By Batool Subeiti 

Macron's mission in Lebanon – raising the dead dream 

October 19, 2020 - 22:22

French President Emmanuel Macron came to Lebanon in the wake of the August explosion, harboring with him the scent of nostalgia that marks 100 years since Lebanon was declared a state under the French colonial mandate. 

Macron came with demands, as though France will once again be victorious in shaping Lebanon’s system of governance- for it was France that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multiconfessional state that ran along sectarian lines, whilst promoting individuals to power who they deemed fit for their interests. 

Indeed, Macron has yet to fathom we are in an era and context that differs from France’s colonial ancestry- for the balance of powers in the whole region has changed immensely in the past decade, let alone a century. 

Whilst there was a potentiality for figures and movements to exist that opposed colonial French presence in the region in the early 20th century, the reality is that the leaders who belonged to such movements did not have the strength, awareness, or abilities to actualize their aims, which led them to reign under the direction of the West, such that whilst these movements were opposed to colonialism, their opposition carried with them the scent of their colonizers. 

A prominent example is Riad Al-Solh, the first prime minister of Lebanon post-independence. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1920 for his rejection of France’s creation of Greater Lebanon- a punishment that was later commuted to exile, after which he returned to Greater Lebanon in 1924 and was exiled again for his participation in the unsuccessful Great Syrian Revolt from 1925 until 1927- when Arab nationalists across Mandatory Lebanon and Syria sought to rid themselves of French rule. 

William Harris, author of 2012 book Lebanon: A History, 600 – 2011, argues “in theory, Al-Solh never abandoned the ultimate goal of a big Arab state, however on pragmatic grounds, he ended up promoting France’s ‘Grand Liban’”- that is he held conservative notions of independence that sought a modus vivendi (way of life) with colonial powers without total subjugation. 

Indeed, it was Al-Solh and Bichara Al-Khouri, the first post-independence president of Lebanon who achieved and implemented the National Pact in November 1943, that provided an official framework to accommodate the confessional differences in Lebanon. 

Macron is oblivious to the fact that the resistance in Lebanon, on the ground of reality is original and pure, stemming from the roots of the land with all its strength- it is a liberation movement that is real, has its independence, thought, ideals and is of perpetual nature, unlike the past. Here, the word against real action has no value, and Macron has nothing to offer but empty talks and emotions.
The reality is that the people of Lebanon who resorted to seek refuge in Macron, who found themselves drawn to him by all their existence and inner desires have demonstrated the psychological colonial mentality, whereby the colonized internalizes and believes in the colonial power’s superiority, even going to the extent of enjoying the act of submission to one’s own occupier! This doesn’t take away from the reality of the occupier, who has nothing to offer but empty talks at best- sanctioning, demonization, and aggression. 

They have no power, whilst those garnering real power are on a different alley. The reality is that the resistance took what they needed from Macron, given it marked the first time a French leader met an official from the party, since the latter’s establishment. 

The significance of this lies in the fact that whilst Western governments continue to sanction the party’s political wing and section it under ‘terrorism’, they have no choice but to acknowledge the pivotal role and strong popularity the party possesses, that has led it to penetrate into the heart of the political system. 

At the same time, France was not given what it wanted, which is for the resistance party to back down, as per America’s demands; the same resistance that watered its soil with the blood of its youth, sacrificed for its liberation- can never possibly give that up in the face of cheap words and emotions. 

The operation that Macron sought to put Lebanon through, that is to ‘support’ it through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and general reforms are all simply expressions for keeping Lebanon hostage to the aggressive world capitalist system, that imposes its political conditions and agendas. 

Indeed, Macron has demonstrated through his recent visits to Lebanon that his understanding is delayed and his calculations do not mirror reality, since there is a strong power on the ground that is imposing its operation of change and is hitting the region like a Tsunami.

Macron simply does not understand that the American presence in the region is perishing, whilst the balance of power is shifting in favor of the resistance on the ground. 

*The writer is a UK-based university student and activist.