There is something sad in this picture. See the guy behind Lahoud to the right? I know this guy. I don’t know his name, but I remember a couple of years ago, when Lahoud came often to this club (if not daily) to take a swim, I used to see him next to the swimming pool roaming around him, and from time to time divert his trajectory and pass through the various women that were sun bathing. Usually he would sit next to Lahoud and whisper in his ear some (I would guess) casual story of the day, and Lahoud, a hand holding his chin, would gently nod with a little smile. Who is this guy? I think he is the guy who kept a link between the highly misanthropic Lahoud and segments of the Christian influentials. I say segments because there was always one part of the Christian constituency, Lahoud would not be able to win over as he was aligned with the Syrians. But Lahoud’s character made it even worse as even those who weren’t die-hard anti-syrians or fiery right-wingers became so ‘anti-Lahoud’ that there was no possibilities for bridging. In a sense Christian elites have historically known a very sad legacy that ended up drawing them more and more towards the cheap petty mercantile interests of the Gulf.
But I am going too far, and I’ll go back to my initial point. For a lot, Lahoud was not a lovable creature. Nobody used to see him, he would rarely talk, and if he talked, it usually was to make these automated quasi-military speeches, where you would think he is exercising his facial muscles more than anything else. His first arrival to power was really greeted ‘with hope’. “He’s going to lift our head up”, people used to say, at least in Christian neighborhood. Plus he has a nice face, a good stature, people just loved him. And then nothing. Swimming and swimming and occasionally acting very pompous. People like glamor and sensational actions, at the very least, the business type. Energetic, successful, rich etc. the Hariri type. In direct opposition to that, Lahoud stays in his presidential palace, looks somber, does not make any public appearance. But Lahoud works like an ant. And that nobody knows it. Lahoud swims everyday, but Lahoud’s day starts at 5h00 in the morning. More importantly, this guy reinforced the very shattered links between the Lebanese groups that were totally alienated by Christian rule and the latter, such as Hizbullah. Indeed, one of the reasons why Hizbullah got more ‘moderate’ or less ‘paranoid’ was because of dudes like Lahoud. Or take the evolution of the army (not its strength in battle of course but its relation with other security institutions, and Hizbullah for example.
Of course I’m not saying it is thanks to him as a person, but it is thanks to his placement in this institutional position, and how this made a lot of people coalesce to work in this direction. There is a lot to be said about both of his mandate but my point is that Lahoud never blocked or initiated something that ended being detrimental to the stability of this country. Now that is already quite an achievement judging from the political pedigree of other political actors that are unfortunately staying for some time to come, and judging from the quasi-doomed institutional partitioned and confessional system in which this state continues to swim.
We think that ‘peace’, ‘stability’, is the natural order of things, and that hard serious political work starts really when there is a conflict or a war. This thinking derives from the fact that there is some kind of right to it, and so we should get it ‘naturally’, we take it for granted. Also, because nobody writes about the daily life of peaceful times people focus on moments of tensions. Nobody writes about the infinite numbers of social/political interaction constantly taking place that keeps people close to each other, or the policies and procedures carried on to that effect. But people should know better that peace and stability are hard won, they are the fruit of difficult processes of coordination and cooperation, of bridging gaps and sensitivities, of making both ends meet while preserving dignity for everyone. You will never hear of the people who really work in this direction in Lebanon. In general, they don’t appear much and when they do, they don’t ‘flash their badges’. But this work is a full time job in Lebanon. And there are few candidates!