A Clinton strategist famously coined the phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid.” His boss was commander-in-chief of the strongest army on the planet. No economy within a truly democratic system can thrive without security guaranteed by an independent army with no political allegiance.
This month, Executive looks at what is needed to restructure Lebanon’s increasingly threadbare army. The army’s weakness was one of the reasons Lebanon endured nearly 40 years of regional and civil unrest that sent a potentially hard currency into a tailspin and an economy crashing around our ears.
In hindsight, the issue of sovereignty should have been dealt with after the 1975-91 war. Military reform would have been an essential by-product of such a nation-building exercise. What, it might have been argued, would be the point of a new central district if the nation’s borders are porous and internal security is subcontracted to an ambitious neighbor?
Other countries should have acted sooner to help Lebanon build an effective army, but most decisions in history come too late – usually on the heels of national tragedy. Now, amid the rubble and uncertainty, the US has tripled its military commitment to Lebanon, while other nations are falling over themselves to help. In fact come to think of it, if Iran ever had Lebanon’s best interests at heart, surely it would have given military aid to the state instead of a political party predicated on conflict.
Lebanon needs a strong defensive army, not only to enforce sovereignty, but also to enforce the notion that arms are the privilege of the state to defend itself against what Shakespeare called, “infection and the hand of war.” The army should not be used by the government for its own ends and should demonstrate to the people that there is no need for any party to take the defense of the country into its own hands. The political process should be conducted on a level playing field, while a dedicated economic plan can only be implemented free from the threat of conflict.