Few people have any remaining doubts about the fact that political life in Lebanon has entered a state of deep freeze as a result of the crisis next door in Syria.
For months, or a few years, politicians from all sides of the spectrum have been accusing each other of getting involved in the war in Syria. Throughout much of 2013, the situation steadily evolved into serious gridlock, with the executive and legislative branches of government in limbo. In nearly every political faction, one hears the argument that nothing of any political significance can take place in Lebanon until the situation in Syria becomes clear.
On one level, this behavior is understandable – a politician who tells people that nothing will change in Lebanon until the situation in Syria becomes clear might be viewed as an experienced, seasoned “player” in the national game.
But such a stance exposes the lack of independence from which many Lebanese political factions suffer and a frightening lack of concern about the country’s future.
Certainly, it might seem “wise” and “realistic” to say that nothing can happen until things become clear in Syria, but the latest chapter in the saga next door should serve as a wake-up call for Lebanese politicians.
After a dramatic crescendo or rhetoric that indicated Western military intervention was just around the corner, the situation has now moved to one of intensive negotiations between Moscow and Washington. However, the focus has been on chemical weapons, and not finding a solution to Syria’s political crisis.
The diplomatic and political tug-of-war over chemical weapons could eat up another month, or three, or six. Perhaps it will require a few years to sort out. And if one engages in reasonable speculation, the war itself in Syria could easily last for a few years, or longer. And in all of these scenarios, there is the possibility that in the end, no one side in Syria will be able to exert full control. Therefore, those who are waiting for one side in Syria to emerge triumphant might be in for a rude surprise when all is said and done.
Meanwhile, back in Lebanon, the damage and harm that comes from waiting for a solution in Syria might build up to intolerable levels. Perhaps there are some national issues so divisive that they truly require a resolution of the Syrian war before serious work can begin on them.
But this approach should not be applied to the state of affairs in Lebanon in general; otherwise, paralysis will lead to collapse and fragmentation. Putting things in deep freeze is a dangerous tactic; there are a whole range of policy items that can be worked out without being affected by the crisis in Syria.
The sooner that politicians specify the few things that truly deserve a postponement, the better for Lebanon and its long-suffering public. Because everything else requires serious work, right away.