America’s China Policy Is Not Working
The Dangers of a Broad Decoupling
It is hazardous to write about postwar Lebanon while the war is still going on, to write about the day after tomorrow when tomorrow may bring still more bloodshed. Yet it is not unrealistic to outline what the Lebanese deem most desirable for Lebanon and what may still be feasible, under conditions not beyond human control.
At the outset, one must point out that an analysis of Lebanon today cannot be narrowed down to the relatively simplistic question: What after the Palestinians? If it is to have the slightest claim at comprehensiveness, such an analysis must still address problems that almost ten years of war have left not only unsolved, but unexplored. Other issues, more commonly dealt with on a day-to-day basis, are the consequences of the Israeli invasion and the presence of the Syrian "peacekeeping" force. Immense, and probably immeasurable at the present stage, these consequences range from the geostrategic to the purely human, not excluding such aspects of Lebanon's national life and policy as reconstruction, political reforms, the restructuring of forces, the realignment of alliances, and so forth.
This essay does not, of course, pretend to present a complete analysis of what will now be called again-as in the nineteenth century-the Question of Lebanon. But at the very least, we would hope to present a Lebanese contribution to an ongoing debate, or rather game, conveniently dubbed the redrawing of the map.
It may be pertinent to preface this essay with two preliminary considerations:
First, to understand the Question of Lebanon-as probably all the Middle East-and grasp the essence of the political entity that is Lebanon, we must look at the realities of today from the perspective of history, not geography.
Second, the Question of Lebanon, so conveniently considered for over ten years now as a "sideshow" of the Middle East, has now suddenly burst onto center stage as the epitome of all that riddles the region, the one point of encounter of all its wars and all its revolutions as well. From the second consideration flow two subsidiary remarks that have acquired, for the Lebanese, and many others as well, axiomatic value:
1. Peace in Lebanon cannot, and indeed should no longer, wait for peace everywhere else in the Middle East through a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only is it a moral imperative for the Lebanese; it is a pragmatic necessity for regional and international security.
2. Leaving the Question of Lebanon unsolved or unattended, pending the settlement, by war or by peace, of other related issues, may be found to serve the cause of flexibility in negotiating a regional package. Yet the Lebanese will always be able, at this stage in their suffering, to reject, nay even to prevent, any territorial, demographic, political, economic or security compensations at the expense of their territorial integrity. The Lebanese feel today entitled-and may, more than ever before, have the means-to claim that the Question of Lebanon should be addressed as such, on its own merits, and as an integral whole, not as part of a broader complex.
The "map drawers" may here ask a very pertinent question: does Lebanon have the means of resisting not further conquest-which has become superfluous-but a peace settlement, the price of which can only be a piece of territory? Can Lebanon resist not Israel alone, but a combination of Israel's and Syria's security concerns, let alone the ambitions of both? And, finally, how will Lebanon overcome the trauma of a second Palestinian dispersion inside its territory, without allowing that dispersion to destabilize its society and probably develop again into a new revolution? Such questions, we submit, would not have been asked had Lebanon not been considered-and probably still is by some-not only as a "sideshow," but as an accessory to other parties' strategic and national interests.
What better proof of this can there be than the very name given to the Israeli invasion: "Peace for Galilee"? To occupy almost half of a country, destroy its capital, disrupt its economy, ferociously kill its civilian population by the thousands-for the sake of "Peace for Galilee"-is indeed a very strange notion of peace!
But the real tragedy is that previous wars were not so different. For ten long years, and probably since 1968, Lebanon has been hostage to everybody else's wars and revolutions: Israelis versus Palestinians, Palestinians versus Syrians, Syrians versus Israelis, Egyptians versus Syrians, Syrians versus Iraqis, Iraqis versus Libyans, Libyans versus Egyptians, let alone the various forms of superpower confrontation. Over the years, so enormous was the investment in military hardware, in ammunition, in manpower, in efforts and expenditures, that no further proof is needed to show that what was at stake was beyond Lebanese interests and problems, and the means by far surpassed Lebanese capabilities. The major injustice done to the Lebanese-over and above the human, physical and political sacrifices-has been to describe these past wars with clichés such as Muslim-Christian, or Leftist-Rightist confrontations. What we were witnessing, in reality, were external conflicts projected upon internal divisions, thus causing the delicately balanced structure of Lebanon to explode.
A close examination of the 1975-76 "civil war" will reveal that then-as at every time there has been a civil or religious war in the Lebanon-it "coincided" with at least one regional problem for which the internal socio-economic or political crisis in Lebanon served as vehicle. Although the conflict of 1975-76 took the shape of an intercommunal struggle between Christians and Muslims-and as such could therefore qualify as a "civil war"-the Palestinians were both an object of the conflict and the third and finally most important protagonist in it. Palestinians have been a refugee presence in Lebanon since 1949, but it was in the mid-1960s that they became significant as a military and political presence. Seen by Christians as a threat to the equilibrium of the "National Pact," they were called upon by Muslims precisely to reestablish that equilibrium that the Christians were accused of having abused. The Muslims called upon them not as mercenaries, of course, but as natural allies, as the projection of their own idealism, as the political-military embodiment of their own ideological approach to both Lebanese and Arab politics.
The Palestinians, however, had their own interests, their own agenda. They were allies of the Muslims, but they were also the army of their own sacred cause. In retrospect, at least, the ensuing conflict assumes the guise of inevitability. Lebanon, having no ambition to play a part in the Palestinian wars and relying upon its 1949 Armistice Agreement with Israel, felt immunized from the conflicts external to its own interests. But the Palestinian sacred cause, first protected within Lebanon, was then projected from it in offensives conducted by the Palestinian revolution and its own leadership, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The state and the revolution clashed. The "logic of government" demanded the application of restrictions, while the logic or dialectic of revolution drove it to replace the state and to exercise the prerogatives of government. In this perspective, the "enemy" of the sacred cause was not the Christian faction but the Lebanese state, and the Christian party only inasmuch as this party was assumed to have "ruled" the state. In this paradoxical "war of substitutes," the Palestinians had two enemies: the Israelis and the Lebanese who, by this logic, became Israel's objective ally. For the Lebanese, the Palestinians became the substitute enemy-for the Israeli enemy that the Lebanese were not fighting.
This situation was further complicated by the entry of the Syrian Army in 1976. Having come into Lebanon as peacekeepers and as a force for containment, their role has evolved during the years, and they have neither "tamed the shrew"-to wit, the PLO-nor been the catalysts in the schemes for "national unity," as they claimed they would be.
Losing progressively their deterrent credibility, the Syrian forces soon discovered that they were becoming a coercive and sometimes offensive force. They were involved in disputes which they were supposed to arbitrate and control, and security even in areas under their apparent full control was constantly deteriorating, with feuds erupting even between factions and groups whose loyalty to Syria should have been beyond question. Such political complications added to the military difficulties and drew the Syrian regime itself into the worst possible quagmire. All three parties-Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese-were now immersed in the quicksands of an ever more illusory peace, with grave consequences for the stability of the whole Middle East.
The situation deteriorated most in South Lebanon, which the Syrian peacekeeping forces never fully entered. Indeed, the Syrian presence should have protected South Lebanon against Israeli incursions by preventing Palestinian infiltrations and attacks. Yet, a "red line" was drawn, north of the Litani River, in tacit agreement with Israel (as admitted later) beyond which the Syrians would not go. Consequently, the "south of the South" became an arena of confrontation among Palestinians, Israelis and Lebanese culminating in "Operation Litani," the Israeli invasion of 1978, which the Syrians watched with great aloofness. This situation led many analysts, particularly some Israelis, to describe Syrian-Israeli relations in Lebanon as an "open-game strategy," which allowed, without any direct contact, a complementarity of objectives between the two parties.1
The fact that the present Israeli theory of "symmetrical withdrawal" from Lebanon, i.e., simultaneity with Syrian withdrawal, has prompted a similar Syrian theory is extremely interesting in this context. One is entitled to fear that if symmetrical withdrawal proves impossible or difficult, the theory would naturally lead to a "symmetrical presence," not to say a symmetrical occupation.
To the Lebanese, this is today the principal threat to their territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence. The danger is, needless to say, accentuated by Lebanon's limited leverage on both the Syrians and the Israelis to force them to withdraw.
This analysis, we trust, establishes with sufficient clarity that destabilization in Lebanon is not inherent in the communal structure of Lebanese society and the built-in mechanisms of internal conflict so often mentioned.
Admitting the problems, the deficiencies and the failures within our society, one must assert that it is the uncalled-for and unexpected addition of external contradictions that caused this framework to explode. The "National Pact" between the Lebanese was only broken by the strain of the triangular conflicts among Palestinians, Syrians and Israelis, on top of the weighty presence of the Palestinian diaspora-a diaspora in revolt-which prevented the Lebanese from pursuing their common, communal evolution. Indeed, not only did the demographic weight of the Palestinian diaspora (already about 500,000 by 1975) unbalance Lebanese society, but the political and ideological consequences of the Palestinian revolutionary presence were more than the Lebanese democratic system could cope with. Overpowered from the outside, many Lebanese were lured into acting as surrogates in their own homeland.
In prefacing this essay, we said that one must look at the Question of Lebanon from a perspective of history, not of geography. And we should add: nor of geopolitics.
To anticipate reasonably what postwar Lebanon can be, we need to remember what it has been. It is not evident that everyone who discusses the Middle East today understands that past; in fact, it is evident that many do not, that they view Lebanon from a perspective that distorts it. When approaching the Middle East, one must remember that it is history, not geography, that has determined and molded national identities. To apply the classic Western concept of natural frontiers to the so-called nation-states of the area is to ignore two basic sociohistorical realities. First, the notion of nationality in the nineteenth-century European sense, which prevails in many analyses of current affairs, is alien to Middle Eastern culture. Second, political societies in the Middle East have not been forged inside natural frontiers-desert boundaries, mountain chains or rivers. They have, rather, been constructed around historical capital cities, strongly homogenous and well structured, such as Damascus or Baghdad, which played through the centuries a catalytic role, often by conquest.
Having developed in this environment, Lebanon, however, was distinctive until it assumed its present political form in 1920. It was not the capital city of Beirut that was the real center of Lebanese identity, but the mountain heartland, Mount Lebanon. In fact, as a city, Beirut had a number of competitors in Lebanon, some of them with prestigious names that reach far back into history: Tyre, Tripoli, Sidon and Byblos. It was only after the Republic of Lebanon was proclaimed in the wake of the First World War that Beirut assumed a novel dimension. It then became the point of encounter between two distinct ways of life as well as two approaches to government and politics: the very partisan politics of nonurban Mount Lebanon and the soft, tolerant cosmopolitan outlook of the east Mediterranean mercantile cities, marked by the nostalgia of their past empires.
This Beirut encounter created new demographic and socioeconomic realities, admittedly not without some violence. The lack of an integrated political development led to excessive government centralization. This, in turn, drained wealth and culture into a city that soon became a monster of rapid but disorderly growth, expansion and prosperity. Already overdeveloped before the explosion of oil wealth in the Arab world in the 1970s, the new Beirut became, as a major capital city, the rival of Damascus, Baghdad and even Cairo, and easily surpassed the barely emerging cities of the Gulf or the historical relic cities of the Peninsula.
When viewed in this perspective, the National Pact, Lebanon's unwritten constitution since 1943, can be seen for what it really is. It is not only an alliance between Christians and Muslims, which is how it is usually described. It is, in fact, the organic and structural expression of the emergence of a new society and a new culture; it is the framework within which the natural contradictions of such an evolution were expected to be resolved.
Without pretending that these contradictions were close to resolution before the wars of the last seven years, one can point to areas where real advances were made, to substantial accomplishments. Under conditions where religious pluralism can only with difficulty be pursued, let alone achieved, Lebanon has marked out a respectable course. In addition, it has been a place in which Eastern and Western cultures could mix with benefits to both. It has, however, weakened, after having been a working democracy characterized by a respect for political freedom and civil liberties. As in other countries the achievements, and at times even the efforts, of Lebanon have fallen short of its ideals. But no one should lightly dismiss those achievements, the framework within which they were attained, nor the promise they hold out not only for Lebanon but for other countries as well.
I mention these achievements, which I take to be of a high order, not to recall yesterday's golden past whose fading light serves only to illumine the shards and fragments of a society that might have been-for I do not believe that is an accurate description of Lebanon at this moment, however battered it is. Nor do I mention them to dispel once again the recurring myth that the wars in Lebanon are essentially civil wars of a religious character. (There will, apparently, always be naïfs who believe this, but not only naïfs may still do so.) I mention them to emphasize the fact that within the framework of a delicately balanced society, with many conflicting needs, these things were achieved.
It will ultimately be up to the Lebanese to demonstrate that a half century of regained independence and communal life was not just another accident of history, that their national integrity and historic identity are not just another sublime, magnified question mark in the tortured geography of the Middle East.
It will be incumbent upon the Lebanese to prove that they are not negotiable nor dispensable. The current view, after the Israeli invasion, is that they are. At best, the destiny of Lebanon, we are told-again by the mapmakers-is to become a Syrian-Israeli condominium, at worst to explode and be partitioned between Syria and Israel, with probably a reduced homeland for the Christians in the middle.
Partition is, of course, a word that has often been invoked in discussion about Lebanon. It was already experienced in the nineteenth century, specifically in 1842, when Lebanon was divided into two statelets (caimacamats), one Christian and one Druze, both under Ottoman suzerainty and enjoying international guarantees. The result was the disastrous "religious wars" of 1860, in which the "foreign powers" were said to have played a major instigating role-until they were called on to intervene and put an end to bloodshed and reunite Lebanon.
Partition was again discussed in 1975-76 as the natural outcome of the war, and possibly its latent objective. But it never went beyond de facto situations where local self-appointed authorities exercised power but never claimed legitimacy, while the legitimate central government continued even when it lost all but the outward attributes of power and authority.
Yet, none of the local "governments" which resulted from so many local coup d'états ever went so far as to wage a war of secession or to advocate separatism. Even those on the Muslim side of Lebanon who had a tradition of "unitarianism"-namely, a yearning for so-called Syrian or Arab unity-reinterpreted their Arabism in a manner that emphasized their attachment to an independent, united Lebanon. Their criticism of the central government was addressed not to its legitimacy, but to its inertia vis-à-vis the dislocation of the state. There was, all along, a unanimous call for a strong united Lebanon, but differences as to how its unity would best be structured. Partition was thus self-defeated.
But what is meant now by partition is not the familiar and old-fashioned notion of dividing Lebanon between Christians and Muslims, into two or possibly three parts. Today, the term has taken on quite different meanings. It is suggested that the aims and interests of a number of outside countries would be best served by redrawing the map of Lebanon to correspond to the "new" existing realities. On this map Syria would be allowed to annex those provinces in the northeast of Lebanon that it has long coveted. In the south, Israel would be allowed to absorb, however gradually, those territories it could control up to the Litani River. The balance of Lebanon, which would be no more than 40 percent of its present territory, would form the new Republic. Composed of both Muslims and Christians, the new Republic would, for a variety of political reasons, be dominated by Christians.
A similar but more sophisticated approach is a condominium. This would leave the map of Lebanon untouched, but actual sovereignty over significant portions of Lebanon, roughly similar to those described above, would be wielded by Israel and Syria. This arrangement would not necessarily need to be formalized; it would only need to be recognized and accepted by those whose interests are most deeply involved-the Lebanese excepted-and who have the ability to support this approach.
To some people this latter approach appears practical, more prudent. It would allegedly have the advantages of partition without the concomitant disadvantages. Furthermore it corresponds to the actual conditions that now exist and that have, mutatis mutandis, existed for some time in Lebanon. Assuming that the PLO would not be operative as a military presence in Lebanon, that the disparate religious and ethnic factions cannot unite, that a stable central government is unlikely, the task of achieving stability in Lebanon would fall to its strong neighbors, Israel and Syria. It is, we are told, a "realistic" proposal.
It would be unrealistic to expect the Lebanese to accept either approach. Indeed it has been their general historical tendency to enlarge their country rather than reduce it. Already, in the seventeenth century, their Princes had conquered parts of Syria, and later became the allies of Egypt in campaigns against the Ottoman Empire.
But the simplest objection one could express to the so-called condominium, whether de jure or de facto, formal or unexpressed, is that the fate of Lebanon would be placed in the hands of others. And a Lebanon so divided would not even contain, let alone resolve, the regional tensions that in the past have exploded into actual conflict, both inside and outside Lebanon.
Syria, it is true, has never abandoned its irredentist claim to at least those northeast provinces which, it asserts, became Lebanese only after the Constitution of the Republic in 1920.2 Syria has often been encouraged in this claim by varying ideological and strategic considerations, ranging from the traditional romantic yearning for "unity," which many Lebanese feel, to the desire to bolster its own security by integrating into its defense system its "soft underbelly"-to wit, the Bekaa Valley or northeast Lebanon.
But were Syria to attempt to follow this course, could anyone guarantee that the Bekaa and its inhabitants would not become a destabilizing factor inside Syria? And is Syria today the "dream image" which attracted, half a century ago, the romantic drive toward unity that many Lebanese Muslims felt? Is Damascus today perceived as the pole of attraction of that unity, and does its present system offer Lebanese Muslims sufficient incentives to seek secession from Lebanon and unity with Syria? We need not dwell on how Syria's other neighbors would view this action.
Similar questions can be raised about Israel's claims. True, Israel has not formally avowed territorial ambitions in Lebanon. However, ever since the borders of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were drawn under the French and British mandates in 1919, Zionist literature has consistently maintained that the Jewish National Home, and later Israel, needed the water of the Litani and the land south of it. And Israel itself has dealt with the issue as if the population living there-which is Arab not Jewish, and in its majority, Muslim not Christian-were a negligible entity, eventually disposable, not significant, and almost nonexistent.
Nevertheless, and assuming one were to ignore all the rules of international law (non-acquisition of territory by force, etc.), high among the objections to absorbing this area into Israel is the fact-which Israel itself surely recognizes-that the people of the area would not readily be absorbed. They would add to the internal problems of Israel, of which it already has its fair share.
Only movements of population, cataclysmic shifts and their dramatic consequences, could enable Israel and Syria to partition Lebanon and absorb parts of it-let alone the shifting of populations within Lebanon itself, so that each country would supposedly receive the most friendly, or the least intractable, Lebanese. But the entire proposal is too unrealistic, too unworthy to merit a close examination of how one would manage the necessary dislocations of settled populations. Hence, if the aim of the mapmakers is to ensure an area of stability, one could hardly think of a more counterproductive course.
Even the eventual peace negotiations on the present issues, deemed difficult in an environment of a constantly shifting morass of conflicting interests, even these negotiations would take on added complexities and complications.
Furthermore, it is extremely doubtful that a shrunken Lebanon could become a haven of stability, working out, as its promoters purport to expect, a course of action independent of the pressures previously imposed upon it by such compelling problems as Palestinian claims to a homeland and the Israeli denial of those claims.
One further aspect of the question merits independent examination: the attitude of the Christians in Lebanon, now a political majority, who are expected to feel reassured of their future in a shrunken Lebanon that they will dominate. In a world swept by Islamic fundamentalism, the Christians of Lebanon, and Arab Christians in general, may be naturally provoked to opt for some form of "militant Christianity"-and some indeed have.
Borrowing from history, one might be tempted to qualify this as the new Crusaders' choice. Yet, are we not entitled to fear that a Crusading community can only lead to further confrontation, and hence to isolation? By rejecting the present sociopolitical pattern, militant Christianity provokes counter-rejection. And though one has to admit that this is a choice that has probably been forced on many of us, yet many of us have also refused it for fear that it will isolate the Christians of Lebanon, and imperil other Christians everywhere else in the Middle East.
But to reject such a choice does not mean to opt for a form of "Resigned Christianity," wherein the 12 million Christians of the Arab world will have to accept living, willingly and wittingly, as resigned Churches. Their closed societies may become, as some probably have already, ghettos that will lead to a fossilized form of Christianity. Disenchanted and not harboring any political ambitions, such closed societies may be content with their contribution to culture and tradition, abstracted from political concerns.
The Christians of Lebanon will not, and need not, accept such an extreme as the only alternative to militancy and a Christian-dominated state of their own-a Christian Israel, as it were. The option, which is probably the ideal synthesis of the two previous attitudes, is to transcend both confrontation and resignation.
Opting to preserve the testimony of God in the "realm of man," the Christians who choose coexistence and an intercommunal state are choosing an assertion of equal rights, including political rights, but with tolerance and in dialogue, not through confrontation. In the Arab World, known more and more as the "Household of Islam," Arab Christians have always assumed a historical mission, which today is more important than ever before: having an impact on Islam, not by proselytism, but, as they have done for centuries, with a message of culture and progress, let alone the preservation of the ideal values derived from Christian faith and heritage.
Of course, the only possible sociopolitical framework for this option, this mission of testimony and survival, is the secular state. Yet, the question with which we are now, more than ever, confronted is: Can Islam accept the notion of the secular state, of the separation between religion and politics?
Whence the challenge, the challenge for Christians to remain Christians. Not Christians having freedom of access to places of worship-as is the notion in the West-but Christians significant in society, active in politics, and capable of transfiguring other groups, to create together a new form of social as well as economic and political life. In this, as well as in the more earthly political perspective, it is the return to Lebanon in its basic constitution which remains the only path to peace, and the road of wisdom and creativity.
But postwar Lebanon should not be a return to the status quo ante. It will be a nation formed by all the Lebanese, brought together once more, in a new social as well as political contract. To ensure the survival of Lebanon, moreover, one must hope that a system will be devised by virtue of which it should never again be allowed to be the arena, the battlefield, where friend and foe alike find it convenient to wage their wars. The safety and security of Lebanon, the defense of its territorial integrity, the protection of its sovereignty, the assertion of its independence, should not remain contingent upon extraterritorial considerations of any sort, whether regional or international.
Hence, a defense of Lebanon must not be merely a defense of land and people, but, beyond that, a restructuring of its democratic institutions, integrating a traditionally pluralistic society into a unity that resists conquest and destabilization.
None of these goals can be realized if the postwar Lebanon does not become a strong Lebanon, differing in significant ways from that which it succeeds. There can be no return to the past, nor should there be. The decade of conflicts has shattered some aspects of Lebanese life and has weakened others, but it has introduced possibilities of change that were not there before.
Let us, then, consider more specifically three key areas of action and policy: the demands of reconstruction, the making of a new and reformed government, and external affairs. What are the possibilities to be exploited, and the things to be done?
Reconstruction. Even the casual eye can discern the destruction of and the need to repair the center of Beirut, the industrial suburbs, many villages and towns, the highways, the vital infrastructure, etc. These will require the material and manpower that such work always requires. But the restoration must not be done in a mechanical fashion, innocent of the social environment in which it takes place.
The allocation of resources will influence the role of Beirut, the regionalization or decentralization that has taken place and should be fostered, the nature of the economy, and the relation between different regions that have been unevenly affected by the war. Apart from its most evident, visible manifestations, the restoration will have long-range economic and political consequences for Lebanon. It must be carried out, therefore, so that it will strengthen the entire fabric of society and the new government that will usher it in. The ensuing economic development must have a social objective: the re-creation of the middle class, as the backbone of Lebanese democracy, which was deeply shattered by the war.
Organic and Structural Reforms. There is some truth in the assertion that Lebanon had become a central government with legitimacy but no authority, and local, functioning governments with authority but no legitimacy. But that truth is stretched to distortion when the conclusion is drawn from it that these "statelets" will find it impossible to unite under a new republic. What is overlooked in this judgment is that none of the de facto local governments advocated separatism or independence, but rather a degree of autonomy plus a share in the future government commensurate with their special communal, or regional character. They wish to have a part in shaping the new National Pact.
The present situation will allow Lebanon to engage in a conscious policy of devolution. The growth of Beirut did drain the provinces of energy and vitality. The balance was upset not only by excessive administrative centralization but also by economic centralization. A policy of devolution would advocate and support a diffusion of public sector efforts into the regions, both in terms of planning and spending. It would extend to these regions much that was in contention.
However, a new equilibrium must be created. The strength of the new Republic will not lie in the concentration of power. The new Lebanon will be strong by virtue of what binds together the component parts. Its task will be to harmonize, not to suppress, the particular interests of the different provinces, classes and cultures. Granting that there is some coincidence between regions and ethnic and religious communities, the new National Pact will be based upon regions.
Because it will be truly pluralistic, the government must be democratic. The structures of democracy are varied, but it is possible to suggest some structural reforms that would strengthen the new government. Among these are: the election of the president not by parliament but through universal suffrage to break the monopoly of the ruling class; the creation of a second legislative economic and social chamber representing the corporations, which will counterbalance confessional representation; the establishment of competence, not religion, as the criterion in the selection of civil servants. Such reforms, if enacted, would strengthen the Republic. But we are speaking of realities, not utopia, and there is another issue that must be considered-the army.
A strong central government, particularly one that is structured along the lines outlined above, must have a strong army. A number of the de facto local authorities have formed their own militias, some better equipped than the government's army. However, though limited in its operations, and unable to confront a coalition of private forces, the Lebanese army is still the strongest single force in Lebanon. In order that it become what it should be-the shield of legitimate authority and an integrating force-the local militias must, in stages, be brought under the jurisdiction of the central government, to be finally absorbed into the government's armed forces. Apart from assuming the normal responsibilities of providing security, the militias could perform needed social functions, including reconstruction. A program of conscription would transform the present character of the army, rejuvenate it and gradually transform it into the powerful instrument the state needs. It would be able to assume the functions assigned to the Arab Deterrent Force and various peacekeeping forces that have been stationed in Lebanon. I should add that those who lightly discard the idea of a strong Lebanese army have not seen Lebanese fighters in action.
External affairs. The reconstruction and reforms that are desirable for the development of postwar Lebanon are obviously demanding. Although Lebanon will necessarily deal with other countries, for some years its energies will be turned inward. It must seek the basis of stability and strength within itself. This it will be able to do if it is allowed to act as a free and independent nation. It will not be able to do so if, with whatever good intentions, others attempt to impose upon it some variant of partition or condominium. That is less likely to happen as the major actors recognize that a strong and peaceful Lebanon will benefit the entire region. A dismembered Lebanon will not only be weak but will have had planted within it the seeds of further regional violence.
To be able to follow such a course, many advocate that Lebanon should become neutral. Assuming that both Israeli and Syrian troops have been withdrawn from Lebanon, and that Lebanon is now free from the constraints of harboring the forces of the Palestine Revolution (PLO), it is not impossible to envisage a stable Lebanon, free from foreign intervention, insulated from the conflicting policies and concerns of its neighbors-a threat to none, and a friend to itself. Yet this does not necessarily mean a neutral Lebanon.
The question of neutrality, understood as equidistance between Israel and the Arab world, including the Palestinian cause, will remain very delicate. A proclaimed neutrality, with the prospect of a separate peace treaty with Israel, would send out a series of wrong signals. It would be provocative in the Arab world, of which Lebanon is a part and in which it must find its way. Instead of contributing to the unity of Lebanon, it would possibly disrupt it. Egypt, 15 times the size of Lebanon, is testimony to the power of Arab isolation. Lebanon will need all of its intimacy with the Arab world to involve that world in the efforts of reconstruction, let alone Lebanon's natural economic and financial interests in its Arab environment, and the sustenance of its unique cultural role. Lebanon cannot and should not be expected to withstand the strain of isolation that neutrality would entail.
On the other hand, identification with the Arab world does not mean that Lebanon should again accept, in the name of the Palestinian cause, a burden that even radical Arabs refused to take up in defense of the Palestinians in Lebanon. After all the sacrifices Lebanon has made, it can without fear of criticism establish itself as a nonbelligerent state, belonging to the Arab world, but not alone carrying the burden and the curse of the weakest link. Lebanon's freedom, if and when strong, should never again be allowed to be taken hostage by those to whom it was extended.
Only in unity can such liberty be preserved. Partition, dominion, condominium and a return to the sideshow may represent advantages to many. None of those advantages will flow to the Lebanese people. What is immediately and strikingly clear is that, like the measures that led to the war, such proposals have little regard for the history, culture and life of the Lebanese. As peace plans, it is now clear, they are as disruptive of the integrity of Lebanon as were previous military actions within Lebanon and across its borders.
A Lebanon restored to peace, to its own peace, a Lebanon restored to sanity, a Lebanon restored to dialogue is not only the end of the peace process but will and should become the beginning as well. A Lebanon restored to peace will be a useful instrument, probably the only creative instrument in promoting a dialogue between nations and a healthier approach to international relations, as well as to cultural coexistence in the area-which is the historical perspective of durable peace.
Having no illusions about what it can do, Lebanon knows what it can prevent. Ten years of war, and a century or two of struggle to establish Lebanon in its present form have proven how impossible it is to create an equilibrium in the Middle East-a balance, of power, of wealth and of culture-without a peaceful Lebanon.
Peace in Lebanon is not only an elementary right of the Lebanese but a necessity for regional and international security.
Such measures as I have outlined here I do not put forward lightly. They demand vision, faith, determination, skill and hard work. But the Lebanese people are capable of responding to the challenge.
Indeed, is not the beginning of the response the now-demonstrated ability to elect a new President, however controversial, in strict respect of constitutional forms and while the Palestinians were still evacuating and the Israelis and Syrians exchanging ambivalent signals? This act of self-confidence engages Lebanon in what may become a long process, not altogether devoid of tremors.
However, 12 years of wars and revolutions, two or three invasions, the continued weighty presence of foreign armies-such a context of violence cannot be absorbed or transcended instantly and in total serenity. Even the most stable societies have needed long years to overcome syndromes of much lesser dimensions. The Lebanese resiliance must be given the chance it is asking for, an opportunity to survive what so many others have not.
In time the earth that is scarred and soaked with blood will put forth flowers and trees. Where instruments of destruction are now displayed with insolence and where bodies still lie unrecovered under the rubble of civilization, there will be houses and factories. Wounds will be healed. And a nation, formed by all the Lebanese, will be brought together once more, not in a transient political contract only but in a more lasting historical compact: a covenant between generations, past and present, and the generations yet to come.
1 See, for example, a recent study by Zvi Lanir of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. "Israel's Involvement in Lebanon: A Precedent for an 'Open Game' with Syria?"
2 These provinces were not part of independent Mount Lebanon of 1914; neither were they part of any Syrian political entity. They had, however, been Lebanese in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Mount Lebanon was much larger, and later became part of the Ottoman Vilyet of Beirut.