Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Chehabi Compromise

For all the dithering hithering and thithering on the names of the men that have made it onto Bkirki's list of candidates [for the seat of the Presidency], one name has evaded mention - that of Charles Rizk.

Whether Charles Rizk's name is actually on the Patriarch's list or not is still to be determined - the names on the list itself are, after all, meant to stay secret. What is clear [to this observer, at least] is that for all the talk of "consensus", his name is one that is capable of providing a non-debilitated consensual compromise for the seat.

And a compromise it would be, given the candidacy of two men: Butros Harb and Nassib Lahoud, who's election would be suitable homage to the long years of struggle - against Syrian rule and in preservation of our state institutions - both before and after February 14th, 2005.

But if the past two "revolutionary" years have shown us anything, it is that for all our will and determination at establishing our national sovereignty, we cannot ignore the regional headwinds of a rising Iran, and all the baggage (i.e. Hizballah) that goes with it.

In light of that battle over the country's sovereignty [added to that already being waged against Syria and its interests in Lebanon], "compromise" has taken on the connotation of impotence and defeat - but it needn't be.

The Chehabists

References to Michel Edde and Michel el Khoury have highlighted a trend, long present in Lebanese Presidential politics, to revert to a political grouping of men known as Chehabists [in reference to the former Army Commander-come-President of the Republic, Fouad Chehab], at times of crisis. The trend itself dates back to Fouad Chehab himself, and was carried forth by [the ineffectual] Elias Sarkis and [the prematurely departed] Rene Mouawad (husband of current Anti-Syrian Minister and Parliamentarian, Nayla Mouawad).

To the Syrians, that grouping has always seemed to provide acceptable "men of the moment" who could always be disposed of post-election [hence Sarkis' ineffectiveness and Mouawad's murder]. With the arrival of Syrian tutelage in the early nineties, such window-dressings, idiosyncratic to the Lebanese scene as they were, became unnecessary and the age of the Damascus-Presidents was ushered in and firmly installed. With the arrival of the Cedar Revolution, our continued hope is that it will be effectively thrown out.

And so we return to the Chehabists, at a time when crisis is being threatened and they (as evidenced by the lists) are being looked to as possible solutions.

For all of Edde and Khoury's Chehabi credentials, however, their election would almost surely invoke a post-elections dismissal of the Sarkis variety [if they're lucky]. Throughout two years of revolution, their presence has been negligible, at best.

The Effective Compromise

That Chehabi ineffectiveness, however, is met with another Chehabi candidate who's presence might provide a welcome deviation from the compromise "connotations". As Justice Minister, Charles Rizk was/is tasked with the handling of the international tribunal portfolio as well as that of the widely anticipated parliamentary electoral draft law. On both issues he has performed admirably, shrugging what personal interests and ties he had held to his pro-Syrian protege, Emile Lahoud, in favor of the execution of an agenda essential to the survival of our drive at sovereignty.

And this, it should be said, from a man who had attained the position of Justice Minister not on the basis of his effectiveness but on the basis of his Chehabist politics and political links [links too closely and for too long associated with elements long in their drifting towards the Syrian camp - thus rendering him a compromise candidate, and not more].

Commenting on the Presidential Elections and candidates exactly three months before the end of current President, Emile Lahoud's, mandate I wrote:
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?


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.
Charles Rizk's actions over the past two years stand as a testament to his ability to preserve the Lebanese peoples' drive for sovereignty, to tackle the issues that will dominate that drive over the next six years, and to do so in a fashion which could, once and for all dispose of the tainting and sidelining that has plagued the Presidency since that fateful extension in 2004.

Unfortunately for us, however, that testament is precisely what will be used by those in the service of Syria and Iran to prevent his ascension to the seat of the Presidency. As we mentioned before, compromise and consensus are just supposed to be another way of saying impotence and ineffectiveness. Or did you not know that?


  1. The Other Tony12:40 PM


    For all my talk about Demianos Khattar over the past 6 months or so I must say that I agree with your backing of Charles Rizk. Charles Rizk has shown that he is wily and effective. He has been competent and performed a good job in trying circumstances.

    I guess we should all find out this week who the "lucky" person is. This is when the real show begins.

    Great post again mate.

  2. Thanks Tony (the other).


  3. Brilliant post.
    There are no reasons why Charles Rizk would not make a fine President. His has consistently supported the Constitution, which is not the easiest thing especially in the face of adversity.
    I hope he makes it on the list and eventually to Office.

  4. I like Charles Rizk for the post (obviously) but I feel obliged [having endorsed him as a compromise candidate] to mention that - as with every politician - there is no guarantee that he would necessarily live up to or continue any pre-election promises or tendencies.

    That doesn't take away from what I have written in the post, however.

  5. Also check out Jeha's excellently written post on the same topic, here.

  6. Black and Jeha, (repost from Jeha's blog)

    I am not sure what you are saying about the Chehabis. Sure there was a time better than Frangie's days, and sure the human mind easily romanticizes the "good old days" (and I know you are not exactly saying that).

    Anyway, let's not forget however that the catastrophe went full steam ahead under a FULL blown Chehabi regime: the Cairo accord was pushed by asshole Karame and signed by double asshole Helou, both very-Chehabi creatures.

    PS Rizk is surely more competent than pretty much everybody in Leb and a tough little liked SOB. May still be an OK choice under the circumstances.

  7. Hey Josey,

    The perspective I took was one which examined the Presidency and the Chehabists' role in it throughout the period of Syrian intervention (which came in full swing after the disastrous Helou years).

    In Charles Rizk, I was pointing out that his lifelong political career as a Chehabi allows him to provide a consensus - in Christian circles first and foremost - between the two camps, while not placing the progress of the Cedar Revolution in jeopardy.


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