The Government of National Paralysis and Its Purposes
Hazem Saghieh Al-Hayat - 05/12/06//

How can there be a 'national unity government' in Lebanon in light of the deep differences over the very meaning of the word, 'national'?

Let us say, at the outset, that we stand before two major popular blocs, each carrying an opinion contrary to the opinion of the other bloc on almost everything. Let us also say that the attempts of some of those who speak on behalf of each respective bloc to reduce the size of their opponents or downplay their status, are trivial, at best, and authoritarian, at worst. And, in all cases, they are incapable of living up to the seriousness of the actual conflict and the risks that lie ahead.

It is a crisis in Lebanese nationalism, not in this nationalism's institutional and constitutional formulas, which are only a digression. It is a crisis where the only thing that both sides have in common, raising the Lebanese flag and waving it, became symbolically void of patriotic content and, ironically, deprived them all of the signs of a consensus.

But if we are facing a crisis in Lebanese nationalism, then the national unity government will just be a collection of contradictions that will only result in paralysis in national politics, as is the case with the economy. In the meantime, this growing tendency to resort to the street, and the growing animosity between the groups, and perhaps even a mutual arms race, is exactly what happened in the national unity government which accompanied the rift over the weapons of the Palestinian Resistance in Lebanon between 1969 and 1975.

It could be said, as a counter argument, that President Fuad Chehab had already grouped together Pierre Gemayel and Kamal Jumblatt in his governments. But that was an exceptional experience in modern Lebanese history, stemming from the exceptional arbitrational position Chehab enjoyed, enhanced moreover by his executive powers. Such exceptional circumstances were not enjoyed by Presidents Charles Helou and Suleiman Franjieh and, of course, Emile Lahoud.

And here we can not avoid voicing our great doubt: whoever proposes a national unity government as the cure for a crisis that is striking Lebanese nationalism itself, is dealing with the country as a mere arena and extension, whose decisions should be made in foreign power centers, which then reverberate upon us. According to this interpretation, it is enough for us to have a government of national paralysis as long as we are not the source of decisions or its makers. It is a return, in worse conditions, to the state of affairs that existed during the former period of Syrian guardianship, when the Rafik Hariri government 'amused' itself with economic matters; whereas politics, at the end of the day, was in the hands of the Syrians. And whenever the prime minister extended his hand to politics, it was slapped away, and when he reached his hand out at a time of emergency and crisis, he was killed.

But what the opposition is doing is decorating the national government paralysis as a vehicle for a shiny future, which is no more than a lie among the other lies that we can easily recall. Three of those latest lies are:

That Fouad Siniora turned from the head of the government of 'political resistance' when he was needed by Hezbollah during the war into an 'agent' for American ambassador Feltman after the war.

He who achieved a 'divine victory' was forced, after less than four months, to incur an open ended stay-in strike, calling for a change of government (if it had been a victory much less than divine, the government would have fallen before it like a yellow autumn leaf).

The leader of this 'victory' was the one who pressed the most for an immediate ceasefire.

Far away from all these lies among others, the crisis goes beyond mere politics and even constitutional texts to affect nationalism itself. Today, there are an inexhaustible number of arguments to the effect that Emile Lahoud is illegitimate or that Fouad Siniora and his government are illegitimate. In the end, the issue is neither here nor there, but lies in the ability of the two contradictory viewpoints in the national arena to coexist. This would be unattainable without the help of the outside world either to compel them to coexist or to break Lebanon apart and terminate it in an orderly and peaceful way