Commentary

Is the army Lebanon's way out of collapse?

The debate about when the total collapse of the country would take place is over, with now Lebanon falling into total darkness and the state ceasing to provide basic services for its population, leaving most Lebanese wondering how long the crisis would last.

All domestic and international efforts and initiatives to patch the situation have so far failed, reigniting the debate about who is responsible and what went wrong.

The blame game is not an alien concept in Lebanese politics, however, this time all bear the responsibility for driving the country into its most threatening situation since its independence.

And since we are talking about colossal failure, it is important to identify the reasons responsible for the current miserable status:

- The political class that rules and mismanaged the country since 2005 when Syrian troop left Lebanon.

- The model of coexistence between “the state and the resistance” is a myth and cannot lead to a serious and viable state. The case became almost impossible when the armed resistance takes its cues from a foreign country and the state is handled by corrupt and incompetent officials.

- Washington, Paris and several Arab states believe the pro-Iranian group is taking Lebanon hostage and controls its security and foreign policy. They decided to smoke the hostage takers out to release the hostages, but unfortunately this policy, while it may appear viable on paper, led to killing the hostages with no SWAT team in place to arrest the kidnappers or the “terrorists.”

Signs of the imminent collapse began when the government defaulted in paying their debts in foreign currency and adopted instead a slow death policy by continuing subsidies, which led to squandering foreign reserves and banks failing to release people’s deposits and retirement funds.

For months, the million dollar question was when would the country collapse? Now this question is worth 1 million Lebanese lira given the current black market exchange. Today’s one million dollar question is how long the suffering of the Lebanese would last?

The international community is asking the political class to introduce reforms. This is the equivalent of asking them to commit political suicide. Unless there is an imposing power to implement the required reforms by the international community, any new government will face the same fate as the current one. The fear now is that worsening living conditions would turn into violence in the streets and plunge the country into mob-like chaos with potential sectarian fighting. In this case the Army’s option would be the only hope to maintain order and preserve national reconciliation.

Historically, Lebanon has no tradition of successful military coup, but in the wake of the unprecedented situation facing the country, the Army may represent the only hope. A six-month intern period during which the Army will oversee parliamentary elections which could produce a new political class that enjoys legitimacy and the world’s respect.

Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut. He contributes a weekly column in The Daily Star.

 

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