The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Beirut Spring Is Wrong: There was a great lost opportunity for a third way on the STL

Mustapha at Beirut Spring has this point to make which is an absolutely key point to help us all rethink the history and the current point we face with the STL:


“To answer, we have to first look at our options regarding justice for those who were killed in the series of political murders that shook the country in 2005.

Those who argue that the STL has become a liability consistently and wrongly maintain that there could be (or could have been ) another way of finding the truth about those political murders (a “reformed Lebanese Judiciary” is often mentioned.)

The third way fallacy

To me, this is misguided. Like politics in this country, we unfortunately have a very binary choice. Any third/centrist/independent option is an illusion that reflects more our own wishes than reality on the ground.

Here are our only two options for justice:

  • We chose the STL and hope for a transparent process that can objectively find the truth and eventually vindicate March 14
  • We move on, a-la-Hezbollah, with a “Israel did it and let’s forget about this whole thing”

There are no other ways. None.


Well I strongly disagree. There was NOT a binary choice facing M14, the Americans, France and their arab regime allies in the heady days of 2005 (Remember this was the time when Hizbullah had its back against the wall – no Syrian backstop in Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of US troops around Iran and Syria and no insurgency to speak of yet pressing it! – and Hizb sent a rep to meet with the bush admin in DC! And then JOINED the electoral alliance with M14! and opened up to the tribunal, supporting it at various stages (they also later let their members be interviewed etc but that is another point to make in a different context)….

M14 and the Americans (mainly) created this FALSE binary as the ONLY road – sadly reflecting the “with us or against us”/maximalism that characterized their general approach to international relations in the Middle East and especially when it came to the issue of terrorism.

Mustapha should read the ICG reports and also Omar Nashabe and others who have made a very strong point that earlier on the Tribunal process made critical mistakes as a consequence of the maximalist track which its backers saw as the only AND CERTAINLY THE BEST way forward. 

This turned out to be as stupid as the 2006 July War was and as stupid as the US-M14 precipitation of the May 2008 events which left a lot of dead Lebanese, Israelis and greatly mangled “pro western” actors.

The US and M14, we can now pretty clearly see, would have done FAR better on several scores if they had allowed the tribunal process to go forward in a manner that drew Hizbullah ever further into the process rather than stupidly alienating them at virtually every turn – this means in general that they should have traded the hard edge tribunal stick for a more mixed one, with a less sharp edge, if you will…. OF COURSE this might have been easier for the other side (Hizb+Syria etc) to needle and even influence but it would have preserved the overall process, preserved the international character and would have had FAR wider PUBLIC SUPPORT especially among Hizbullah’s VITAL allies like the christians (and ICG has had numerous way to do this, including NOT relaxing the evidentiary standards the way they did, NOT railroading the slanted international character of the court down the throats of Hizbullah in 2005+, obviously greater professionalism for the staff (hey how about a transparent leaks investigation etc that would have shown the court at least somewhat CARED about its integrity) and a more transparent team with experience in, say ARABIC…. and that were NOT recruited from western intel – come on folks, Arabs can use Google too you know. etc etc etc….)

My point here is that WE SHOULD have had this discussion in 2005 and the US and M14 and the cause of International justice should have pushed in this pragmatic direction.

But the first two actors were ideologically UNABLE to do this…. they simply could not approach the Tribunal in this manner, especially because the effort to almost ALWAYS apply constant pressure and force on Hizbullah and Syria – especially in the waning months of 2005 – was the dominant (nay, the only it seems) policy directive.

As a result we have a “deeply flawed” hariri killing case record of several years (according to HRW) that should not have been so and we have Lebanon again perched on the edge of disaster.

I guess this would be my main gripe with Mustapha’s approach in general – Where he sees only two tracks, I see a history of lost opportunities for real conflict mitigation and even peacebuilding that lay precisely in that third way.

For me, M14 can be forgiven – they are a relatively weak actor after all.

But when the Bush folks ACTIVELY and consistently undermined these third ways between 2005 and 2008 – when it held such a clear preponderance of power – ….well that is simply unforgivable (not to mention just downright stupid).

Written by nickbiddlenoe

July 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Posted in ANALYSIS

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