Friday, August 24, 2007

Compromise This!

The Faux-Compromise Candidate

Of the Army Commander’s building momentum to ascend to the country’s top seat we know. But what of those “salvation” or “compromise” qualities so readily attributed to him?

It was under the Lahoud-Suleiman era that the country’s armed forces endured its most intense and purposeful infiltration by the finest in pro-Syrian and pro-Hizballah personnel the military ranks could offer. An infiltration and subversion attested to by the bloodiness and duration of the ongoing battle in Nahr el Bared.

Of course, no one can doubt the bravery and ingenuity of the soldiers that fought and died in the fields, shores, and alleys of Nahr el Bared. But questions should be asked as to why, exactly, an Army fully aware for the past fifteen years of the presence of heavily-armed insurgent groups in camps across the country was not prepared by its top officers to crush such groups if the need arose. The answers, you’ll find, lead directly to that infiltration.

Despite the Commander’s sobriety throughout the Cedar Revolution, his recent nonchalance throughout the events of January 23rd - coupled with the dismal enforcement of any checks on weapons smuggling (or territory assimilation) along the Syrian border – may have rendered any chance of his gaining the seat through a pre-agreed-upon formula, à la Berri, null. But if the road to the Presidency is so hard for Suleiman, is it still worth the effort?

Enter the compromise, compromise candidate

While Suleiman’s premature rise to visible candidacy may have drawn out strong (and not so strong) articulations of opposition to his brand of military rule, and in turn severely damaged his chances, it has breathed new life into the hopes of those other candidates firmly in Syria’s pockets and looking to re-brand themselves B-class compromise candidates.

Such candidates include the likes of Fares Boueiz and Jean Obeid, both of whom served as Ministers of Foreign Affairs under the Hrawi and Lahoud presidencies, and both of whom are generally regarded as Syrian lackeys.

A Fundamental Compromise

But with all this talk of compromise flooding the political and social scene in Lebanon, it bears mentioning what, exactly is up for compromise and what isn’t.

For Hizballah, the answer is found in the group’s weapons and the freedom with which they run their paramilitary and clandestine operations. The arrival of any president not indisputably aware and acquiescent to their local and/or regional aims and prerogatives, as dictated by Damascus and Tehran, risks depriving the group of its political cover and forcing it into a confrontation with the state and the rest of the country’s body politic. As far as they are concerned, it is the Army Commander, Michel Suleiman, who can provide an extension of this cover.

Compromise for the sake of compromise

As far as the March 14 coalition is concerned, the issue of the Presidency remains one of safeguarding the advances made since the (partial) Syrian withdrawn of 2005. In terms of candidates, there seems to be a certain degree of homogeneity in the eyes of most voters (both parliamentary and presidential) between such candidates as Butros Harb and Nessib Lahoud. Both men came to be known as the parliamentary opposition to Syria’s tutelage over the country, with Nessib Lahoud having to endure a particularly uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, cohabitation with long-time Syrian strongman Michel el Murr, in his native Metn.

However, the group’s self-imposed single-candidate nomination procedure will likely find Harb as most suitable given both Lahoud and Gemayel’s inabilities to register decisive wins against Murr’s block, and Aoun’s candidates, in consecutive Metn elections (the last of which being the Aug 5th by-election to replace assassinated Minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel).

And while Hizballah's weapons will surely top the priority-list of any who succeed in reaching the top seat, the March 14th group will seek to highlight its own set of issues over which there should be no fundamental compromise. Four of those issues were highlighted on Saturday by Justice Minister, Charles Rizk, who listed them as the "international tribunal to try suspects in the slaying of former Premier Rafik Hariri, the broken political system, security issues and a badly battered economy".

A Game Theoretic Compromise...

Rizk, however, may have been highlighting issues on which he, as a presidential candidate in his own right, has a head start over the rest of his contenders for the post. As Justice Minister he was charged with handling the international tribunal portfolio, a task which pitted him in direct confrontation with Emile Lahoud, the current President of the Republic and the man who initially backed him for the sensitive ministerial post as a 'compromise' candidate. The minister is also reportedly working on a widely anticipated electoral draft law which could aid in repairing the "broken political system".

If Rizk is to make it to the presidential post, however, he will surely have to ride on the coat-tails of another candidate whose candidacy will be heavily pushed by the March 14th coalition in order to secure Rizk's 'compromise' ascent. A task made that much harder by the rumored agreeability of a candidate like Butros Harb.

...and speaking of Economics

Compromise is a tricky affair. In seeking out the ultimate neutral president, how can we be sure that we don't concede more than what we set out to preserve?

As things stand today, Riad Salameh, the governor of the Lebanese Central Bank, is perhaps the only real compromise candidate in the running. He is a man who enjoys both national and global acclaim for his impeccable stewardship of the Lebanese Lira in one of the most politically volatile environments in the world. He is, however, the wrong man for the job.

After fifteen years of erosion of our country's institutions of the state, among them the army but also among them the constitution, it is time-overdue for a President not brought in on the back of yet-another "one-time-only" constitutional amendment. After three years of political assassination, it is important that we not disregard the sacrifices of those who openly voiced their opposition to tyranny and terror by placing at the nation's helm a voice constrained by office or character. And after three years of neglect, it is important that we not find a president who will allow his office to be once again sidelined in the political process, whether the reason be proclaimed neutrality or assigned irrelevancy.


  1. It's "Nassib" not "Nessib"

  2. I agree with Nedim. ;)

    And "lackey" is way too polite a term for the likes of Boueiz and Obeid.

  3. ya khayeh its my mountain dialect what can I do?


  4. good job BJ.

    i've been mentioning the name Demanios Khattar at every opportunity on your post over the past few months. From what I have seen he definitely has the qualities to contribute in some capacity to the cause. However, I have realised over time that somebody like Charles Rizk also has those qualities to lead the country out of the mess it's in. Whether or not either one is acceptable to the opposition I'm not sure, but it would be great if Charles Rizk was elected President and Demanios Khattar Finance Minister....and from there and in an ideal world we can hope to have a Dream Team Cabinet :) one can only dream yeah!

  5. Anonymous4:36 PM

    I can't believe anyone voted for fares boueiz and jean obeid on the poll!!!

  6. True Blue8:11 PM

    I don't get salameh not good? Are people indifferent between Harb and N. Lahoud? Would HA be ok with Obeid?

  7. I do not think Rizk is a compromise, but a real contender... or maybe a Shehabi compromise.

    Rizk and Johnny Abdo were in Sarkis' team back in the day. And I think they may even have given an early push to the budding career of a certain Emile Lahoud...

  8. I agree with Tony, Charles Rizk is a serious candidate and would be a fine President. His track record speaks for itself; and that is not mentioning that he has upheld the constitution without fail.

  9. And I agree with all of you, the man has a good chance and he gets my vote in the Blacksmiths of Lebanon Presidential polls every time.

    The question is, however, will he be nominated by March 14th, and go head to head with other candidates? Or will his candidature come after March 14th has announced their candidate, who will surely draw the opposition fire, allowing him to present himself as more acceptable than his rivals?

  10. BJ,

    You would imagine that there is a strategy in place. So both March 14 and the opposition will declare their candidate who will ultimately be compromised for their real candidate.

    What I would like to know is how General Aoun is going to play this out. Do you think that he will stay solid with the opposition once he realises that they really never wanted to nominate him for President? and then which way will he go?

  11. once he [Aoun] realises that they really never wanted to nominate him

    You mean he still does not know?? Another sure sign of blindness and/or madness.

  12. well then if General Aoun has already worked out that he will not be nominated for Presidency by his political partners, then what is his reaction going to be?

  13. Arabic Coffee Pot12:10 AM

    Aoun has been going crazy for two weeks because, like an idiot, he didn't see the Hizballah double-cross coming.

    Of course they'll spin it so that it was "Jumblatt and Geagea's" faults, and he - in true idiot fashion - will believe them!

    Now this week he's quiet so it seems that maybe the Americans said something nice to him...

    ...bas yeah...the guy is the guy is chemically unbalanced!

  14. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Thanks BSJ

    It was refreshing to read a post about the presidency that didn't mention Aoun...

    ...don't ruin it guys!!!


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