Sunday, August 9, 2020


The French president visited Beirut. Certain images reminded history buffs of Napoleon tending to the French army's plague victims in Jaffa in 1799. One can bet that Macron, who knows history, was all too aware of the precedent.

France had always a special relationship with Lebanon, not always for the better.  Recently, the bond between President Jacques Chirac and then Lebanese P.M. Rafiq al-Hariri became almost all too obvious. The current President Michel Aoun who played a dubious role in the past is shunned by most. Since the Lebanese president is supposed to be a Maronite Christian, the "pool" of candidates is shrinking. Hezbollah remains the unavoidable force and influence one has to reckon with.

After the barrack bombings in 1983 which killed 241 US military, President Reagan ordered the American withdrawal from Lebanon. Observers said that once again this cut and run decision amounted to the infamous new US mantra of   "abandoning ship".

Lebanon is as divided as ever with Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah as supreme divider. Israel's military incursion in Lebanon in 1982 was one of the main major blunders in the region, which only magnified the role of the extremes. It got rid of the PLO and got Hezbollah!

Macron's gesture and words might have sounded as if Lebanon was still a French Protectorate but he said the right things anyway. After him, the visit of the president of the EU Counsel was more bla-bla than words.

It is hard to project a tenable future. Aid is already contentious. The street is a cauldron and the government and elites act clueless.  Some Egyptian-style "Lebanese Spring" would only accelerate the unwelcome intrusion of Syria and the Russian Federation, and Co.

Netanyahu shouldn't be encouraged to enter yet again the Lebanese puzzle and offer another distraction from his own personal murky affairs.

The Americans are for the time-being "out", and better stay out until Trump is gone. By the way couldn't the Sixth Fleet have been given a  humanitarian task in this situation ?

At the end of the day, Macron's visit was a major boost, mostly for the Christian minority in Beirut. Nevertheless, it may mostly have rescued an elan from being taken hostage by fatality, the curse of the Levant. Noble intended gestures are too rare nowadays to be relegated to theatre. Words still carry weight when backed up by class. Macron made other world leaders look sooo small, yet again!

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