Rule of anarchy

Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, August 15, 2012. (REUTERS/Khalil Hassan)

Politicians achieved consensus Friday as key figures from rival camps, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah from Hezbollah, and Samir Geagea from the Lebanese Forces, acknowledged that the situation in Lebanon had spun dangerously out of control.

For its part, the government has offered a steady, unified reaction to the deterioration in the security situation – take no responsibility and take no action.

Government officials, from President Michel Sleiman downward, are offering the same assurances, that the closure of roads will not be permitted. It is the same promise that has been issued before, and there is no evidence to believe that anything will come of it.

One of the most worrying things is that a committee was formed in order to achieve progress on resolving the case of Lebanese hostages held in Syria, one of the sparks for the current crisis.

The standard joke is that if one wants to avoid dealing with a problem, form a committee. But the new committee is actually a sign of something else, namely the horrendous performance of the government up to now. When a committee’s members tell the media that they are busy “making contacts,” it only shows that no such efforts were being made in the first place.

The wave of statements by politicians, who promise to tolerate no illegal activity, are truly pathetic, and only reflect their total lack of influence and their record of doing nothing until it is too late.

In other countries, a government, or a key minister, would resign over much less than what has happened in the past few days. The problem is that it is difficult to say who should resign, precisely because no one knows who can be held accountable. While it would be better for the whole team to leave office, it is common knowledge that this particular Cabinet is here to stay because the powers behind it have no other options.

In effect, the warning bells were rung loudly, and instead of moving into emergency mode, officials went back to business as usual. There was a flickering hope that the Eid al-Fitr holiday might provide a small shot in the arm for tourism and an economy in tatters, but not even this was important enough for the government to care about.

After this wretched performance by the authorities, the Lebanese must now acknowledge that they live in a state of paralysis, and their “elected officials” are merely presiding over a steady collapse of institutions, with absolutely no desire or ability to provide the minimum level of security needed for a society to function.

Meanwhile, this vacuum will only increase fears that it is now possible for any group to take the law into its own hands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 18, 2012, on page 7.




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