By Ghassan Karam, Special to Yalibnan
The young Lebanese Prime Minister, Sa’ad Hariri, turned 40 last month. Mr. Hariri’s youth has been evident in more than one way and not all of them very flattering. His political inexperience is to be expected since there is nothing in his background to even hint at an interest in politics or intellectual endeavours. Obviously Mr. Hariri was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he graduated with a BA in Business Administration from Georgetown University. Right after graduation Mr. Hariri joined the family business until that fateful day when his father, Rafic Hariri, was assassinated in Beirut. Sa’ad Hariri became immediately the designated leader to inherit the mantle of the political party that his father had established. These sad events threw an unprepared Sa’ad into the rough and tumble Lebanese politics based on family leadership and allegiances based on semi feudalistic hierarchical political structure associated with such names as Jumblatt, Arslan, Frangieh, Gemayel, Salam, Karami, Beydoun, Beri and of course the relative new comers the Hariris.
Mr. Hariri seems to have overcome the jitters associated with a steep learning curve partially by surrounding himself with good advisors and by taking very measured positions that would not upset the traditional status quo. His very bland political statements thus far have managed to pacify Hezbollah and its allies at the expense of alienating some of his traditional supporters among those who were believers in the Cedar Revolution.
Many have often associated youth with creativity, experimentation, risk taking and simply innovative thinking. Thomas Kuhn went as far as to suggest that a paradigm shift is always initiated by the youth since they are the ones who are free to question the old traditional thinking responsible for all the anomalies. In this regard Mr. Hariri has been so far a great disappointment. It is made increasingly clear that an agent of change he isn’t.
Not many expect a born millionaire with close ties to the Saudi Monarchy to behave like a progressive revolutionary but we all had the right to expect a young wealthy PM to have the courage to challenge the nefarious political orthodoxy upon which he is presiding. Instead he takes steps to tighten its hold albeit in the name of the common good. That political diffidence can best be exemplified by what I would like to call The Hariri Doctrine; delivered on Saturday May 15, 2010 at an Antonine University celebration.
Sa’ad Hariri delivered arguably his most passionate statement yet about coexistence in Lebanon by stating that the “(equal division of power (Al Monasafah)) that I speak of and work to consecrate is to be characterized as a duty of the Moslems towards the Christians in Lebanon exactly as it is a duty of the Christians towards the Moslems of Lebanon.The Lebanese Moslem without equal power sharing (AMonasafah)is no longer a Lebanese exactly a Christian Lebanese looses his Lebaneseness without the equal power sharing (Al Monasafah).” Statements by political leaders especially those that are deliberate and not extemporaneous are expected to reveal the speakers vision of a better fairer and more just society. On these basis Mr. Hariri gets a failing grade.
Mr. Prime Minister, the bane of Lebanon has been sectarianism. What we wanted from you is to use your good offices as a bully pulpit in order to exhort us to transcend our fears of each other and to act as Lebanese. The test of being a Lebanese does not depend on a person’s religious affiliation but only on her ability and vision for a better Lebanon. In politics our views about creation are not important. To alleviate these views to a position that eliminates all those who are neither Moslem nor Christian is a travesty. But the bigger tragedy is not to choose the most qualified and to view each other only as fellow citizens. Lebanon belongs to all its children equally irrespective of whether they are believers or not. This citizen Mr. PM views your most recent edit, The Hariri Doctrine, as an extremely misguided policy that needs to be renounced by all. You might wish to argue that Lebanon is not ready to eliminate sectarianism and you might be right but it sure does not need its young Prime Minister to sanctify a system that is rotten to the core.