According to some experts, Lebanon currently exhibits considerable promise when it comes to its oil and gas riches. And according to most casual observers, Lebanon appears to be equally rich in another key sector: initiatives by politicians to end a long-standing stalemate, one that has blocked any chance of forming a new government and letting the country begin tackling a mountain of accumulated problems.
When it became clear that involvement in the Syrian crisis would only have negative repercussions for Lebanon, President Michel Sleiman came up with the Baabda Declaration, which stipulated steering clear of regional alliances and conflicts. The leading figures of Lebanese politics endorsed this initiative, but some decided immediately afterward to ignore or undermine it. This was despite the fact that it provided a much-needed guideline for behavior during a period of regional turbulence, and despite the fact that the declaration was praised by the United Nations and a number of influential members of the international community.
Adhering to the provisions of the Baabda Declaration would have saved Lebanon from its current dire state of political paralysis, economic deterioration and entanglement in the war in Syria. While the president and some key supporters continue to insist that this policy of noninvolvement remains the only sound course of action, key players continue to ignore this initiative, without offering anything meaningful in its place.
More recently, Speaker Nabih Berri came forward with another initiative to break the stalemate, basically by tweaking the Baabda Declaration in order to appease its opponents, but no one else. Instead of realizing that such an approach was flawed, Berri declared that his initiative was misinterpreted and embarked on his initiative, part two: sending politicians on visits to explain its merits, with similar results.
And now, after a few years of experiencing the worst-performing Cabinet in the country’s history, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is promising yet another initiative to save the country. This is the same person who was unable to secure approval for any meaningful national issue – not even from his own “allies” in the government.
At this point, any politician who talks about launching an initiative is probably wasting the public’s time. Worse, such efforts are probably little more than disguises for even more gridlock and paralysis and serve as feeble attempts to put the best face on the current situation, i.e. a headlong rush toward the abyss.
Politicians should instead move forward with national laws, guidelines and institutions as they already exist, if they truly have good intentions and national interests at heart.
Shame on politicians if they don’t give up these nonstarters. And shame on the public if it doesn’t hold people accountable for this tragic state of affairs.