Monthly Archives: November 2009

This post is a tribute to NIR ROSEN who has written a fabulous article for FP on the US Marine barracks bombing in 1983. He completely hits the many nails of misconception that many political commentators have as to the causes of violence in the Middle East and as to why there is such anger in the region towards the US. As he concludes: “Stop killing Muslims, and there won’t be any Muslims who want to kill you.”

Rosen reconstructs the barrack bombing masterfully and why the US was attacked:

A short history lesson is in order: The 1983 bombing, in which suicide bombers driving explosives-laden trucks killed 241 U.S. military personnel and 58 French servicemen, was in response to an American attack. The United States, at McFarlane’s behest, chose to back one side in Lebanon’s civil war. ... At this point, the United States became just another militia in the Lebanese civil war.

What Rosen is saying is not new or original it is well documented that the US attacked and was then attacked. But why do highly intelligent Americans still think they were completely innocent? Is there a complete lack of self reflection, or ability to admit that the US has and continues to completely screw up?

As the headline reads for Rosen’s piece:

Don’t blame Hezbollah for the Marine barracks bombing. The United States is at fault, for becoming a combatant in Lebanon’s civil wa


I have just finished a piece for the think tank the Foreign Policy Centre on electoral reform in Lebanon. The piece focused on why there was such a misunderstanding of by the Western media of the Lebanese political scene and the desire for electoral reform in Lebanon.

Electoral Reform in Lebanon

In June 2009 Lebanon held its first ‘free’ election since 1972. On the conclusion of the elections Western media and political analysts were particularly guilty of premature celebrations and hyperbole, regarding the Western backed March 14 coalition election victory. These past elections were not a battle in which: “President Barack Obama defeated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran”(1) or Western ideals of liberal democracy triumphed against Islamic totalitarianism. This confusion was immediately evident after the winning March 14 coalition soon began to fracture and Lebanon fell into all too familiar political paralysis. The reason for this misplaced euphoria by Western pundits was due to an essential misunderstanding about the battle being fought on the Lebanese political playing field. These elections were largely void of political ideology and were centered on the fight to represent certain sectarian groups, especially so for the Christian population, and the protection of patrimonial networks.

Consociational politics have been deliberately established in Lebanon to ensure the protection of minority groups and ensure power sharing. But the politics of sect are not seen as sufficient by the Lebanese and there is a strong desire among civil society actors to change this consociational politics. One method being pushed, in this battle of “bad governance against good,” is electoral reform. Reformers are trying to ensure that in the creation of a new election law for the 2013 elections two mechanisms are introduced: Proportional Representation (PR) and the creation of a Senate.

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While I continue to maintain that the current cabinet crisis is due to the telecommunication ministry, I have not explained the other major factor holding up the formation of a cabinet and explains Sfeir’s intervention: the battle within the Christian community.

A Lebanese friend of mine pointed out the obvious that Sfeir’s intervention was because the March 14 Christians, who Sfier openly supports, are very concerned that they will be given the short end of the deal with March 8 and Aoun in any deal to end the cabinet crisis. The same old issue of Geagea and Gemayel wanting important cabinet positions to represent the fact that they are the strong men of the Christians. Also of course because they feel as part of the winning coalition of March 14 that won the elections they deserve more prominent positions in the cabinet than Aoun. This was articulated when Gemayel was angered by the first cabinet that Hariri proposed, which would have given Kataeb the tourism ministry. This it was believed was not a “significant” ministry. Aoun of course wants the telecommunication ministry for his allies, i.e. Hezbollah, and the interior or justice ministry to show that he is worthy of being the Christian strong man. The FPM claim that they represent half of the Christians (which is more or less right) and have more parliamentary seats to show for it than Kataeb or the Lebanese Forces.

The battle for monopoly of representation among the Christians continues and has no doubt added to the delay. But I think the Christians are disenfranchising themselves rather than prolonging the crisis. If it is in the interests of everyone else to form a cabinet then the Christian leaders would be dragged along kicking and screaming.