Saturday, October 3, 2009


One of the most fundamental principles of modern states is their ability to “exercise supreme authority over (their borders).” This idea of sovereignty became ensconced as a principle of independent statehood by the treaty of Westphalia over 360 years ago. This right to statehood, sovereignty, independence and self determination has become ,ever since the American and French revolutions ,the most cherished right for a people to become their own masters, control their affairs and gain their independence and liberty. Liberation movements all over the world including those in Lebanon were ultimately successful in dismantling colonialism and creating sovereign states.

Unfortunately a few countries, Lebanon among them, have been satisfied with de jure sovereignty only. The real fundamental aspect of sovereignty for a people is to exercise its own authority without any interference from foreign powers, to combine de fact sovereignty to the legal one. When actual sovereignty is stripped away from a people then the legal one that they are left with becomes meaningless and worthless. That would be tantamount to abolishing slavery in theory alone but allowing it in practice to go on. Sadly, Lebanon is at such a state whereby even some of its most outspoken and respected political leaders admonish those who want to act as citizens of a sovereign state by proclaiming that “do you think that the Lebanese government is formed in Lebanon”? When Mr. Jumblatt made the above statement he was boasting of his ability to be pragmatic and to realize that Lebanese cabinets are not made in Lebanon but are shaped to satisfy the whims and demands of outsiders, he did not criticize the concept but implicitly accepted it, encouraged it and wanted all factions to act by this idea. Mr. Jumblatt has sure earned his new moniker Jump-a-lot. What is the purpose of having a sovereign state that is not going to exercise its sovereignty? It would be far more honorable in that case to relinquish also the de jure aspect of sovereignty and to put an end to the illusion of independence.

What is even worse is that Mr. Jumblatt is not the only Lebanese politician who does not believe in Lebanese sovereignty. Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah made it very clear last year that his allegiance and that of his militia is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran. It is to be noted that Iran has established, funded, trained and continues to count on the loyalty of its illegal Lebanese militia that is nothing else but an extension of the Iranian Passadran. This issue of loyalty to Iran was on display last week when a top Iranian official stated clearly and unambiguously that Iran expects Hezbollah to respond to any Israeli acts against Iran. What that simply means is that Lebanon is not much besides a dispensable Iranian foreign policy tool that borders Israel. Yes, the Iranian empire has reached the Mediterranean and its troops dictate Lebanese policy. Not to be outdone by the opposition many in March 14 , the current majority coalition, are proud of their association with Saudi Arabia and keep on hinting that a Lebanese cabinet that does not enjoy the Saudi blessings will never see the light of day. One should not neglect to mention the other smaller players like Mr. Suleiman Frangieh, Talal Arslan, Syrian Social National Party and others who will never act on anything unless they get their Syrian instructions. As for the FPM they are the willing veil behind which the Hezbollah operates.
It is evident that Lebanon is a nation state whose sovereignty has been limited to the de jure sphere because the concept is of use to many factions both regional and global. Real sovereignty, the one that can benefit the actual stakeholders has been squandered, traded and abused by both major coalitions.

What is troubling is that these political leaders that have brought the country to the state of dissolution have not been recognized for what they are. The acts of trading sovereignty to outsiders borders on being an act of treachery. It is nothing short of being a Quisling. Are there any quislings in the current Lebanese political leadership or maybe more aptly are there any non quislings? You decide.

A Podcast of the above has been posted to:


R said...

Ghassan, this is good stuff.

Unfortunately, a big part of the base problem here is a a lack of loyalty to the state, shared by both the Lebanese "citizens" and their leaders. In fact, loyalty in Lebanon is to the sect, and the sects via their leaders freely pursue different foreign policies. In essence we have several different sects each with its own sense of identity and a foreign policy to go with it. Our constitution's use of the term co-existence is thus both revolting and apt at the same time. It recognizes what is, much as Jumblatt does, and does not attempt to achieve what could be.
Unfortunately, until the people of Lebanon decide to become individuals who pursue their own goals and share a sense of common purpose (say, mutual prosperity) with their countrymen and until they are willing to go against the extreme social pressure to conform to the traditions of the sect they "come from", things will continue as is. The leadership will have legitimacy from its herd, will pursue their own policies internally and externally and the Lebanese state will continue to function much like a sham united nations with veto powers for its superpowers...

ghassan karam said...

As is often the case, I agree with all what you have to say. Actually, in this particular case, your statement about the constitution ("It recognizes what is") will stay with me for a long time to come, maybe for ever:-) Wow that is a wonderful insight. The constitution is commanding the different people with their different loyalties to learn to get together and does not assume that citizenship is the dominant factor in their personal identity. Thanks R.

ghassan karam said...

I just cannot get your constitutional revelation out of my mind. Maybe its only me that has not understood this before but now that I do, thanks to you, I see how the Lebanese constitution has not helped forge a unified people. The Lebaese constitution should be a document to guide the public in its deliberations about creating a better society and that would have demanded as a minimum integration. Unfortunately the constitution asked the competing parties to "learn to get along" instead of asking them to become a Mosaic where the different parts hang together in a strong frame , strong core belief.
I need to think more about this but I think that a change in the wording of this preamble to emphasize forming a government where all are equal and all are judged by their devotion to the common good will be far more helpful than to say we have to form a government based on your confessional practices irrespective of where the loyalties lie and no matter how homogenous or not is your vision of society. This preamble has institutionalised confessionalism.

ghassan karam said...

One more thing related to your constitutional observation. The US experience lends your position strong support. The American love for equality, which one can argue is what has led them to deal rather successfully with slavery and immigration is not to be found in the Constitution that actually accepted slavery. The US constitution was also like the Lebanese one a description of what is. What saved the US and what Lebanon does not have was the Declaration and its preamble that we hold all men to be created equal and that these truths are self evident. The US allowed itself to depart from the Declaration for a long while but then Lincoln at Gettysburgh brought the country back to the ideal of equality. Lebanon needs to hear the message of equality , moral worth and intrinsic value and sideline this notion of how we pray and for whom we pray.

R said...

Hi again,

Apologies in advance if i am not too coherent below.

Not sure exactly how insightful my comment was. Just that ever since I heard and then read the term co-existence in the constitution for the first time, it did not sit well with me. Obviously it still doesn't. I just now realize that it aspires to conflict management rather than some form of integration - quite a sobering thing for grandiose documents like constitutions...

Apart from that, as usual, I agree with everything you said :); except that I am not so sure about how I feel towards the US version of separation of church and state (versus say the french or turkish) . That is not to say I prefer one over the other, I am just not decided. In particular, with the US version it seems ok to be a religious nut as long as you keep your religion outside politics - though that sometimes does not happen. In other words, they seem to prefer to err on the side of accepting some form of political religiosity, On paper that may look acceptable, while in practice it leads to Huckabies and Palins and evangelical crazies who walk a fine line between the church and the state... THe french and turks (tho that is changing too) seem more ready to err on the side of areligiosity... In any case, clearly the Lebanese are far from any ideal that resembles separation of church and state in any form.


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