Who’s our man?

27Nov07
By HANNAH ALLAM
McClatchy Newspaper

He stepped down about the time you were tucking into Thanksgiving leftovers this weekend, after the umpteenth round of negotiations failed. The Western-allied, so-called moderate March 14 forces and the Hezbollah-anchored, Syrian-allied opposition just couldn’t decide on a replacement for President Emile Lahoud by the time his term was up. Opposition parties have boycotted ballot sessions, leaving parliament without the quorum necessary to pick a new president.

Now, the Cabinet has assumed interim executive powers and martial law is in effect, with the Lebanese military handling security for a volatile land where fate (and some French cartographers) carved a nation that’s approximately one-third Christian, one-third Sunni Muslim and one-third Shiite Muslim. Add in the Druze, Armenians, Palestinian camps, al-Qaida’s Levantine branch, Iraqi refugees and maybe a few Iranian Revolutionary Guards and you can see why this is no simple red state vs. blue state political crisis.So, who’s the man to lead Lebanon back from the abyss? He doesn’t seem to be among the current crop of potentials, so let’s cast a wider net. The Lebanese have given us the love ballads of Fairuz, steamy Mediterranean resorts and the most sensuous cuisine in the Middle East. Perhaps we should try a more romantic approach, along the lines of a personal ad.

It might go something like this:Failed state seeks new date. Country of good-looking, beach-going people who killed one another for 15 years ISO strong, presidential type. Let’s start with reconciliation and statesmanship, and see what happens. We’re not into sectarianism, we swear, but our ideal match must be a Maronite Christian. Eloquent and bold like Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, sans the beard and turban. Sedate and reliable like Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, except not a crybaby when the Israelis come calling. All inquiries should be sent directly to the American or French embassies (no ticking or oddly shaped packages, please). Letters postmarked Damascus or Tehran will be returned to sender. Can’t wait to hear from you! No, seriously, we can’t wait … it’s in the Constitution.

Hannah Allam covers the Middle East for McClatchy Newspapers.