The history of modern Lebanon is a story that has its roots in the deception game of empires hiding behind the minority treaties, called great probably to emphasise the greatness of the empires it served. That story however continues as a Nation-State aspiration imagined by Maronite elites in 1920, and suddenly deviated like a stream when it encounters a fallen tree, by the magnet of independence that unified political opponents which culminated on September 6th, 1938, in the National Pact, days before Daladier and Chamberlain shamefully returned from Munich.
The Nation-State project then took the form of an independent republic, whose purpose was no longer the emancipation of the post-Phoenician liberal universalism, the “raison d’être“ of what could have become Lebanon, a nation contributing to the “building of a better human community, and more humane humanity.“ (Charles Corm)
As we look backward, had the insatiable appetite for domination of the British empire mob and their profit hungry investors at the turn of the last century refrained from playing the endless game of “expansion for expansion’s or power for power’s sake”, they would have spared the decent man that was TE Lawrence his later suffering, and possibly the Lebanists their vanished dreams.
“When at the end of the war, Lawrence had to abandon the pretences of a secret agent and somehow recover his “English self“, he looked at the west and its conventions with new eyes: “They destroyed it all for me” he wrote , and .. “I did not believe finally in the Arab movement; but thought it necessary at its time and place”. (Arendt)
For as much as “Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to pan-Germanism, and pan-Slavism, then any other ideology” (Arendt), so too pan Arabism (or “unionism“ as translated in Lebanon during the 20 years that followed the declaration of Gouraud), must have been the cradle of totalitarian movements, (that is, movements that later reinvented themselves out of the fictitious idea of pan Arabism into the more concrete struggle in support of a Palestinian state or the defeat of Zionists), that swept through postwar Middle East and prevented the emergence of the Lebanese Nation State.
It is against that backdrop that the mob, represented by Muslim pan Arabist sympathisers, gathered behind notable sunny families, found a partner in Bechara el-Khoury, a practising lawyer from an established Maronite descent, an uncomplexed political pragmatist. El Khoury indeed skilfully played Britain versus France, Arabists versus Lebanists.
The period that followed saw the growing alliance between “modern mob”, the “déclassés of all classes” (Arendt), and the elite from both extremes. The nation that never was, designed to suit a new ruling class who benefited from the loopholes of the flawed democracy that was installed. Meanwhile, the mass of disenfranchised, sometimes instigated by the mob itself, grew around the populist waves of identity populism and Arab nationalism. In a sense, gone were the noble universalist aspirations of the Lebanists among Christians, replaced by the evermore noisy cacophony and slogans of the Christian and Muslim mobs alike. Eventually this led to the destructive political choices (Cairo 1969), that were impossible to resolve other than by means of a deadly Civil War.
Throughout 25 years following independence, the Lebanese ruling elite strengthened public administration, but continued to undermine the muddy foundation of the state, and neglect the steps that could have led to a nation building. Over time, even that administration came to crumble. Social structures that were encouraged by the mandatory authority, that is other than sectarian affiliation, such as professional and sectorial associations, were replaced by the only structure that remained, that which is now recorded on every Lebanese ID: sectarian affiliation.
It is therefore in the context of this classless society, polarised by the mob, that 200,000 victims later, in 1990, the mob was enthroned to rule the country. This followed a constitutional amendment that further entrenched the country into the dead ending being witnessed today. The Taif accord in that instance, is the equivalent of the articles of association of the Medelin cartel. To compensate the mob distrust to each other of its members, there were two determining factors: Syria would have to play the role of security guarantor (in return for influence and fees to the Assad family), Mr. Rafik Hariri, a decent self made billionaire who spent his career in the Gulf region, would have to be the chief executive and the enricher in chief. it is therefore a true tragedy, that once the system put in place by Hariri was up and running, with a notable support of his private banker now appointed governor of the central bank of Lebanon, the mob decided to get rid of him! This cataclysmic event caused the departure of the Syrian occupation amidst international outcry.
During the period between the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Rafik Hariri, à majority of the population on both Christian and Muslim (Shia specifically) sides had joined the ranks of sympathisers of Iran’s totalitarian movement’s Lebanese front line: Hezbollah, who finally consolidated its power in 2006 by agreeing its entente in Mar Mikhaïl with the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun.
Strengthened by its Christian cover, Hezbollah, through systematic propaganda and occasional terror, with its totalitarian fiction of freeing the world of Zionists and Wahabists alike, while also promising to secure the fate of Lebanese Christians under the so-called minorities alliance, (although in Lebanon their sympathisers outnumbered their opponents’) had by 2009 taken over control of both the security apparatus, foreign relations, and under the new alliance with the FPM, of veto right over almost any decision of the executive branch or any legislative moves of the parliament. This followed two years of total government paralysis and a muscled confrontation on Beirut streets similar to that of the Nazi SA Stormtroopers terror during their pre-power ascension.
With the election of Michel Aoun in 2016, Hezbollah had effectively gathered control of two out of three posts of the Taif presidential posts, had veto power over the third. The mob rule had effectively enabled the indirect control of the Lebanese state by the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary guards council) outpost.
The mob rule was shaken suddenly during the October 2019 protests. Many expected the emergence of a fresh “new elite”, just as the old economy with its old dollars had collapsed. It later became quickly obvious though that the enrolment of masses in the indoctrination equally by the mob disinformation tactics and Hezbollah’s totalitarian propaganda, had rendered impossible any meaningful result.
Content for the people that persisted after the collapse of the economy as well as the Beirut port blast, visible through judiciary obstruction, suspected killings of Lokman Slim, the refusal to implement urgent reforms to restart the economy, or to provide social safety nets in replacement of the collapsed Social Security fund, and the wiping off of deposits, all that demonstrates the absence of elite support. Worse, the Lebanese witnessed the disturbing alliance of the mob and the elite. That became all too visible following this year’s legislative election of the so-called over “change MPs”.
“The disturbing alliance between the mob and the elite, and the curious coincidence of their aspirations, had their origin in the fact that these strata had been the first to be eliminated from the structure of the nation-state and the framework of class society. They found each other so easily, if only temporarily, because they both sensed that they represented the fate of the time, that they were followed by unending masses, that sooner or later the majority of European peoples might be with them—as they thought, ready to make their revolution.
It turned out that they were both mistaken. The mob, the underworld of the bourgeois class, hoped that the helpless masses would help them into power, would support them when they attempted to forward their private interests, that they would be able simply to replace the older strata of bourgeois society and to instill into it the more enterprising spirit of the under-world. Yet totalitarianism in power learned quickly that enterprising spirit was not restricted to the mob strata of the population and that, in any event, such initiative could only be a threat to the total domination of man. Absence of scruple, on the other hand, was not restricted to the mob either and, in any event, could be taught in a relatively short time. For the ruthless machines of domination and extermination, the masses of co-ordinated philistines provided much better material and were capable of even greater crimes than so-called professional criminals, provided only that these crimes were well organized and assumed the appearance of routine jobs.” (Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism”