A Lebanese Abroad

Opinions from an opinionated Lebanese abroad about Lebanon's politics, business and the future of a United Lebanon.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Holding Their Feet to the Fire: The End of a New Beginning

I am buoyed by the optimistic comments about the elections being a turning point in Lebanon’s history. Indeed, these are historic times, and Lebanon can look forward to a better future. However, we must temper our optimism because as much as Hariri’s death was the beginning of the end for Syria, the elections were just the end of a new beginning for Lebanon.

  • Phase I consisted of “Let’s unite to get rid of the Syrians”.

  • Phase II was about elections maneuvering: “Let’s get elected now, no matter what”.

  • Phase III must be about “Let’s build a New Lebanon”. Participants: Lebanese in Lebanon and Lebanese abroad, politicians and Western and Arab countries that want to help.

  • In terms of governance, we went from an old system with Syrians to the same old system without Syrians (yes, Taef is outdated). Now the hard work begins. Can we move to a new system? Can the same old players move us to the new system, or will the people have to go back to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the status-quo?

    We must not assume that our politicians will solve these problems on their own. In my opinion, the real meaning of March 14 has been already taken with a grain of salt.

    A friend of mine put it succinctly: “The only real changes that will happen are the ones the people who took to the streets will come up with. There will be no miracle from the top down. The only improvement is that we replaced criminal/crooks by crooks. At least people will not get killed and tortured if they want to get organized, and Syrian influence will be hopefully purged. It is not a solution, but it is a start. “

    My dear friends…it’s a start. We have a beachhead. Let’s not confuse it with the solution. We must elevate the standards that we want for this country of ours. Lebanon’s society (most of it) is largely modern. Its banking system is modern. Its universities are modern and secular. But can our politicians rise above the third-world type of governance they have been accustomed to? Is it such a tall order to get rid of corruption and usher efficiency in services, the respect of the individual and the emancipation of a civil society?

    The hard work is still ahead. Lebanon has several monumental challenges if it wants to rise up to its full potential. If it doesn’t and prefers the easy route by choosing the lowest common denominators, then we will see our future in the rear view mirror. We must face the hard work now, and make the difficult, fundamental decisions that will define Lebanon’s future: Hezbollah, confessionalism, sectarian politics and Israel’s relations. These are the tough ones compared to the easier ones: changing the electoral law, replacing the president, normalizing relations with Syria, re-jolting the economy, lowering the debt and freeing Gaegea. Doing the later list will move us forward, but it will not get us over the hump, fundamentally speaking.

    I do hope the next government will take their tasks seriously. Actually, very seriously. Extremely seriously. No more confusing us. Just serve us, like we elected you to. Like most other politicians in developed countries do. That’s why it’s called “public service”, and it means that. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege that comes and goes, like the wind.

    My dear friends…as the saying goes: let’s hold their feet to the fire. This means they will be accountable with high standards. We must leapfrog into the 21st century. The Lebanese are extremely talented and creative, but talent is often wasted, creativity is often applied towards the wrong objectives and discipline and trust are almost always lacking. Let’s change that.

    Change is what we want. Change has only started. We should only accept real change from now on. Nothing less, but a lot more. Those politicians that were re-elected have taken an unspoken oath that they are to be trusted. We are giving them a second chance if they want to get rid of corruption and implement reforms. We want Lebanon to regain its full respect worldwide, not just as a beacon of hope for other democracies, but as a successful economic power in its own league. We want Lebanon to be a model of co-existence between religions and cultures and a peaceful country practicing good relations with all its regional neighbors.

    The dream of an economically and influentially powerful Lebanon is within reach. We are starting with a new slate, new hope, new Parliament- eager to work, and a new opposition that will keep them on their toes.

    For us, we should hold their feet to the fire. Not more, but no less.


    Blogger ThinkingMan said...

    Another "fundamental" goal I forgot to add because I thought it was obvious, but not apparently, judging by today's horrible assassination of George Hawi: Security, security, security.
    A real police system, not a police-state, just the police will suffice.

    6:31 AM  
    Blogger Charles Malik said...

    Accountability of the politicians is key. If we do not watch what they do, they will continue being able to steal from us.

    The other important part is separating the powers. Berri should be watched by the security services to make sure he is not stealing. He should not be the one appointing the robbers who then use the security forces for evil purposes.

    5:48 AM  
    Blogger ThinkingMan said...

    It's like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

    11:18 AM  

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