Monday, September 17, 2007

Let’s agree to agree on consensus

Lebanese politics is often underrated, and many times even ridiculed. That’s a pity because there’s so much to see. Any Political Science student looking for a thesis can stop searching and start observing the events in Lebanon. From the nitty-gritty political handwork to meta-level politics: it’s all here.

Take the last developments, e.g.: Nabih Berri’s proposal is to agree on consensus for the presidential election. Sure enough, everybody agrees on principle that a consensus candidate is the best thing that could happen to Lebanon. The first hurdle towards a solution from the current stalemate was therefore easily taken: all parties all agree that we should agree on consensus.

The next hurdle, however, that of the consensus itself, has been left as an exercise for the reader. In other words: every politician wholeheartedly agrees to agree, but on what exactly is not yet clear. Or rather, everybody knows precisely what the other should agree on, however, getting the other to buy your position is not that easy…

And thus the talks about reaching consensus remain alarmingly empty when the consensus itself is not discussed. Should be new president be in support of UN resolutions, the UN Tribunal, border demarcation, establishing embassies with Syria, privatizing state companies, strengthening ties with the EU?

Difficult questions indeed, but they are squashed aside for now: let’s first agree to agree and then we figure out on what. How much more meta can politics get in this country? The sad part is that many politicians actually see the initial agreement as an achievement. Who was it that said that in order to be happy you have to lower your standards? Very true indeed and the behavior of Lebanese politicians would be a perfect case study.


Jeha said...

"Meta" politics; nice concept. I guess this is as deep as the agreement goes.

I am afraid they cannot agree with one another simply because they all have "bills" to pay to their respective backers, and all the bills are coming due at once. Our leaders may be smart, but they are only "street smart"; it does not go deeper than that.