reports.

In the US, you’d have to dig into non-mainstream media to find objective coverage…and this is not just for Syria/Lebanon. This applies just as much to Iran, Palestine, Iraq and even some US domestic issues. So, just because you’re “exposed to” some information in US media that happens to fit with your political orientation on this subject does not make that information ‘facts on the ground’. Indeed, US news coverage often relies on disinformation, which is used as one of Washington’s tools to further its political and “diplomatic” objectives.

Let’s see about US news overage: Putting the whole Iraq war aside, Is Syria deserving of a prominent place on the list of terror-sponsoring countries? Is North Korea? Is Cuba? Name the terror attacks these countries have been involved in. What about coverage of Gaza recently? Has that been reflective of ‘facts on the ground’? C’MON!! Even Europeans and Canadians acknowledge the slanted, skewed news coverage in national US media.

And, before you jump back with your canned answer, I don’t know of a single educated Syrian who reads Syrian government press. So, just because I happen to be a little (not fully) in sync with the official Syrian position on Lebanon, it’s not because I’m feasting on news from Teshreen or Thawra…it’s because that is what I BELIEVE – say the US news what they may!

March 20th, 2008, 4:19 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Georges said:

I want to know what you people are basing your accusations on?

Georges, the anti-Syrian response of the Lebanese since 2005 has been overblown in some ways, but I think that you are asking a naive question. What do you mean, “What are you people basing your accusations on?” The proportion of the Lebanese population that is “anti-Syrian” (which is about half if you include the Aounists who view their alliance with Syria as a temporary marriage of convenience) is anti-Syrian for a good reason.

They are not anti-Syrian culture, Syrian people, etc. They are anti-Baath regime, plain and simple. They are anti-intimidation, anti-assassination, anti-cooptation. Unfortunately, the M14 leaders have tried to profit from these legitimate sentiments by whipping them up into arguments for regime change.

Over the past three years, the Lebanese have seen prominent leaders, journalists, and intellectuals brutally assassinated, one after another. For many people, there is no question who is behind this killing spree, and so they are the ones who react so harshly against Syria. It is an understandable response, even if there is no proof that Syria was behind them. To them, this is the only thing that makes sense, and they may indeed be right.

When Mughniyyeh was killed, did anyone wait for an international tribunal to establish the guilt of Israel before Nasrallah called a huge rally, chanted “Death to America” and vowed revenge upon Israel? No. Why should you expect some of the Lebanese to feel any different about Syria, given its history of ruling Lebanon through coercion and intimidation?

We can agree that this anti-Syrianism has been exploited by the Jumblatts and Geageas; but they are not entirely unjustified.

March 20th, 2008, 5:28 pm

 

wizart said:

QN,

I think the Syrians could organize a public relations campaign in Lebanon to explain to the general public the importance of everybody working together and how a great political integration could work wonders not unlike the way Europe is integrating ever more countries into its union. First it’s Lebanon then it maybe Turkey, Israel & the whole of Russia all the way to Europe. The future of globalization 🙂

March 20th, 2008, 5:58 pm

 

offended said:

Wizart, you forgot to say : happy prophet Mohamed birthday!
😉

March 20th, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

wizart said:

Yes of course that’s one birthday I missed thanks for mentioning it 🙂

Please don’t cut off relations with Denmark over some weired cartoons.

Happy Prophet Mohamed birthday

Cheeeeeeze 🙂

March 20th, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Wizart

You also forgot:

Happy Purim

Happy Holi

Happy Nawruz

A conference would be great. Syria is the natural pole of leadership in our region. Lebanese are culturally Shaami. There is no reason why our countries can’t be united in all ways but politically, and maybe they will be politically united as well one day.

But until then, things will probably get worse before they get better, unless we seem some real leadership emerge.

March 20th, 2008, 6:29 pm

 

wizart said:

QN,

I’ve always thought we could be great friends. I appreciate your leadership and wish you a Holi Nawrez Purim day! whatever that is 🙂

March 20th, 2008, 6:33 pm

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Lest anyone missed it, note the apparently genuine wishes on an earlier post:
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=632#comment-126622

March 20th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

Naji said:

…”self-congratulatory ciclejerk”…!! Wow…, I wonder how long has this naughty levantine miss been voyeuristically lurking there…??! 😉

Georges has given as rational, obvious, and self-evident a position as can possibly be given on this subject. Indeed, the rest is mostly all jerking off, but I don’t understand why Ms Levantine has to be so judgmental and derogatory about that…!? She could just avert her gaze…! One often has to…! 😉

…and look who else is here: …the coolest Wiz, young QN, and honest TOPOV…!! It’s alright…! 🙂

Happy Mo’s B-day, Mom’s Day, Nairuz, Purim, Easter, …whatever… Happy Spring Equinox to all…! 🙂

Btw, …don’t you think that the oriental focus on celebrating the resurrection of the Christ is much more hopeful than the rather morbid occidental obsession with the crucifixion…?! As the “birthplace of [western] civilization”, perhaps our little corner could also be the place of its re-birth…!?

March 20th, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

Georges said:

QN,

With all due respect, you’re spitting and polishing here. You’re spinning things with a dash of PR so you can justify an otherwise-unjustifiable attitude that you can’t refute.

What I’ve been hearing and reading for the last 36 months is not anti-Baathist; it’s anti-Syrian…and yes, it is anti-Syrian culture and it’s anti-Syrian people. Please go back and read my examples above. I, myself, am against the Baath – both in ideology as well as in policy and management. So, trust me, I could understand a Lebanese (or anyone else) being anti-Baathist. Heck, I might even sympathize a little. But, it has gone way beyond that.

I agree with you that the Aounists are not pro-Syrian; indeed, I’d consider them anti-Syrian as well. So, I’d agree that roughly half of the Lebanese population could be considered anti-Syrian. This proves my point earlier. The leadership in Lebanon has been, and continues to be irresponsible; indeed reckless. Yes, they are whipping the people into a frenzy, but the people are willing participants in this. Even though Syria enjoys less political freedoms than Lebanon, with forced demonstrations, etc, you don’t (and can’t) see a bunch of people running around chanting insults at another Arab country, demeaning its people, demanding the bombing of its capital, the removal of its leadership, and attacking its citizens.

To justify this, you say that the Lebanese are anti-assassination and anti-intimidation, again implying that Syria is behind the assassinations of the past 3 years; something that has yet to be proven. Indeed, it doesn’t even make sense. To the contrary, the tradition of the Lebanese over the past 30 years lends more credibility to Lebanese culpability in many of these crimes. To be clear, I don’t think Syria’s management of Lebanon has been all good; I have a LOT to complain about there. But, it wasn’t all bad either, but that’s a different discussion.

In short, Qifa Nabki, NO: Lebanese response has not been understandable, and their sentiments (as expressed above) is NOT right. I might agree with the Lebanese (or others) about elements of Syrian government policy in Lebanon or elsewhere; we could have a civilized discourse around it, whether or not we ultimately agree. But, the relationship between our people should have always remained a friendly one. Take the example of Iraq; for decades, there was a hostile, antagonistic relationship between the governments; car bombs and coup attempts were traded, but the people remained friendly and fraternal.

What the Lebanese (leadership and half the population) have succeeded in doing is to create animosity and hostility among the people, which is unfortunate. And, the longer people (particularly, educated ones like you) try to explain and justify it, instead of condemn it unequivocally, the wider the gulf will get. And, from my standpoint, the end loser will continue to be Lebanon.

Finally, I think the Lebanese need to take the time to look inward and stop blaming others for their ills. The Syrians, Saudis, Iranians, Israelis and others would not have been able to interfere in internal Lebanese affairs were they not invited by the Lebanese themselves – either directly or through their ineptness. The Syrians have been made to unduly shoulder the blame for Lebanon’s internal problems; they have become the favorite scapegoat for everything from the Lebanese economy, to immigration to its political problems. Of course, the Syrians have done a terribly poor job of managing our own image and presenting our case – both to the Lebanese and to the broader world public.

Regardless, what you, and others, need to understand is that most of us educated Syrians don’t share that view; we think it’s unfair and unjust, and we’re offended by the ensuing attacks, insults and their justifications.

March 20th, 2008, 7:46 pm

 

Naji said:

Dude…!! Where has this GEORGES been hiding until now…?!

March 20th, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Georges said:

What I’ve been hearing and reading for the last 36 months is not anti-Baathist; it’s anti-Syrian…and yes, it is anti-Syrian culture and it’s anti-Syrian people.

Georges, can you provide some examples? I have been following the events of the past 36 months quite closely, both in Lebanon and outside, and I have never had a single conversation with a Lebanese person who took issue with Syria’s culture or its people. You are letting your emotions get the better of you.

What aspects of Syrian culture have the March 14 forces complained about? That the Aleppan Armenians cook their kafta with cherries instead of tomatoes? That the Homsi dialect sounds too different from the Beiruti one? Give me a break. The issue is political.

Even though Syria enjoys less political freedoms than Lebanon, with forced demonstrations, etc, you don’t (and can’t) see a bunch of people running around chanting insults at another Arab country, demeaning its people, demanding the bombing of its capital, the removal of its leadership, and attacking its citizens.

Georges, the lack of free demonstration in Syria is more than made up for by the hatred expressed toward Lebanon online by many Syrians and pro-Syrians. I don’t know how long you’ve been reading this blog, but by my reckoning hardly a day goes by without somebody defaming Lebanon. Look through the archives… it won’t take you long to learn that Syrians (if this group of expatriates is at all representative) generally find the Lebanese to be hateful, suspicious, disloyal, morally dissolute, and easily bought. As you said yourself: “the few characteristics that the Lebanese share with one another is mistrust, suspicion and agency to one foreign country or another against each other.” So it’s a two-way street.

To justify this, you say that the Lebanese are anti-assassination and anti-intimidation, again implying that Syria is behind the assassinations of the past 3 years; something that has yet to be proven.

Georges, again I would refer you back to what I said. It doesn’t matter whether or not Syria was responsible for these crimes, in the same way that it doesn’t matter if America is responsible for all of the problems that afflict our region. As long as people feel justified in believing that Syria (or America) is the culprit, then the response is UNDERSTANDABLE, not JUSTIFIABLE according to rationality. You may disagree with the response, but you can’t pretend that it’s not understandable, in the same way that many Arabs are inherently suspicious of America because of its track record in the region.

I suspect that we agree on about 75% of the issues. So then let’s have a real discussion about the issues, rather than getting our panties in a twist about who said what about whom. You want educated Lebanese to unequivocally condemn the creation of animosity toward Syria on the part of Lebanese leaders? Ok, I unequivocally condemn it.

Now what do you have to offer?

March 20th, 2008, 9:05 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Georges,

In the spirit of TOPOVian psychoanalysis, here’s a little summary of your views, just to facilitate our discussion:

* “I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with Lebanese independence, and I would offer my respect to ANY country and people, near or far, that respects itself.”

* “I didn’t want Syrian troops in Lebanon a long time before the assassination of Hariri and don’t want Syria to rule the Lebanese anymore than I want to be ruled by anyone else.”

* “I have a lot of Lebanese friends and business associates, some of whom are very dear and close to me. When I talk about ‘respect’, I don’t mean it on a personal basis toward individuals, but rather in political terms.”

* “Just because I happen to be a little (not fully) in sync with the official Syrian position on Lebanon, it’s not because I’m feasting on news from Teshreen or Thawra…”

* “I, myself, am against the Baath – both in ideology as well as in policy and management. So, trust me, I could understand a Lebanese (or anyone else) being anti-Baathist. Heck, I might even sympathize a little.”

* “To be clear, I don’t think Syria’s management of Lebanon has been all good; I have a LOT to complain about there.”

* “I might agree with the Lebanese (or others) about elements of Syrian government policy in Lebanon or elsewhere; we could have a civilized discourse around it, whether or not we ultimately agree.”

It sounds to me like you are a critical observer of your own government and its practices. Let’s have that civilized discourse, shall we? You will find me to be a merciless critic of Lebanese political buffoonery, but no less stringent a critic of Baathism.

Tafaddal ya sidi.

March 20th, 2008, 9:29 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
What Georges has to offer is that next time he will also vote for Assad, but in an educated way. Or perhaps he will summon enough courage to stay home if the tribunal shows that it was the Syrians who were behind the assasinations. It will help change many things, you will see. Why have you no faith?

March 20th, 2008, 9:37 pm

 

Georges said:

Qifa Nabki,

What do I have to offer, you ask? I think you’ve done a pretty good job in answering your own question with your last post. But, just in case, let me be more blunt:

1. I don’t have an innate contempt or any kind superiority or inferiority complex toward Lebanon or the Lebanese. To the contrary, I generally think that of the entire Arabic-speaking world, we (Syrians and Lebanese) share more together than most (if not all) the others. So, in principle, we have the raw ingredients to have an exceptionally close relationship, if we can neutralize the political issue. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as is painfully evident here.

2. I don’t feel a need to be on the defensive vis-a-vis Lebanon and its problems. Anytime someone (Lebanese or otherwise) is going to accuse Syria of being the problem in Lebanon (whether it’s perception or not), I will respond aggressively with my known position that it’s the Lebanese, first and foremost, who ultimately bear that burden for their own troubles. On the other hand, I am more than willing to acknowledge and admit to Syria’s shortcomings and mismanagement during our reign in Lebanon. In other words, let us each take responsibility and admit culpability for our own problems. To get ahead, let’s each clean house (and we both have much to clean) and come to the other with a clear and objective understanding of our issues and our baggage.

3. I insist that Syria treat Lebanon and the Lebanese based on their positions. To be specific, until relations improve, I would like my government to suspend all aid or subsidies to the Lebanese government, jack up transit fees and re-examine contracts with Lebanese companies until a sense of equilibrium is established in this relationship. I believe this a sovereign right. In my opinion, some (half?) Lebanese have not had to realize a price for their extreme anti-Syrian positions; specifically, it has not yet hit them where it matters most – in their pocket books. On the other hand, once some baby steps are taken and people climb down from their trees, I would swing the other way to make a material difference in exchange for moderation. Clearly, Syria is, in many ways a virgin market, and has a ton of lucrative opportunities for Lebanese companies and professionals to benefit from. As we say: Al-aqraboun awla bel ma3rouf. Let’s open that up, when the air clears and the positions soften. In that case, I’d much rather the Lebanese benefit than Kuwaitis, Qataris or Saudis.

4. Though I refuse to continue to plead my innocence and repeatedly prove that I’m not interested in annexing Lebanon or otherwise destabilizing it, I will offer that I don’t believe in the annexation, occupation, or subjugation of any territory or people. Otherwise, my whole basis for demanding the return of the Golan and freedom and self-determination for the Palestinians becomes rather hollow. I also don’t have a blind belief in ideology (Baath or otherwise); rather I believe that good relationships between countries are best sustained when they’re based in mutual respect and reciprocal interests.

5. Given the above, all bets are off if a neighboring government (Lebanese or otherwise) puts itself in servitude of another hostile country and allows its territory to be used against Syria. If, based on a policy of non-interference and mutual respect, the Lebanese still can’t reconcile among themselves and either: 1. degenerate into civil strife that threatens Syrian national security; or 2. invite others, hostile to Syria, in to aid one faction against another, I would expect my government to act in a way that safeguards Syrian national security and interests. That’s fair, no?

How’s this for a start?

March 21st, 2008, 3:06 am

 

MNA said:

QN

You will find that the majority of Syrian prescribe to the views of Gerorges, but this does not mean that they will stand happy while the croweds in sa7et al-shouhada were chanting toot toot souria 3am tmout and were accusing Syria and Syria only of all the assassinations,without even considering the possibility of anyone else. And enough of this understandable response that you claim. People who are anti-syria now are the same who have always been anti-syria, even before 1975, and are the same people that had more problems with Syria being in lebanon than israel occupying South of Lebanon and Beirut. Why is 50% of the lebanese are ok with syria and did not chant toot toot Souria 3am tmout. Is the 50% pro Syria ok with the syrian destruction of their country or are they less lebanese?? Half of my family is lebanese and I lived for few years in Beirut before 1975 and i still remember the name that Lebanese used for the Syrian Lyra (sharmou*a).
Give me a break QN please!!

March 21st, 2008, 3:20 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Georges,

That’s a great start, thanks. I have much to respond to… but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

March 21st, 2008, 5:37 am

 

wizart said:

September 09, 2007 —
By Amr @ Saban Qatar Institute

Will There Be Two Lebanons?

As a Middle East policy analyst who also has family ties to Lebanon, I visit quite often. I rolled out of bed one day and tried jogging along Beirut’s famed middle-class seaside walkway called the “Corniche” recently, only to discover that the simple concrete and metal rails overlooking the glittering Mediterranean were being pulled up to make way for gorgeous tiles and shiny aluminum. The prospect of these misplaced public works not only upset me but it disrupted my jog. However, it did get me thinking.

Generic urban renewal is of course a good thing. But Lebanon is a country with the absolute highest per capita debt-to-GDP ratio in the Arab world. A year ago in Lebanon and Israel, Hizbullah and Israel pounded each other so hard that 30 percent of the Lebanese population became internal refugees. Swathes of South Lebanon were flattened to dust. Ask yourself: If you were running Lebanon, would you be spending the people’s money renovating perfectly good waterfront in an area hardly affected by war, while a third of the country was devastated by war?

The Lebanese government should have other priorities like catering to the civilian victims of the war, or unifying the electorate. The Corniche renewal, albeit small financially, is a highly visible and largely unnecessary renovation. Pair this with vociferous complaints of large areas of the country receiving more than their fair share of electricity blackouts. Lebanon’s current ruling coalition, which is at odds with Hizbullah, must also do more to revitalize hard-hit South Lebanon, and other disadvantaged parts of the country.

Imagine the public outcry that would occur in the United States if after Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush undertook highly visible development projects in Republican strongholds that were left untouched by Katrina – that’s how the situation looks to Lebanon’s large Shiite community, the key source of support for Hizbullah.

Perhaps a short-sighted policy, but why should this matter to Americans?

Because over the past two decades, countries that have fallen apart have done so painfully and amid chaos. Yugoslavia divided into a half-dozen states, and Bosnia later broke apart into two further entities – one Serbian Greek Orthodox and one combined Croatian Catholic and Bosnian Muslim. Serbia and Montenegro broke apart. Kosovo may soon separate. The West Bank and Gaza are now ruled by two governments – Hamas in Gaza and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah in the West Bank, and analysts are talking about partitioning Iraq into Arab Sunni, Arab Shiite, and Kurdish areas.

Could Lebanon be heading in the same direction? Are we about to see the emergence of two Lebanons – North Lebanon and South Lebanon, one governed by Hizbullah in the South while the rest of the country is run by the Sunnis and the various Christian sects?

This scenario is highly unlikely, largely because neither Hizbullah nor the Lebanese government want this. But with the Lebanese presidential elections due soon, we face the high likelihood that the two sides in Parliament might not agree on a president. If this happens, there is a chance that Lebanon could end having parallel state institutions, each claiming legitimacy.

Where would that leave Lebanon, America and the rest of the international community? Lebanon’s decade-and-a-half long Civil War has taught the Lebanese that violence does not solve problems.

We must take steps to keep Lebanon’s seams intact. What Lebanon needs is for each side to have the strength to stop relying on its international supporters to promote their interests. Instead, the international community should encourage the various factions within Lebanon to work together to ensure that the outcome of the upcoming presidential selection process does not lead to a divided Lebanon.

What the region needs are more partners who are willing to sit around the table to solve problems.

What the world needs is a Lebanese government that is building a positive future for all its citizens – and the support of the global community for a country in which government spending, electoral systems and the Constitution are not based on religious difference but on the common humanity of all Lebanese. Why wait for Lebanon to fall apart? Wouldn’t it be better to talk now and build a common future, before it ends up like Bosnia, or perhaps soon Iraq?

March 21st, 2008, 9:42 am

 

wizart said:

The ultimate most productive yet most difficult to reach solution would be a peaceful political integration between Syria & Lebanon.

Instead of disintegrating into two countries like South & North Lebanons, would it not be more productive to integrate with a larger more stable, historical, strategic and geographic ally such as Syria?

Two States, One Country. There will be no need to have a Lebanese president. A capable prime minister or governor would be enough.

The future of Lebanon in that ideal case could end up similar to that of Hong Kong. The future of Syria proceeds along the Chinese model. Hong Kong and China are now one country with one president in Beijing. A governor in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has known democracy for a long time and remains so even after it integrated with China.

The Lebanese would be free to set up factories and have free access to Syrian markets while public work projects and fast bullet trains can link Beirut with Damascus and Istanbul. Millions would be employed and brought out of poverty and growth rates would rival China’s.

It’s not impossible. Think big.

(Lead, follow or get out of the way) – Lee Iacocca

March 21st, 2008, 10:28 am

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Wizart, (kindly) get out of the way for now. Most Lebanese don’t look “up” to Syria. Never have, never will. Friendly countries and people, maybe. One country, never.
But thanks for spilling the beans.
Primum vivere, deinde philosophari.
OK – one exception. If Qifa Nabki becomes President of Lebanon, then whatever he decides we will follow, including merger with Syria. Doubtful (the merger, not QN as President), but if QN says do it, we’ll trust there’s a good reason. That’s the only instance of “Follow” for us and “Lead” for QN. Otherwise, see first sentence.

OK – more…

Georges: See Wizart’s proposal!

Georges President in Syria, MNA as Foreign minister, QN President in Lebanon –> everything becomes possible.

I’m afraid, smart young chaps, unless you become political elite, your idealism, intelligence, superbly good intentions, remarkable drive and eloquence will be for naught. But I’m not being negative. I do rejoice at the beginning of a foundation of outstandingly civilized and powerful communication. Makes me wonder what the heck I’m doing here! better retire and just read…keep your keyboards clicking.

March 21st, 2008, 11:21 am

 

wizart said:

TOPOV,

Past mismanagement is not indicative of future results.

My French fails me here although I understand where they might be looking if not up. If Lebanon has not had a president for three months now, having a president doesn’t make much of a difference.

You welcome.

Ni Ha Ma?
Ni ha (good)

P.S: Thanks for inspiring future young leaders to take over. We may ask a few impartial ambassadors to act as sounding boards as they retire in our booming, warm and cultured tourist resorts 🙂

March 21st, 2008, 11:42 am

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Wizart, sorry for the latin:
“primum vivere, deinde philosopari” = first one must live, then one may philosophize
Not sure what I meant by it, just part of my occasional philosophical ramblings to snap myself back to reality. Blame it on age.
Now your “Ni Ha Ma?” and “Ni ha (good)” leave me with an open mouth of complete ignorance: is that Chinese?

March 21st, 2008, 12:17 pm

 

Georges said:

Jumping in quickly….

WIZART, economic and even political integration, however shape it takes, becomes possible when two countries BOTH see VALUE in it. People have to be invested in such a deal, and that happens as a result of what I’ve been outlining before. EVEN IF, the Lebanese collectively decide they want an integration or union with Syria, is this the right thing to do for Syria? The answer in my mind is a resounding NO.

Frankly, before we think, or propose, a ‘merger’ (as it were), we need to figure out a better way to keep some of our own people happy with the deal they have (i.e. Kurds in the North East). We also have a TON of other things to do from improve education, social services, infrastructure, reduce birth rates, implement reforms (political and economic) and as a result raise the quality of life for Syrians. THIS could make Syria a more attractive country to be integrated with in the future.

The Lebanese would have to spend some generations doing the same internally. As real links (beyond our favorite family ties) are created – especially economically – then there would be a natural evolution toward the goal you expressed. And, then, it wouldn’t matter to most people what shape that takes.

France and Germany would be a small example: they are traditional and historic enemies. Since 1956, they’ve developed their respective countries to the point where their people saw value in a union of sort, and today, the two together represent the political dynamo of the EU.

Today, even if it were possible, quite candidly, I MIND integrating Lebanon with all of its problems and baggage within Syria. That’s a recipe for even more problems for us. I am neither emotionally or materially ready for sharing a country with the Lebanese.

So, I wish some (some Syrians and fewer Lebanese) would stop floating that proposal.

Yalla khaterkon.

March 21st, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Shaping Lebanon’s Future:

This post has aroused some passions. Cynicism aside, there have been some good comments, some predictable, and some egotistical ones, and some silly ones.

Let me tell you something that some of you might have forgotten, this whole episode reminds me of the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys: Here is the link, have a laugh

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield-McCoy_feud

QN I could swear that you are in one of those photos and Georges is as well.

I am a rationalist I always thought that Syria’s policy towards Lebanon was fairly well articulated, not in a policy paper sense , but reading between the Lines it went like this:

“We are in control and make the decisions, you Lebanese follow them”
now this policy was used with finesse sometimes, a carrot and stick approach sometimes, and at its worse through direct intimidation, coercion,terror and assasination. Now before many of you start jumping at me, these facts are well known, whether these issues were for the “times” or a means to a end, these facts cannot be disputed.

When the average citizens lives are affected, through the soft projection of power or through visible means (the syrian army checkpoints as an example), the cumulative effect of this over many years, has a very severe impact on those deemed occupiers or occupied. It is then no coincidence that the favourite slogan shouted at many demonstrations was ” Ah yalla Suriya tlahi Baroh”.

Syria does not have to state its position towards Lebanon, it is plain to see.

1. A Pro Syrian President
2. A Pro Syrian Government
3. A Blocking third for the opposition
4. No Tribunal
5. NO disarmament for Its Proxy Hezb

Its policy will not change, therefor no articulation is needed. We are being delusional to think that it will change.

Apart from the disruption to the its institutions, and government these two years have helped Lebanon. A big plus has been despite violence and assasinations and minor disputes NO CIVIL WAR has broken out. Despite the bluff,political and childish rhetoric we sometimes witness from time to time, this has helped the political development and maturity process, this has been a good thing. Two sides opposed and some semblence of semi democratic debate is taking place with mediation.

Syria’s government cannot lose this battle, this semi democratic little neighbour with all its faults next door cannot be used to unseat the Baathist government. BS aside if this succeeds, or the M14 group succeeds to break free, count down the days. You might have the average Syrian demonstrating yelling “Ah yalla, beit Assad tlaho Barah”

WITHOUT PREDJUDICE OF COURSE.

March 21st, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

wizart said:

TOPOV 🙂

Thanks for the Latin, nice idea. I appreciate your philosophy.

You’re correct that was Chinese which is pretty much the future!

They say last century was the American century. This one is Chinese.

Georges 🙂

Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate the European experiments especially in the 18th century during the age of enlightenment although I think Portugal progressed much faster as they integrated with the rest of the EU more recently. Anyway, I think the Chinese/Hong Kong model is more applicable to Syria/Lebanon.

Anyway, blogging is a fun way to brainstorm and toy around with ideas.

Who knows perhaps Seniora and Bashar are speaking w/ Bush here 🙂

March 21st, 2008, 1:41 pm

 

Georges said:

With all due respect, this was a pretty simple and naive analysis….not very “Enlightened” 🙂

March 21st, 2008, 2:04 pm

 

wizart said:

Happy Good Friday!

What do Christians Celebrate on Good Friday (today)?

Good Friday is observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday. On this day Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, and death on the cross of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Many Christians spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Christ on the cross.

Georges,

With all due respect, the first rule of brainstorming is to withhold judgment. What makes a model work is great execution.

What makes you think it’s naive or oversimplified? What makes a good model for success? Does the model have to be complicated? Do you have to have a president in Lebanon?

Why is your analysis better? We can’t argue with success and both the Chinese and HK economies have prospered while we keep “analyzing!”

March 21st, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Ya Georges shoo hayda, I just finished praising you and wishing you were president of Syria and you go and diminish the light of Enlightened? Many of us not only agree with him but see his statements as much truth as the sun illuminating the earth.

Of course we might be wrong. We’d LOVE to be wrong. But for now, we are sincere and believe we have clarity of vision far beyond any needed “proof.”

Wassalmoo 3alaykum wa – one day in advance – Christossanessi / Alisthonanessi

March 21st, 2008, 2:17 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Georges: (LOL)

Many know me here not to support the Syrian government, and I have no ill feeling towards the Syrian population and have Syrian relos’ thru marriage.

The truth hurts very much, it is only when we can accept it, can we move on and articulate the bigger picture. Live in Denial that is ok, that is not my problem. I say it how I see it.

Tell me that the Lebanese are equally to blame for this situation, I will acknowledge that, but tell me condescendingly that my take on the situation was naive ,then you have no grasp of the real issues. Quite simply you dont deserve to be president of Syria, but Iran Instead.

March 21st, 2008, 2:30 pm

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Ya 3ammeh what’s wrong with you ya Wizart ?

1) Georges was addressing Enlightened, not you, in his “simple and naive” qualification fo the analysis
2) There’s no such thing as “Happy Good Friday” – Sheesh – You copied the definition yourself as being a day of “repentance, meditation, and agony” and then you wish Christians a “Happy” one? Wait for Easter buddy.

In the meantime, in case it applies to you, Happy Mawlid An Nabi, and while I’m at it, here again are the wishes of one LingoChecker who popped up here recently:

http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU40318054707251
http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU10318054901677
http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU10318055358580

March 21st, 2008, 2:39 pm

 

Enlightened said:

TOPOV:

Its always good to bait those Syrian Nationalists, their response is always laughable as it it is predictable.

Now How can we bait those M14’s , lets wait till they come back!

March 21st, 2008, 2:53 pm

 

Georges said:

Bel-nessbe la Enlgihtened, ma t2akhezna. I meant the analysis is too simplistic, mou Enlightened. Subtle difference.

March 21st, 2008, 3:16 pm

 

wizart said:

TOPOV 🙂

Thanks for the clarifications and I “repent” my earlier remarks!

I didn’t feel like saying have a sad Friday although that might work if that’s what some people are trying to do. Now I understand.

Whatever floats your boat. I appreciate your happy Mawled Nabawi wishes although I observe it in my own way through online Jihad 🙂

Happy Easter! (If that’s what you celebrate.)

Bon appetite w/ lots of colored eggs on the side.

March 21st, 2008, 3:32 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Walow ya Georges! Allah Y Khalik w owik!

Yes maybe we had to tell you simply, that most Lebanese are getting pissed at the whole situation! Perhaps you were over analyzing the situation. I think the real problem is that we dont like you Syrians, Our Dabke is better than yours, and we make better Humous,Falafel and Kibbe Naye.

Further more our politicians are better looking ( Jumblatt beats Bashar hands down), more suave (Geagega over Muallem) and infiniately more charismatic (Fatfat over anybody that you care to name)

PS

I have been drinking for the last five hours and its 230 in the morning and I am taking the mickey out of you! and with my earlier post.

And thats not too subtle!

March 21st, 2008, 3:32 pm

 

wizart said:

Enlightened,

I hear you and feel perhaps Lebanon should move closer to Cypress or if you can pull it all the way to the South Pacific you might be able to stop compulsively blaming our food or communication skills for everything although you might find excessive drinking to be a bigger problem! 🙂

March 21st, 2008, 4:04 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Wiz

There is 500,000 Lebanese in Sydney, that is 499,999 too many.

March 21st, 2008, 10:04 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Georges,

Here’s a response to your post from yesterday.

1. I don’t have an innate contempt or any kind superiority or inferiority complex toward Lebanon or the Lebanese… So, in principle, we have the raw ingredients to have an exceptionally close relationship, if we can neutralize the political issue…

Agreed.

2. … In other words, let us each take responsibility and admit culpability for our own problems. To get ahead, let’s each clean house (and we both have much to clean) and come to the other with a clear and objective understanding of our issues and our baggage.

Again, agreed. Georges, I am actually much more interested in finding faults within Lebanon than in Syria, the reason being that I personally (as a Lebanese citizen) have a much better chance of having an effect on my own government than Syria’s government. However, while I recognize your frustration with knee-jerk anti-Syrianism (and I have criticized this behavior on the part of M14 leaders), I reserve the right to be extremely vigilant with respect to Damascus’s game plan for Lebanon… more on this below.

4. Though I refuse to continue to plead my innocence and repeatedly prove that I’m not interested in annexing Lebanon or otherwise destabilizing it, I will offer that I don’t believe in the annexation, occupation, or subjugation of any territory or people.

Ok, but you are also not the President of Syria, Georges. You may be against subjugation, but what makes you confident that the regime isn’t either?

It is telling, in my opinion, that you used the words “my innocence” and “I’m not interested in annexing Lebanon.” Unfortunately, Georges, it’s not up to you. I wish it were. A few weeks ago I wrote a commentary for SC that argued for giving the Lebanese opposition a veto in the cabinet in order to solve the short-term crisis in the interests of long-term political reconciliation … But did the majority take my advice? No. Why? Because it’s not up to me. Similarly, your analysis — though well-meaning and intelligent — has little to do with reality. Why? Because unlike you, Syria’s rulers are … Baathists and dictators. That’s reality.

To my mind, the crisis in Lebanon today is very serious for Syria, and it will refuse to lose. Losing in Lebanon is simply not an option for Syria. As Ausamaa said, quite rightly: Lebanese independence ends where Syrian national security begins. This is exactly right. Syria cannot afford to take any chances, and it will do anything necessary to ensure that Lebanon will not be a threat. From reading your own commentary, I think that you would agree with this point.

Where we fundamentally disagree, it appears, is on the question of what constitutes a Lebanese “threat”. To my mind, anything less than the pre-2005 levels of Syrian influence in Lebanon would constitute an intolerable threat to Syrian national security and its regional interests. And so, entertaining the prospect of an independent Lebanon — given the regional dynamics at the present time — is simply out of the question for Syria, even if there were some way to prevent the influence of other foreign powers in Beirut.

Without the Lebanese card, Syria’s bargaining position at the negotiation table with Israel is extremely weak indeed. And quite apart from the Israeli issue, an independent Lebanon next door, with strong and stable institutions of governance, a fair electoral law, independent judiciary, bicameral legislature, strong internal security forces, electoral commission with campaign oversight on finance and media practices, (in short, a real democracy!) is as intolerable to Syria at this stage as a popularly elected Hamas government is to America. Under such a system, the Lebanese might wake up and realize that they have far more in common with each other than their divisive feudal leaders once told them, and that they have common interests as well. Unfortunately, those common interests may not mesh with those of Syria’s regime.

That’s the problem with democracy… it’s like a box of chocolates.

Anyway, that’s my qirshayn.

March 22nd, 2008, 2:22 am

 

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Walak ya QN, I was so badly mistaken, it’s not Siniora who’s the former diamond in the rough now shining, it’s WizKid (or so they claim) Qifa Nabki. What the heck are you doing wasting your talent away in talking to us little people? How is it that no one has yet discovered you and given you the roles to have you become active and grow in political leadership?
Ya Qifa, I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. I’ve hired a lot of people in my life and I like to pride myself that if I have but one quality and strength it is an eye for talent. And talent I see. And, unless you are already somewhere active in an effective way and just using this blog as an amusement (which I highly doubt) you need to come out like a Lebanese Obama and spring into the active world. Yalla ya zalameh shoo natir. I don’t have forever to live and I want to see something good happen under some inspired leadership.

You see, the truth is that I want you to come out so I can beat the heck out of you for having so cleverly outed me. I was having so much fun. Ma3lesh, stay in hiding. I’m too old to beat you anyway.
Is the bipolar angle obvious yet? No, wait. I was going for the multiple personality thing. Never mind.

March 22nd, 2008, 3:39 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

HP, I mean TOPOV

As I told you, I’m too young to run for president, as I’m still in high school. But thanks for your vote.

😉

March 22nd, 2008, 3:43 am

 

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