Whenever the subject of federalism is mentioned in Lebanon a cacophony of voices is suddenly unleashed against it, without necessarily understanding its real meaning or true dimensions. One would think that the subject relates to a violation of sovereignty, or the use of illegal armed force, or the organized theft of the government’s coffers or the depletion of national savings. Judging from the virulent reactions to federalism, one isleft to believe that the theme is tantamount to proposing a solo peace accord with Israel, or an Anschluss with Syria, or a subservient allegiance to Iran or a naked lease of physical and human assets to some moneyed Arab country. The irony is that such staunch opposition comes from an elitist, self-serving, and conflicted group of politicos and their acolytes, not from common citizens whose votes would ultimately determine any choice on federalism.
Mind you, all these above political high crimes and misdemeanors -from selling the country’s sovereignty to the highest bidder to subjecting the nation to the whims of foreign powers – have been ‘actually’ perpetrated by the very political class that is outraged at the ‘virtual’ sight of federalism. In fact, the Holier-Than-Thou politicos seem angrier at, and more scared of, federalism than all their past and present sins. Why so?
Federalism as we understand it will be based on the territorial unity of present-day Lebanon, the famous 10,452 square kilometers. So, no part of Lebanon would be ceded or lost to any neighbor. Beirut Central District (intra muros) shall be the center of the federal administration; all other regions to have their own administrations that shall not infringe upon the rights or territories of other regions. No borders or checkpoints will ever exist between them. The case of the borderless city States of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ajman is before all our eyes to see.
Federalism as it has been properly developed will adopt ‘neutrality’ towards regional and international conflicts. Neutrality does not mean aloofness or dissociation from reality. It would simply mean that Lebanon shall not be used to attack other countries and it shall not tolerate any interference in its domestic affairs, neither by Arabs nor by Tatars. Few countries in the world have adopted neutrality stands including, but not limited to, Finland, Malta, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkmenistan, and Vatican City.
Federalism as we comprehend its contours shall have a rotation system atop the administrative council (the technical term for government) with one chief executive (or PM) chosen from the different sects for a limited term (say 3 years per candidate) that is not subject for extension. This will eliminate the outsized ambitions of some and the destructive frustrations of others, to attain the highest position in the land, by making it accessible to all on a rotating basis.
So, why are so many blindly opposed to federalism in Lebanon?Well, the categories differ and mutate with time. We shall attempt to sample some of the genres in brief.
The ignorants who equate federalism with the partition of Lebanon into different ethnic and sectarian zones, without understanding the legal meaning and the practical application of federalism. They even mirror federalism with isolationism to please some other sects or religious groups who share same abhorrence to federalism. Most pseudo-intellectuals, fake-journalists and illiterate TV pundits fall within this category.
The power-grabbers who want to maintain control over the entirety of the country by one sect, or party or one religion. They see in federalism the anti-thesis to their plan of subjugating the entire nation to their will, whim, and whip. These are the most blatant opponents and the most ardent foes of any federalist plan. One specific group with an oversized collective ego, a semi-nuclear arsenal and; a dual leadership best personifies this genre.
The nostalgic nationalists who equate ‘Lebanon’ with its form of government, an ideal but alas unworkable consensus-based democracy. Anything else would be tempering with the ‘natural laws’ of the country and henceforth, could lead to losing it all.Many a friend belong to this category, unfortunately.
The demagogues who live in the heart of sectarian federalism but reject formal federalism, to appear cross-sectarian andnational heroes who in truth work for their personal interests and incidentally for those of the sect that elevated them in the first place, but never for the interests of the nation. One feudal lord comes to mind.
Finally, you have the commercially corrupt, self-serving wannabe entrepreneurs of doom, who basically view their status unchanged in war or peace, under militia or legitimate rule. They nonetheless prefer a centralized broken system that allows them to perpetuate their graft than a decentralized efficient one.The US Treasury blacklists are starting to publicly expose some of the infamous members of this class.
Many, including the author of this article, support federalism not only because it is an evolutionary mechanism for a democratic structure that has been strained by the test of time, but because it also quashes the idiotic, devious, romantic, and self-serving arguments leveled willy-nilly against it.
A case in principle against centralized government, anywhere, we offer a quote from James Madison, the 4th President of the US, who said: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”.