I think it may be time for the Lebanese to face facts — we are now in a state of civil war. Time and time again, when I have seen friends in recent weeks, there has been something of a familiar refrain: ‘the situation is bad, yes, but we are not there yet.’
It may not feel like a civil war from your office in Downtown Beirut, or Ashrafieh, or Hamra, but there has been more than the equivilant of a bomb per week in the first two months of 2014. Dozens have died as rival Lebanese (as well as Syrian and Palestinian) political groupings carry out tit-for-tat attacks and crackdowns. And those are just the successful ones. The security services have discovered a number of other explosive-rigged cars that sought to wreak havoc. If you don’t believe we are in a civil war, speak to the people of Dahiyeh, of Hermel, or of Akkar.
Our big savior, we were told, would be the new government. After a year of unnecessary infighting, our political classes have finally deemed it fit to form a Cabinet, run by Tammam Salam (seen on the cover). And what a Cabinet it is.
If Lebanon is run by 13 princes, then this government has given them all new jewels. Nabih Berri, speaker of Parliament and the wiliest fox out there, has managed to get his protégé Ali Hassan Khalil into the Ministry of Finance. Anyone hoping for new transparency with where our money goes is likely to be sorely disappointed. Likewise, Future Movement stalwarts Nouhad Machnouk and Ashraf Rifi — now interior and justice ministers respectively — have been tasked with tackling the now extremist groups whose predecessors they tacitly supported for so long. And almost every other appointment smacks of cronyism — our political classes looking out for themselves when their people are desperate.
Faced with a growing wave of radical groups, moderates of all hues have been shifted into the minority. They have come together to form a government, but done little to form a united front.
I hope to be proved wrong, I really do. I hope that this new government will want to open up, change policies and implement necessary reforms to both protect our little nation and help it grow again. What is really needed to drag the country back from the brink, away from extremism, is a new deal for the Lebanese — the kind that gives people a stake in their society. For that reason, we have again produced in these pages a series of meaningful, practical policy proposals for the government, inviting the insights of leading thinkers from all fields. If any of these new ministers wants to prove me wrong, let him or her not attack us, but prove to us their honesty through actions. Let them come and discuss the necessary reforms to move the country forward.
But I will not be getting my hopes up. And in the meantime, Executive will continue calling out our politicians’ dishonesty, corruption and nepotism — even during a civil war.