A truce, not a peace

A truce, not a peace
Comment: On the 40th anniversary of Lebanon's civil war, it is worth asking whether the period of relative peace since 1990 has merely been preparation for a next round.
4 min read
12 Apr, 2015
The Lebanese civil war lasted from 1975-1990 [Getty]

It is a major tragedy that the fortieth anniversary of the start of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) has arrived without its root causes having been addressed. Not even the many local, regional, and international players have changed much.

The Lebanese problem is a combination of factors: geographical "bad luck"; divisions between the Lebanese; a lack of a sense of belonging; a colonial past; and a lot of

     We usually ignore the subservience of the side we support by highlighting the subservience of the side we oppose.

mistrust about the future. Together, these factors hamper attempts at real change, of evolving and building a real state in Lebanon.

The worst thing about Lebanon's war is that it ended just as it began. No one knows for sure why war erupted on April 13, 1975, even though all the ingredients were there. No one knows for sure why it ended, even though the international decision to end the conflict after Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990 was a leading factor.

In short, many lost their lives for nothing in what may well have been the longest guerilla war in modern history.

In Lebanon, one region or party or religious community's martyr is another's killer or butcher. No one can persuade anyone else all those who perished were martyrs who died for the sake of Lebanon in his or her own way. Mutual lies like this are only accepted for the sake of public flattery, but never for the sake of coexistence in Lebanon, which does not really exist. Can you tell someone who lost a loved one in the war that his or her killers are also martyrs?

We live in a time of false peace that only exists to allow preparations to be made for the next civil war. This is Lebanon's tragedy, being stuck between one war and the next.

What is worse is that national reconciliation has never really happened. This was meant to have taken place a long time ago. Instead, all the wounds have been left open, maybe in the expectation that war will resume again soon.

Many in Lebanon do not want to understand that supposedly sectarian wars in Lebanon are not sectarian at all. Rather, they are examples of how sectarianism has been exploited to achieve political and personal gains. This seems especially likely as most warlords and politicians in Lebanon are closer to being hirelings for foreign powers than leaders of their respective constituencies and communities.

Under such leaders, it is only natural things remain open-ended. It is enough to consider the quarrel between the Future Movement and Hizballah to understand the real nature of an old reality that we Lebanese do not want to believe, namely, the subservience of local decision-makers to regional powers. But we usually ignore the subservience of the side we support by highlighting the subservience of the side we oppose. If the two most important political parties in Lebanon are subservient, then one can only imagine what the rest are like.

In reality, what some in Lebanon demand is not, as it seems to be, a call for independence, but rather ultimately in defence of the privileges of another state. Case in point: the congratulatory messages that Lebanese politicians are keen to dispatch east and west, with and without occasion, to build a relationship of equals with - read supplicate to - powerful states. In effect, this has been the habit of Lebanese politicians since the Ottoman era, then through the French era, the Syrian era, and now, the Saudi and Iranian era.

If these politicians are instructed as to how to wage a new civil war, they will oblige. Therefore, the Taif Accord signed in 1989 that paved the way for the end of the civil war, was not a final agreement but merely a truce until further notice.

Everyday that passes in the Republic of Lebanon without a serious effort to address the legacies of the past, and prepare for a different future, means taking Lebanon closer to a new war. Most Lebanese do not seem to want to learn the lesson, as they continue to hold on to their warlords under tenuous pretexts, be they sectarian, political, or otherwise.

For their part, the warlords are enjoying the spoils while their followers willingly drink their poison. As for the minority of the Lebanese that can begin a real movement for change, all they are looking for these days is a palliative to soothe the pain, or worse a place to immigrate to, perhaps never to return.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.