Saturday, May 10, 2008

Where Art Thou, Regional Responsibility?

Four or five days ago, the lights went out across Beirut. Gunshots echoed through the city that had, sadly, been expecting them for a long time. Ever since Emile Lahoud abandoned the Presidency in late 2007, a perpetual state of uneasiness has plagued the city that was slowly returning to its earlier label, "Paris of the East." As one Lebanese classmate of mine said, "Civil war will happen tomorrow." Even that blunt uttering carried a state of perpetuality, for although full-blown civil war hasn't broken out, its impossible to confidently say it won't.
In so many ways, perpetuality has become synonymous with Lebanon, not just in the aforementioned, violent, context. Well, not really. See, Beirut was formerly known as the "Paris of the East," and has been going a long way towards reclaiming that status, despite the lurid development of Gulf cities such as Dubai and Doha.
However, going the perpetual nature of violence in Lebanon, foreign meddlers have been a constant threat. The French and Americans prior to the civil war did little other than aggravate an already strained social balance. Foreign military presence was seen as necessary post-WWII, but considering the Mediterranean nation's ridiculously complicated demographics, this was a foolhardy move that made governmental neutrality difficult. Indeed, Western troop presence could be at least partially blamed for inflaming tensions that led to the civil war. But it was countries closer to home that really caused problems for the ailing Lebanon.
See, this is a strategically placed country, close to Cyprus and Europe beyond, but also bordering both Arab and Jewish countries, Syria and Israel respectively. So when Lebanon was already being torn to pieces by Hezbollah, Maronites, Druze, etc, its neighbors irresponsibly saw fit to try and claim a stake in the country. For over a decade, Iranian Revolutionary Guards were based in Balbek, and Syrian or Israeli troops were a force in Beirut. Instead of using their power to resolve Lebanon's issues, the three countries simply made things worse, all trying to pressure their own ideology on a war-burdened country. All this achieved was to prolong a pointless war. We can see now from the latest flare-up that the war achieved nothing, other than kill scores of men, women and children. So when 16 years later, Israel has the gall to go and bomb Beirut again, it makes you wonder, does Tel Aviv have it coming? Whatever the motive, it was a terribly foolish thing to do considering the relative peace prior to the month-long conflict of summer 2006.
So comparatively, this latest upsurge was minuscule. Barely a week long. And here's the best bit. For the first time in too long, Lebanon was left to it, and an admittedly tentative resolution has been reached in 5 days. Let's just hope it wasn't took quick for Bashar, Ahmedinejad and Olmert to take notice.

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