Love him or hate him, Rafik Hariri had a skill set that worked for Lebanon. He was good at amalgamating the competing interests of Lebanon’s various groups and defending this country on the international stage with a unified vision of what Lebanon was and where it was heading. He also had foreign connections he could use to help Lebanon punch above its weight when dealing with powerful players such as the Americans. He considered Lebanon a package, and he included and defended everyone. And the Americans hated him for it. Hariri would have fought an attempt to single out Hezbollah for sanctions that risked destroying our economy. He embraced our divisions and believed that the prosperity a free market economy promised for the entire country would have made them moot.
Today, we not only lack solid diplomatic representation in Washington, but we’re also speaking as a cacophony, without authority and vision. The country’s top political bosses have their own teams in DC who compete and undermine each other with no regard for the fact that they’re embarrassing this country in the process. Worse, we still haven’t figured out how to work with the American system. When Lebanese politicians go to Washington, they are far better at convincing their hotel manager to let them smoke a cigar in their room than they are at convincing American officials of anything that would benefit this country.
Our internal divisions make it easier for us to be pushed around and punished. It’s an embarrassment for which I see no easy fix. We do, however, have an opportunity to fill an empty seat in Baabda that has been vacant too long. We need someone strong who can once again speak in a united voice for Lebanon. I see no viable candidate at the moment. But nonetheless, I sincerely hope that this time next year, our economy will have survived the American onslaught and we will once again find a strong leader who has our back.