The winds of war are swirling around Lebanon but the authorities continue to act as if they are spending the summer on another planet. It’s as if Lebanon does not share borders with two countries that are openly preparing themselves for a dramatic upsurge in military operations, expected in the coming days.
In Syria, officials are openly speaking about the possibility of international military action against the regime and are expressing their usual defiance. Meanwhile, reports from Israel describe how the country is on a war footing, whether this involves the military posture of its armed forces, or measures that involve the situation and safety of civilians, such as distributing gas masks to the population, or readying bomb shelters, should war reach the Jewish state.
In contrast, there are no such shelters to speak of in Lebanon, where civilians are regularly subjected to dangers of flying bullets, artillery shells and rocket strikes if they live in the general vicinity of the border.
For those in the south of the country, there are no government-issued guidelines or warnings about the situation and how to prepare for it; tens of thousands of people are left to fend for themselves, even though Lebanon has been bitten before by aggressive Israeli military actions.
While Lebanon can admittedly have little impact on these developments in Syria and Israel, it is the duty of officials to take the safety of the public into consideration and produce a coherent response. The public needs to feel that someone – anyone – is in charge and not mimic the stance of politicians who are hoping for the best.
Instead, officials are merely issuing hopeful statements about the domestic security situation, with most of the effort being put into speeches about the danger of acts of terror. While this is commendable, the regional situation is boiling, and ignoring it is tantamount to ignoring what is taking place inside the country.
The political map of the Middle East is undergoing a daily dose of pressure, in several directions, and Lebanon will be affected by these developments, however they play out. As this happens, Lebanese politicians are talking about how to cobble to together a Cabinet, following several months of paralysis in the executive branch of government. Most of the efforts here are focused on performing mathematical equations involving the number 30 – i.e. the number of ministers in a possible government – or the possibility of restarting the National Dialogue process, with little hope that the rival sides will be able to agree on anything.
Whether it’s the worrying domestic situation, or alarming regional developments, nothing has succeeded in diverting officials and politicians from their policy of hoping for the best and doing little to address the concerns of the public. Syria and Israel are preparing themselves for war but Lebanon cannot even prepare itself for “peace,” much less a devastating military action that everyone feels is on the horizon.