Posted by Joshua on Friday, January 11th, 2008
Tomorrow, the solution to Lebanon’s crisis may finally materialize. Unlikely perhaps, but the possibility does exist, as it always has, that the Lebanese will wake up tomorrow morning and discover at lunchtime, on a coffee break, or on the evening news that their hapless politicians have finally agreed to agree.
On that day – let’s be optimists and call it tomorrow – a great sigh of relief will emerge collectively from the body politic, rustling the pine needles of the Shouf and whistling through the alleys of Sidon and Tripoli. There will be much rejoicing (in the Lebanese style), some gloating, conspiracy theorizing, but above all, relief.
And then the day after tomorrow will arrive, and the Lebanese – and the Syrians – will be back at square one.
So much attention has been focused on the details of the current standoff that there has hardly been any serious speculation or debate about what will take place after the government is up and running again. What can the Lebanese expect in the medium-term? The short-term priority is obvious: solving the crisis in a manner that is satisfactory to all local and regional actors, and getting on with the business of governing. The long-term priorities are many and complicated: reforming the failed systems of government to promote increased efficiency, stability, and (hopefully, in the very long term) equality in political participation. Of course, there is also the economic crisis, the problems of corruption, and much more.
But the medium-term is far from clear.
Will Bashar al-Assad put Syria in a holding pattern, waiting until Bush is out of office before setting the new policy for Lebanon? Or will the regime seek to consolidate its renewed influence by supporting the pursuit of an electoral law that would give Hizbullah a larger share in parliament? What mechanisms will ensure its continued influence in the event that the opposition’s momentum flags once they are back in the halls of government? Will there be an exchange of ambassadors between Beirut and Damascus? Will the borders stay wide open to Syrian workers? What will become of the rabble-rousing politicians who – for three years – have defined their entire political platform (or had it defined for them by the media) in terms of Syria (i.e. pro- or anti-).
The day after tomorrow will be far more important in determining the answers to these questions than tomorrow itself.