In a widely predicted move, LF leader Samir Geagea and FPM leader Michel Aoun came out with a political understanding yesterday that saw the former supporting the latter for Lebanon’s presidency, after about 33 failed attempts at electing a president and 30 years of the same practiced politics.
Lebanon’s Christian field was predominantly supportive. After all, the whole burying the hatchet fest that we saw on TV was done because Christianity, and Christians sure love seeing #TeamJesus in all its glory on Lebanese TV.
We can now say that on January 18th, 2016, after around 30 years of feud, Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun finally saw eye to eye in something. A more zealous response would be: LET THEM KNOW NOW THAT CHRISTIANS WILL NEVER BE PUT ASIDE AGAIN, etc. But that’s not really the case.
It’s good to see a semblance of unity occur regardless of what that unity might mean. It’s good to see Geagea and Aoun talk things out.
Many think that this move was visionary. The fact of the matter is it’s nothing other than reactionary to Saad Hariri nominating Sleiman Frangieh for president a few weeks ago. The only disturbance in the presidential race, protracted and dull as it was, was Saad Hariri’s deal back in November-December. That disturbance became the catalyst behind both the FPM and the LF’s deal today in order to “reclaim” their constitution-given Christian right.
How good can a move made in reaction and spite be, rather than it being foreseeing and contemplative, especially in the grand picture of Lebanese politics that not only requires foresight to navigate its murky waters? Why don’t you refer to Jumblat for that?
What this move does is not elevate the level of politics that Geagea and Aoun are practicing. It’s not a good thing that Lebanon’s Christian community is now practicing the same kind of tribal politics that the country’s other factions do. By “uniting,” Geagea and Aoun moved from their failed politics on a national level to failed politics on a sectarian level.
Yes, they were Christian leaders first and foremost, many of their policies had inter-sectarian tendencies. How will they move from here? Not in that way, clearly.
The move also comes to the backdrop of a 10 point agreement that the two forged over the past 6 months. It reads as follows:
The agreement’s key points then are the following:
- No use of weapons in case of conflict,
- Supporting the Lebanese army in governing the entirety of Lebanon’s territories alone,
- A Switzerland-esque foreign policy to get the country to avoid struggles,
- Supporting UN resolutions,
- A new electoral law.
Sure, those headlines are all wonderful, and looking at them with no critical thought warrants giving their alliance a second thought. But you can’t not be critical of Lebanese political talk, and the question therefore becomes: how will they do them?
The difference in ideology between Geagea and Aoun is not only related to their Civil War days: the two were supremely divergent even in times of “peace.” They have not agreed on an electoral law other than the Orthodox Law, and even that agreement was more about whose balls are bigger rather than it being done with political wisdom. They have not agreed on which kind of foreign policy they see best for the country. They have not agreed on which way is best to actually get the army to be the only rightful security force in the country, and how to implement all kinds of UN resolutions (hinting at ridding Hezbollah of its weapons).
Alliances need to have a minimum of common ideology. Establishing them just for the sake of common interests in the short run will prove, in the long run, to be detrimental, especially when it affects an entire community (in this case Lebanon’s Christians).
Is this how Christian rights are restored? By making Lebanon’s Christians more exclusive rather than inclusive? By making them more sequestered? By thirding the country instead of keeping it halved? By turning Christians from the entity that governed Lebanon’s dichotomy to another destabilizing agent in an unstable country?
Ignoring the differences that these two presented to Lebanon’s Christian community is the first step towards removing any semblance of democracy from that community. Difference is not to be feared in political contexts. Disregarding it is what’s scary.
Geagea and Aoun made peace. But I have to wonder: what kind of peace?
They’re making the kind of peace that requires us to bury our heads in the sand, like the perpetual ostriches that our Lebanese existence has made us into; the kind of peace that does not deal with the past requiring such a peace to be made in the first place, effectively making it a recipe for impeding disaster.
The argument goes: other factions have done these peace making deals before, and as such Christians doing it should be celebrated. Making peace is good. But is it?
Is the peace made by Lebanon’s other war factions actual peace? The idea of making peace invokes stability. Is the country stable? Is making peace in spite of history not through it, as all those other factions have done, putting the country on the right path towards healing post our civil war?
I look around and see people from different sects still hating each other, still worried about the intentions of one another. I look around and see a political discourse that still gets those who have supposedly made up after our civil war to fear each other.
What kind of peace are they talking about then?
There are things that are a little too late, and this is one of them. Where was the common interest of Lebanon’s Christian community 30 years ago when these two were actively working on canceling each other out, when their wars tore apart Christian communities and left thousands of victims in their wake?
Yes, this is not the time to bring up war-time memories, but healing only starts with remembering. Would there have been a need for such a “deal” to be made in 2016 had those two actually cared about the community they’re panicking about today back in the 1980s?
Peace cannot be made by those who only know war.
I’m afraid to inform you my fellow Lebanese that this “alliance” does not, in any way, affect your life as a Lebanese in the ways that actually matter.
It will not bring you electricity.
It will not fix your garbage crisis.
It will not make your internet faster so you can stream Netflix.
It will not increase your minimum wage.
It will not make your passport worthwhile.
It will not stop the “SSSS” checks on your boarding passes and “random” checkups in airports.
It will not stop ISIS.
It will not extract the oil from our fields.
And, ironically, it does not even guarantee that a president be elected.
Our Lebanese reality cannot be changed when the same people who have been practicing their failed politics over us for 30 years start practicing their politics together.
To end this on a happier note, I can’t but share a few of the lighter tones with which some Lebanese handled the news, in the joke that this actually is: