Federal system would allow Lebanese to steer clear of scorpions

Khaled Abou Zahr

Do you know the story of the scorpion and the frog? The two animals are facing a wildfire and need to cross a river to survive. The scorpion tells the frog: “Carry me on your back and help me cross the river and I will protect you from any aggressor in the future.” The frog swiftly answers: “Never. You will sting me and I will die.” The scorpion then says: “Why would I do that? In that case, I would also drown and die.” It is enough to convince the frog, who hopes for future protection. As the fire gets closer, it jumps into the river with its new scorpion friend on its back. As it reaches the middle of the river, the inevitable happens and the scorpion stings the frog. As they are both sinking to their death, the frog asks: “But why?” And the scorpion answers: “It is my nature.”
I see many similarities between this story and the relationship between the people of Lebanon and their political leaders. Each confession lets its own leaders climb on their back in the hope of protection against the others. And so these leaders are blindly empowered by their own people. They promise to get them out of chaos but in fact they are bringing everyone to their death. It is the nature of the Lebanese politicians to sting their own people and destroy the country. It has hence become clear that they can no longer be trusted or empowered to bring Lebanon to the safe side of the river.
The reality is that Lebanese politicians have no incentive for change. They have no incentive to build a new system that would bring stability, security and prosperity to all. Their endgame is to use and control their own confessional base and to trade on it. Moreover, there is no accountability for any of their actions. They have perfected the exploitation of the political system for their own benefit. They are undoubtedly still giving protection to the current occupation of Lebanon by Hezbollah and Iran, just like they did with Syria before that.
It is quite surprising that, despite years of collaboration with the Syrian occupier, none have been judged for high treason. This might have been a mistake following the withdrawal of the Syrian troops. There should have been an equivalent of the Vichy trials after the Second World War, which judged all those responsible for collaborating with the enemy. This historical lack of accountability and the capacity to elude justice has given superpowers to politicians. Many should be barred from political activities for life. Yet, this cannot change as long as Hezbollah controls the decaying state and keeps stinging any free Lebanese voice.
This is the reason Lebanon needs a new political leadership to build a new political system. The confessional system has been tried and tried again and it is a complete failure. Moreover, it has invited occupation after occupation and killed any independent thinking or honorable politician and corrupted the rest. There is no saving it or its current representatives. But then, what is the solution that could work? How does Lebanon survive the repeated scorpion stings?
There is absolutely no doubt that federal political systems make for better outcomes in countries with large diversity such as Lebanon. A simple example is Switzerland, with its many ethnicities and languages. The canton system solves everything, simply because the lower level of decision-making allows for each community to solve its own problems and make things work, especially on issues that matter: school, security, health. More importantly, political representatives are accountable and cannot trade off with other leaders. A recent social media clip shared by a friend proved this point by stating that nobody knows the names of Swiss politicians because they do not create political issues, but rather work on making a better life for their people, unlike some of their neighboring countries. I would agree to a large extent.
Yet, the road to this new political system will not be built overnight. It also needs architects: A new breed of politician that understands the changing world and is willing to bring this new system to life is badly needed. Voices to inspire and enlighten. And, here I repeat over and over again: Lebanon does not need technocrats. They are as much responsible for the current situation as the politicians that brought them in to cover up their dealings. They have benefited from the system and collaborated with the enemy while absolving themselves of any wrongdoing. As if stating, “I was in a technocratic government,” serves as an absolute clearance. They knew exactly what they were doing. When the occupation has murdered politicians, officers, judges, journalists and free thinkers, you know exactly what accepting to participate means.
Lebanon cannot survive as long as it keeps a pyramidal decision-making system. It is not suited to the country and even a decentralized system will not be enough. There is a need to allow the country to move forward without being consistently blocked by Hezbollah. The Iranian proxy’s status on top of the state or within the state – depending how you look at it – comes to an end with federalism. This system would allow for the people to decide their own fate and never again have to beg for the protection of any scorpion.
Arab News