Army needs to step up

Lebanese security forces patrol a street of the northern port city of Tripoli on January 23, 2014 as the army deployed following clashes between supporters and opponents of Syria's regime. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

After this latest round of fighting in the northern city of Tripoli, the Lebanese are left asking what has to change before this tragic cycle of events ends.

We have almost lost count now of how may rounds of clashes there have been over the last three years, old feuds given new life by the Syrian conflict, but it is nearing 20.

And it is well over 100 lives lost, and not just militants themselves, but soldiers, and civilians, women and children included, people just trying to go about their daily lives, and being caught up in this vicious, destructive violence, which achieves nothing.

And the excuse for the Army being unable to prevent fresh violence from erupting is that it has not been given the political cover to do so. That without a functioning government, or a legitimate Parliament, it is ill-equipped to prevent the warring sides from sparring.

Certainly, with each new instance of fighting, various politicians swoop in to manipulate the situation for their own ends or those of their parties. This cynical pattern keeps repeating, and all the while the lives of people are being interrupted, with schools and businesses closed, and nothing improving on the ground.

But in the absence of political cover, and knowing it has the full backing of the people, it is time for the Army to take the initiative. It is no longer sufficient to blame the lack of a central government or authority: The Army has the physical capability to quash such violence, and therefore it must. It must protect Lebanese civilians, and indeed its own members, and allow the people of Tripoli to live with dignity and security.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 24, 2014, on page 7.




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