After two years and hundreds of statements, the latest warning from the United Nations regarding Lebanese involvement in the crisis in Syria is proof that Lebanon’s official policy of disassociation is little more than talk.
Warnings and pleas from governments worldwide of the risks of the Syrian fires engulfing Lebanon have been plentiful, but have inevitably fallen on deaf ears.
Lebanon is a divided nation, and for the most part its divisions are wrought not by domestic politics but by foreign powers using it as an arena to settle scores. The Lebanese have not yet learned from the damage this has caused, with arms abounding in the hands of ordinary citizens and all too many young men eager for a fight.
Lebanese involvement in Syria’s conflict has grown steadily along with the crisis, on both sides of the fight, drawing both rebel and regime ire against Lebanon, and positioning the country as an inevitable battleground.
Avoiding the violence in Syria may indeed be a difficult task for Lebanon. Its porous and badly demarcated borders have little protection from an overstretched Army, and the lines between the two states are blurred.
This means a delicate balancing act is needed to stop the area, and by extension the country, from exploding.
But that task must be undertaken. The recent warnings from both the regime and the Free Syrian Army that they would respond to intervention from either side show that everyone stands to lose from further Lebanese involvement.
The last thing the country needs, as its security and economy suffer, is to be drawn into a battle.
That the U.N. has taken a unified stance in warning against Lebanese involvement is testament to the extent of the damage that could be caused to all involved.
Just as Lebanon’ s conflicts are never entirely domestic, keeping peace in the country requires more than just internal willpower. All those who profess to support the country must keep their own hands off it, while the Lebanese must determine to stay within their borders.
Only a truly concerted effort to distance Lebanon from what is going on around it would be sufficient to protect it. It is not enough to speak of disassociation while doing nothing to stop the steady trickle of men and arms into a conflict zone.
Disassociation cannot be merely a slogan. It is an imperative for the future of the country and the lives of the Lebanese. If this government cannot take sufficient action to uphold it, it is beholden upon it to step aside and make way for those who are willing and able. Given its track record, perhaps little can be expected of the government in providing for its people. But protecting it from such threats should be the bare minimum.
If the Lebanese government cannot do this, then perhaps its people at least may reach some maturity, look beyond political divides, and recognize that they do not want a repetition of history.