2021 Lebanon is not 1989 Lebanon
In search of a way out that would improve the current situation of residents, many Lebanese people have tended to compare their bitter reality to what they went through in the 1980s. Few of them are “optimistic” about the prospect of an end to the disastrous situation like it was then. However, given the massive differences between the two nodes, the tendency is to rule out this comparison.
It is true that there was an economic collapse in the 1980s that hit the local currency particularly hard. The State Treaty and its authority also declined, and the army continued to fragment, a process that began in the 1970s. What had been established during the “Two Years’ War” (1975-1976) was crowned early in the following decade with the thundering Israeli invasion of 1982 that preceded the outbreak of wars in the mountains, the southern suburbs, Beirut and Tripoli. followed by the war between the Shiites and the Palestinians, the “war of the camps” and the intra-Christian and intra-Shiite wars …
It is also true, however, that the damage that the country’s educational, financial, health and service institutions suffered at the time was not minor, but cannot be compared with the damage that is threatened with total closure today. Is it necessary to take up what happened in the port of Beirut or to give an overview of the situation of banks, universities, hospitals and other institutions?
In addition, perspectives seemed to emerge in the 1980s: Regardless of one’s own position on [Rafik] Hariri and his reconstruction and development policies, the fact remains that he drowned the market with money he invested and borrowed and created an immense number of projects and employment opportunities, at least in the capital. A similar perspective does not seem in sight today, just as little as a regional and international consensus on “saving Lebanon”, such as that which arose around Hariri. Our Arab neighbors and the West, with small exceptions, do not seem concerned about Hezbollah’s hegemonic position.
In addition, “Hariri’s Remedy” was accompanied by the return of new Lebanese capitalists who wanted to become politicians and who had made their fortune abroad during the war. Added to this was the influx of young people who had studied abroad and were waiting for an opportunity to return to Lebanon and work there.
None of this applies to today.
For its part, the regional situation has also changed drastically. The resolution of the Lebanese civil war, which was framed by the 1989 Taif Accords, stood in the broader context of US-Syrian rapprochement along with Syria’s participation in the war to liberate Kuwait. Then, less than two years after the Taif Accords, the Madrid Peace Conference took place, in which Syria also took part. Only two years later, in 1993, the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Accords, for which many hopes were tied, was signed. In 1994, the Wadi Araba Treaty between Jordan and Israel added to the apparent climate in which breakthroughs were made across the region.
All of this is now part of a dead and buried past. Lebanon, through the mediation of Hezbollah, is linked to regional tensions that could break out at any time into a confrontation between Iran and Israel, which, if it should break out, has the ability to destroy whatever remains of the land. There is no side, domestic or foreign, that can control, undermine, or contain this disastrous link.
The entire regime is confronted with worrying existential scenarios. Lebanon, seen through this lens, is nothing more than part of a depressing portrait that includes Syria, Iraq and Palestine.
Added to the reasons for today’s pessimism is the collapse of the October Revolution. The fact that the main reason for its collapse was because Hezbollah prevented Shiites from getting involved brings us to this bitter truth: maintaining the existing worn-out system is difficult, but it is infinitely more difficult to change .
Meanwhile, sectarian feelings that hate each other grew fueled by all the perseverance and determination at their disposal. Even within the “ruling coalition” it seems to be a tedious task to establish any form of cross-sectarian orientation: On the other hand, it is sufficient to remind that the Rafik Hariri-Hezbollah settlement or the so-called “reconstruction” -resistance duo “made it possible it was such an alignment to survive from 1989 to 2005 when Hariri was removed from the picture.
Another problem is that the current crisis has not yet taken its final shape. With regard to the economic future, living conditions and security situation, the worst is always expected, a deterioration accelerated by the potential for an Iranian-Israeli war.
The proposed remedial actions, from the IMF and international organizations to the general election, appear to be stalling and crippling. You take one step forward before you take two steps backwards. As for crises, be they economic, political or social, they are increasing day by day.
Time and its teachings also play a role, of course. That is, the failure of the first experience creates a sense of desperation in those who think of trying again, although many of the obstacles observed during the second era arose from the way in which the the former were resolved.
The year 2021 is different from 1989, which brought us years of cold peace. Patchwork is the best-case scenario today, patchwork that has to be inspected and revised every hour.