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Anthony Elghossain

Dear Citizens: Best Wishes from Lebanon’s New Cabinet

Image courtesy of NPR.org

Dear Citizens,

 

We hope this finds you well.  We wish we could have kept in touch more frequently and ask that you excuse our tardy response: the Republic of Lebanon, quite simply, lacks the appropriate letterhead for ‘Caretaker Cabinet.’  (Yalla, lessons learned…)

 

After months of intricate planning, we are pleased to grant you a new government—for the time being, of course.  Understanding your frustration, our Caretaker Committee has immediately devised a new policy platform, subject to Parliamentary approval.  To move Lebanon forward, we envision tackling reconciliation, cooperation, economics, finance, statecraft, certain civil rights issues, and—of course—new elections. We discuss in detail below.

 

-Reconciliation: We do not anticipate requiring you to make amends with your fellow citizens. Rest assured, we plan to promote reconstruction and redevelopment (as we have always done). We plan to reclaim land, rehash old debates, and reestablish our stranglehold over Beirut—so as to allow us to freelance elsewhere. But we will not compel you to reconcile.


-Cooperation: Although we’ve now harmonized our management practices, and addressed certain inefficiencies, we invite you to continue squabbling amongst yourselves.  Dissent is the foundation of our Republic—as long as it isn’t directed towards a center of power. Moreover, to the extent you agree with others, please consider disagreeing as to why you agree. To the extent you’d like to foster change, please do so through various vehicles—every man, woman, child, and dog deserves to run his or her civil society organization, consultancy, or 'boutique innovation firm'—that will compete with each other for talent, ideas, funds, time, and attention. We invite you to enlist our support for cutesy causes; we also invite you to discard “big ideas” at the Beirut Duty Free, as you enter or exit the country.


-Economics and Finance: As you’re aware, wehave underperformed over the past 92quarters.Our debt, which you’ve kindly underwritten, continues to expand. Your economy continues to stagnate. Growth, driven by expatriates and non-citizens, remains confined to sectors that add little value to the broader economy. Refugees and dollars continue to flow into Lebanon; citizens and ideas continue to flow out. As our predecessors bet big on infrastructure and impending Arab-Israeli peace, we have chosen to bet big on revenue streams in our nascent energy sector. In other words, “we got this.”

 

-Statecraft: 

Foreign Policy: We will strive to survive. In so doing, we will abstain from crafting and articulating a policy. However, we will hedge against the inherent risks of “neutrality by default” by allowing political participants and private citizens to pursue alternative approaches. Good luck. May the best faction win.


Defense: America has its military. France once had its resistance. Switzerland has its people. After carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of prevailing international practices, we have elected to pursue an “all of the above” strategy. You, dear citizens, will have it all. Kick back and relax (except when called upon to resist this, that, and the other). You deserve it!


-Civil Rights:

Liberties: We will tolerate your Liberties. We will not protect your Freedoms. If you have any questions, please refer them to your shuttered Parliament; your two concurrent, quasi-legal governments; and your abandoned President. Remember to say “please” and “thank you;” remember to refer to your interlocutors—the beiks, sheikhs, and khalileh yeks—by their proper titles; remember to plaster a shit-eating grin on your face. As always, your lack of decorum—not our lack of competence—risks undermining the state’s security.


Minority Rights: We will protect officially recognized communities. We will foster pluralism, within limits, by elevating communities over individuals—legally, politically, and socially. At this stage, furthermore, we are not prepared to recognize, promote, or protect communities of conscience: should you choose to identify with other citizens’ word-view, social mores, economic preferences, or political convictions, we invite you to explore emigration, disillusionment, apathy, or radicalism.


Fourth Estate: Please keep writing, researching, and investigating. We’ll need to groom many of you, endowed with skill and ambition, to broaden our base; a short, irreverent frolicking detour never hurt anyone—have your fun now, kiss the ring later. In the meantime, please remember: You may be irreverent, so long as you’re irrelevant.


Fifth Estate: Please keep tweeting, sharing, and commenting. By adding your voices to the cacophony of “concerned citizens,” you add a certain gloss to our activities—a veneer of dissent, complemented by genuine feuding amongst yourselves, will allow us to reorient towards the coming decades.


Women’s Rights: We regret to inform you that we were unable to accommodate your demands this year. Although we were moved by unsung civil society campaigns, as well as controversial developments in recent weeks, we’re simply incapable of grasping more than a pair of breasts at this time. Bookrah, hayetehs... Bookrah.

 

-Elections:

Parliamentary: We expect to restrict the discussion on electoral reform. First, we will only discuss electoral law reform. Second, we will focus on districting: geographic, communal, and political gerrymandering and horse-trading. Third, we will not consider establishing (more or less) permanent rules and independent oversight mechanisms.


Presidential:We thank you for continuing to entrust us with the privilege of choosing your President. Although we have yet to consider our options fully, we are pleased to inform you that our standard failsafe measure remains in place: amending the Lebanese Constitution “for one time only.” Contemplating such an amendment, in general terms, we have identified three initial options.

1) Amend the Constitution to extend the term of an incumbent President who owes his first term to a similar amendment—the third consecutive “one time only” extension, and second consecutive extension for a military man.


2) Amend the Constitution to elect the incumbent Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces—electing a military man as President for the third consecutive “for one time only.”


3) Amend the Constitution to usher in the incumbent Governor of the Central Bank; market studies indicate he is slightly more tolerable to the small circle of counter-elites that continue to challenge our near-term agenda.

 

We share the results of our meeting as a courtesy and will not accept feedback, whether delivered in person, in writing, or electronically. You have no equity, and thus should have no expectations.

 

In any event, we thank you for your time and attention.  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.  We look forward to hearing from you soon, will take your comments under advisement, and will resume our normal affairs after a brief pause for the cause. Kind Regards, Best Wishes, and All the Best…

 

Sincerely,

 

         — Caretaker Committee, Lords of Lebanon, S.A.R.L.

 

P.S. Over the coming months, we will be conducting periodic fire drills in Tripoli, the Bekaa, and parts of Sidon.  Please drive to the airport in an orderly fashion, using burning tires to guide your escape, and meet for roll calls in Paris, London, New York, and elsewhere.  Embassy officials will be available to snoop into your lives and report your activities back to us.  Bisous.

 

Anthony Elghossain is pleased with the change of pace. Never hurts to keep things interesting. He tweets @aelghossain.

Image courtesy of NPR.org

Understanding your frustration, our Caretaker Committee has immediately devised a new policy platform, subject to Parliamentary approval."

  • Fadd

    Best writing method to highlite our systematic flaws. Keep it up !

    February 18, 2014

  • carla.kreidieh

    Never fail to make me laugh out loud - somewhat sadly

    February 18, 2014