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By Ghassan Karam

Old habits die hard, actually at times they never die. This is a good thing if the habit in question is that of integrity, high ethical standards, intellectual curiosity and creative thinking. But it is a bad when the characteristic in question is that of being addicted to superficiality, megalomania and a squeaky wheel. Lebanon is cursed by having one of political heavyweights behave like a Dean of the latter group, a group that is addicted to obstructionism, nepotism superficiality and bluster.  General Michele Aoun has exemplified the role of being the squeaky wheel of Lebanese politics, the wheel that needs to be oiled in order to stop the aural damage and lessen the demagoguery.

The self proclaimed saver of the Christians and the most principled of the Lebanese politicians prevented the formation of the present cabinet for weeks by constantly raising peripheral issues and meaningless objections. Then all of a sudden he forgot about all the issues that he had objected to and consented to the cabinet formation essentially unchanged. What is it that had changed? Was it orders from Damascus and/or Tehran? We will never know for sure but that is the most likely explanation.

As if the above sophomoric behavior is not enough, yesterday the General instructs his cabinet ministers not to attend a regularly scheduled cabinet meeting and hints that his parliamentary bloc might resign from the cabinet if it dares approve honouring Lebanons’ obligations to the STL. What is strange about this issue is that the Premiere, Mr. Mikati, has always insisted that his cabinet is committed to fulfilling all the international obligations of the country. If everyone, the world over, has known about this for months then why did mon General not know about it? Is it because he was asked to join the cabinet when he did and now he is being asked to quit? There is no other explanation.

Mr. Mikati should dismiss the childish behavior of the FPM and carry on doing the peoples’ business. Lebanon can hardly afford a cabinetary vacuum at this moment. But that would not be enough. Mr. Mikati has an obligation to govern as the effective Lebanese independent politician that he promised us to be. He should use his bully pulpit to lobby for policies that benefit the Lebanese citizen and should shame the ideologues and obstructionists into supporting policies that are guided by the national interest no more and no less. That includes but is not limited to favouring policies that will stand up to dictators and to threats from reactionary regimes built on fear and brutality.

This cabinet has thus far failed to be effective and has failed to govern. Its major problem is the lack of harmony between its members and in particular between the FPM and everybody else. The Premiere has the duty to form a cabinet in his image and not to conform to the whimsical wants of a group of ministers that are focused on histrionics and grabbing headlines. There is a popular folkloric tale in Lebanon about Jeha who broke the spout of the only clean water reservoir in the village so as to be noticed. That is nothing else but a need to be noticed, an ego full of misplaced hubris. Such an individual “habitually infuses inordinate emotion and self-dramatization into interpersonal and social persona”. That simply means that The General is “over the top”, he has become nothing else but a caricature , a person who is in love with himself. Lebanon needs better politicians and Mr. Mikati should bring the General back to earth by ignoring him.

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