Sunday, July 3, 2011

Totalitarianism in Lebanon

By most common metrics Lebanon is essentially a failed state. It is arguable whether it has ever been but a failed state ever since this experiment was established 66 years ago. The early formative years of practically all states promise to be uphill struggles. These are the years that are spent in establishing a national identity and allegiance to an idea instead of allegiance to tribes, feudal lords and religious orders. Lebanon is no exception and actually it has done better than some of its neighbours by preserving a modicum of liberty, freedom and human rights. But what is frustrating and even dismaying is the fact that as the state gets older its grasp on freedom, sovereignty and statehood becomes less certain. That is ironic when many other states in the region are moving in the opposite direction. An excellent illustration of the above point can be gleamed from the latest speech by Sayed Hassan Nasrallah.

As is often the case, SHN spent over an hour repudiating the legitimacy of the Special tribunal for Lebanon, the STL, by all sorts of attempts to make it appear that the whole set up is a sham, a conspiracy. SHN does not bother to tell the listener why is the conspiracy of the STL needed and what are its objectives. To him it is enough to accuse the STL of being an Israeli Western tool whose aim is to discredit Hezbollah and thus by association the resistance. He seems to intimate that all of the hundreds of workers at the STL have only one function in mind, create judicial structure and fabricate from nothing judicial evidence that would implicate certain Hezbollah operatives of being involved in the planning and the execution of the assassination of Rafic Hariri.

The STL structure is very transparent and is possibly far from being perfect. But SHN does not, ever, critique the “biased structure” or request a modification in the proscribed procedure so that it can become fairer to the accused. He simply lambasts the structure as being illegitimate. Well if it is biased and illegitimate then what does he suggest to make it more legitimate and less biased? He is numb on this front since it appears that he has chosen the tactic that the best defense is a strong offense. Again that is perfectly acceptable if Hezbollah was going to marshal its resources to mount a vigorous defense of its accused members.

But that is not what SHN opts for. He uses lies and half truths to paint an unflattering picture of the STL and its personnel but then proceeds to conclude in the most bombastic and even demonic manner by throwing a gauntlet for the opposition, the STL and the international community by stating flatly that he and his organization are above the law. He affirms the suspicion that he is the only master puppeteer in this proposed government that should never think in terms of executing its moral and legal obligations to serve warrants to the accused and to subsequently deliver them to justice.

The essential part of the whole speech is the final challenge. It makes no difference whether there is any truth to all his previous accusations leveled and fabricated against Cassese and other member. What is essential is that Hezbollah will never entertain the idea of submitting its members to the court irrespective of whether the proceedings are fair or not. Mr. Nasrallah has acted as judge, jury and executioner. He has determined that his people are not guilty and that no one should dream of arresting any of them, not in 30 days, 6o days, 30 years or even 300 years.

This is not the speech of a statesman but of a Don Nasraleone (the phrase coined by V on Qifa Nabki). This is the language of a vigilante, a bombast who views himself to be not only above the law but as being the state. It is unfortunate but true, Mr. Nasrallah is acting as the President, the PM and the Speaker. Lebanon has devolved into becoming nothing short of a perfect debased theocratic totalitarian state of Nasrallah land. And that is a shame.

Let me conclude one more time by stating that the future for Lebanese legitimacy needs not be gloomy. The power of Hezbollah is derived from their patrons. One of the patrons will most likely not survive and the other is facing tremendous domestic challenges. That is why I believe that since history does not unfold backward and that it is very highly likely for either both or at least one of Hezbollah patrons to be weakened that the anything outside the immediate future does not look rosy for Hezbollah. It just is not rational to expect the irrational to prevail for long.


joseph said...

How would you classify HA?

Are they totalitarian? Or Fascist? Or Islamic Fascists?

ghassan karam said...

I do believe that totalitarianism is a fair description for the thoughts of HA. I am also sure that given the chance then that form of totalitarianism will be informed by Islam. Currently HA is not stressing the Islamic thought on a national level but that is only due to what they have called the special Lebanese environment
HA ia an Islamic party that goes as far as to believe in the rule of the Faqih.
Let me add that some thinkers, such as Roy, think that the Iranian effort as re Islamization has failed.
Iran is more homogenous that Lebanon and so I imagine that even if given the chance Islamization in Lebanon will also fail.So , at least in theory, how does Totalitarian Islam fit?

Anonymous said...

By what "common metrics" is Lebanon essentially a failed state?

ghassan karam said...

Sorry for the delay in responding to your question. Frankly, I am not sure whether your question is genuine or whether it is meant as an I-got-you :-)
Lebanon was ranked as the 9 th most failed state in 2008, was the 10th during 2010 but managed to climb to 43rd in the latest ranking for 2011.
The internationally recognized criteria cover the political, social as well as the economic spheres.
To me the single most important metric is the loss of sovereignty which results from having a state within a state in addition to the inability of the central government to operate independently.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your answer.
My question was quite genuine. I had looked into Noam Chomsky's definition and read Foreign Policy's ranking... which I find quite interesting. And now I read your approach that appears to be normative (you speak of sovereignty and autonomy).

As you might have expected, I do not consider the Lebanese State to be a failed one. I personally believe that the Lebanese state has proven to be extremely resilient (considering the adversity it has faced). I do agree that it is despairingly dysfunctional, but that's another issue.

ghassan karam said...

But if one is to assume that in severe dysfunctionality nothing operates as it should then is that of affairs different than that which exists in a failed state, one which has failed to function as a state?


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