….But Can the Frog Still Jump Out?
I can still recall how fascinated I was when my middle school science teacher told us about the “boiling frog” phenomenon. Apparently, as some experiments had shown, if you put a frog in a pot of water and let the temperature rise very slowly, the frog’s reflexes (which are geared to respond to sudden environmental changes) will not react to the gradual heating of the water. By the time the temperature reaches a fatally high level, the frog is incapable of jumping out of the pot even if it wanted to. In fact some experimenters claim that frogs subjected to such experiments show signs of actually enjoying the deadly increase in warmth as long as it is very gradual.
That’s what came to my mind as I watched the smiling faces of happy strollers along the new elegant boardwalk of Beirut’s beachfront.
No one can blame those young men and woman for looking happy, or for being oblivious to the (dangerously) gradual degradation which their country is experiencing. It is those who are in position to turn off the switch before it is too late who deserve the blame.
Palliatives and placebos will not do anymore. A new round of national dialogue once every few weeks will be just that, if there is no will to actually do what it takes to reverse the dangerous slide downward. It would not be an easy climb-up even in the best of circumstances. And the required effort is certainly a collective (and not a partisan) one. But without a genuine reassessment by our Hizbollah partners of the manner in which the Lebanese theater is used in the pursuit of their (and their allies’) strategic regional and ideological goals, I am afraid a successful climb-up would be impossible.
For years some of us have been warning that the existence of a heavily armed organization, outside the authority and control of the state, governed by a theological party, and allied (militarily and ideologically) with outside regional powers, presents dangers to the country that far outweigh any deterrence value (to Lebanon) of its arsenal. In addition to being incompatible with the constitution and with any conceivable notion of state sovereignty, the current status of Hizbollah's weapons weakens the Lebanese state ( which is the binding cornerstone of our diverse society), sharpens the already grinding structural faultiness among Lebanon’s various constituent religious communities, erodes the state’s ability to preserve law and order and prevent the alarming spread of illegal weapons throughout the country, puts the country at risk of being part of other regional wars and conflicts that are heating up, and makes it impossible to reverse the deterioration in Lebanon’s public administration, infrastructure and investment climate. Experience has shown that all those fears were well placed.
Obviously, the national downward slide did not start with Hizbollah. Some would argue that it actually started more than four decades ago when another attempt was made to reach a co-existence arrangement between the state’s legitimate armed authority and another one outside it. Failure was inevitable and the cost to all was enormous. Of course history will not repeat itself because there will be no attempt to try to change the current state of affairs by force. It would be foolish to even consider it. However, the cost to the country is still enormous, and rising. It makes little difference that, now, it is a Lebanese “resistance” organization instead of a non-Lebanese “liberation” organization. Lebanon is paying a high price and national erosion is getting deeper. Hizbollah needs to realize this and join hands with all others and agree on a roadmap to save the country from the abyss. A roadmap with a clear target. One which is grounded in the country's unity, its constitution and the exclusive sovereignty and authority of the state. Nothing short of that will do. It is that critical.
Is it too late for the frog to jump out of the pot? I don’t believe so. But we are certainly in danger zone. And the clock continues to tick ominously belying the smiles on the happy faces along Beirut’s new elegant boardwalk.