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    The Wild West

    The latest cracks in the edifice of modern Lebanon appeared rather dramatically during a news conference Thursday by the minister of interior, Ziyad Baroud, who said he was finished trying to do his job.

    Baroud’s curt, dramatic announcement that he was stepping away from his ministerial responsibilities signals how the country’s debilitating political feuds have risen to an all-time high. The debate over who controls the Internal Security Forces is merely one piece of Lebanon’s disturbing puzzle. Similar turf wars and rivalries are at work across various ministries and public institutions, so the Interior Ministry-Internal Security Forces-Telecommunications Ministry feud hasn’t exploded solely because of the personalities of the players involved. Instead, it’s an endemic feature of a country where people have no access to information, little hope in the judiciary, and considerable despair when they try to figure out who is in charge.

    The public sees the violations of the law and other regulations pile up, to an alarming degree, and can only draw the conclusion that chaos is the name of the game.

    Some critics might blame the current Cabinet vacuum for the latest developments. While this is valid, they should also recognize that the former government suffered from the same problems, and if the next government is formed of feuding officials who try to outdo each other in their petty squabbles, things will only get worse.

    As it stands today, Lebanon is a rudderless ship that is heading straight for the rocks, just like any institution – a family, a business, or a club – that lacks leadership and a set of guidelines and objectives for mapping the future.

    People are aware of the problems: a lack of transparency, accountability, regulatory and monitoring bodies, with no legal system that can rule on matters that are in dispute. Having disagreements is something healthy for any political system; the trick is to know how to solve them, and not let them drain the very life out of a country.

    As Baroud said, the Constitution has become a series of “points of view,” which is fine, as long as there is an authority that can finally settle things when it counts.

    Lebanon is currently being run like a group of mafia fiefdoms, and everyone is aware of the consequences when mafias do battle. Too many politicians “behave” based on vendetta, provocation and off-the-cuff policymaking, with little in the way of proactive behavior, or the sense that a problem should be addressed before it explodes in everyone’s faces.

    The most serious matter is that Lebanon is officially telling the world’s tourists to visit this summer, and asking officials in other countries to believe in Lebanon’s economy enough to invest their time or money. Politicians say they’re trying to recreate a “Paris of the East,” when in fact all they’re doing is cementing the country’s reputation as the Wild West.

    The Daily Star
    27.05.2011

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