Friday’s explosions in the northern city of Tripoli serve as a grisly reminder of the dangers of trying to manage the crisis in next-door Syria instead of enforcing a firm stand: End any direct involvement in the war next door.
Many might recall the Civil War as they view the horrific scenes of carnage outside the two mosques targeted – but even more disturbing is the fact that such acts of destruction rarely targeted places of worship even during the height of the 1975-90 conflict.
The fundamental problem that the Lebanese face is the notion that they can take part in the war raging in Syria without suffering any repercussions in their home country. The slogan of “we fight in Syria so that we don’t fight in Lebanon” has become dramatically obsolete. The war is here, and a new approach is needed to ensure that the cycle of violence and atrocities does not continue.
Some Lebanese politicians might have a talent for conducting what they believe are carefully made calculations by gauging the international scene, the regional dynamic and a set of local data. Up till now, they believed the war in Syria would not lead to a full-fledged conflagration in Lebanon – but a relentless series of acts of violence, spread throughout the country, has become too much for this country to handle.
On any given day, people are now prepared to wake up and hear the news that an explosion – a car bomb, a rocket attack or some other incident – has shaken a given area. They will hear a storm of condemnations and accusations, with each political side trying to spin the incident in a way that suits its own interests. Politicians and security officials spend every day warning the public about the dangers facing Lebanon, and reassuring the public that they are doing their utmost to maintain order. But people are tired of the verbal heroics; they want solutions.
Their mental state can’t tolerate a daily guessing-game as to whether Lebanon is actually descending into its own civil war. Their economy can’t tolerate the repercussions of daily uncertainty about the domestic situation – it’s already under strain by hosting more than a million Syrians who have fled home. Their political system, which has been in free fall for several months, is also incapable of meeting such difficult challenges, and there are few signs of any hope for improvement on this front.
Lebanon’s politicians need to reset their policy on Syria, whose war is now becoming a catalyst for horrific acts of violence on a regular basis. The various political sides have not adhered to a meaningful policy of disassociation – they seem to believe that they are entitled to do anything they wish, just because the government in Beirut is sticking to a policy of neutrality. The time has come to focus Lebanon’s efforts on providing relief to Syria and Syrians, and not serving as a second arena of the war.