Every February 14, March 14 leaders announce that they have decided to return to the squares, to clarity and to the choices of the people who filled Beirut with their voices and dreams in 2005. They affirm that they will not bargain over the blood of the martyrs, justice and the state-building project. And every February 14, some Lebanese respond to the call and go down to Freedom Square or to BIEL.
They respond for multiple reasons. Some go because of the memory of the martyrs, some because of “communitarian” loyalty to the March 14 movements and their leaders. Some go due to the unending attack against their aspirations and rights, and some because of the challenge of Hezbollah’s weapons – affirming their non-submission to the party’s threats. Many are motivated by their belief that March 14, in spite of its negatives – and they are many – is less harmful to stability, independence and diversity than the opposing camp.
Every February 15, March 14 forces fall back, into the same state of affairs as before: slowness in dealing with most domestic issues, miscalculation and acceptance of compromises, then criticism of the significance of these compromises. These range from the “Resistance” and its arms to the “guaranteeing third” and its disguised minister – and before this, Doha, and before that, the “half plus one.”
Every February 15 sees March 14 surrender again to the regional rhythm and Saudi initiatives toward Syria. Waiting for the indictment controls everything else.
It might be said that the domestic and regional balance of powers since 2007 has not permitted anything different. It could be also said that criticism is easy and that tracing missteps is easier than trying to overcome them. Both of these points are true to some extent.
However, the extent of their truth does not change the fact that March 14’s crisis, which goes beyond the power balances imposed by Hezbollah’s weapons and the consequent difficulties in Lebanese political life, is a political-cultural crisis. It is a crisis of a leadership that has been unable to renew and polish its discourse to move past pompous patriotic slogans propped up on narrow sectarian and communitarian grounds. This is a leadership that has not absorbed the importance of reform and the necessity of working on it in a way that weakens confessional polarization and limits Hezbollah’s ability to recruit domestically and to mobilize its community.
This reform includes the electoral law and administrative decentralization, as well as social and economic policies. It also comprises liberation from every external restraint and account that, from time to time, dictates futile concessions in the interest of strengthening the network of Arab and international relations in order to support the Lebanese independence movement’s priorities.
All of this does not mean that reaching a solution with Hezbollah on the future of its weapons is possible in the foreseeable future, nor that breaking regional captivity is possible through domestic political reforms of the kind mentioned above. However, it certainly means that strengthening the domestic front and actually moving forward with state-building would lessen the harm of this captivity and the influence of these weapons. These measures would guarantee a cohesion that would not need new promises every year assuring that it will be achieved and that things have changed.
This time it appears that March 14’s new promise might be somewhat different from the past –it comes from forces no longer in power, and no longer asked for the achievement of what they were unable to do, as a result of their makeup and calculations. Now they have become the opposition, and they can therefore cohere on more decisive stances toward everything that will be thrown at them. They have become free of the dizzying course of Arab reconciliations.They are likely on the threshold of an international legal process that will entangle their adversary – the indictment.
More novel than this is the fact that March 14 now faces a March 8 team able to commit daily mistakes in its monopolistic administration of power. These mistakes might be a result of March 8’s rhetorical decline, of its provocative discourse that mobilizes adversaries and prevents them from letting up, or of its dependence on the accounts of a regional axis whose two actors are currently sailing in fierce winds. All these actors can offer March 8 is some petrodollars, aid and fuel, along with a great deal of international isolation, diplomatic tension and speeches on pride and fighting conspiracies – that is, a wretched shared fate...