It was hard to believe the recent news reports that General Michel Aoun had landed in Damascus especially for those who had followed the ongoing and severe hostility between Aoun and Syria over many years. This is a new chapter in a series of turnarounds, which has become something of a Lebanese speciality, and today General Michel Aoun is setting a new example of Machiavellian political philosophy, which states that the end justifies the means.
Aoun chose to take an old and traditional route of Lebanese politics; that decisions in Lebanon must pass through Damascus first. Aoun is not the first (nor will he be the last) to take this route. General Aoun caused sadness and pity as he tried time and again to explain his position and clarify his objectives and the reasons behind the change in his stance concerning Syria. Yet this anxious and emotional explanation lacked any conviction and logical acceptance.
There is no enduring animosity, but there are enduring interests. This is a slogan of the USA foreign policy, and today we can see its effects on the political approach of General Michel Aoun. The impact of his visit to Damascus on the complex reality of
Lebanon, and specifically on the forthcoming elections, are yet to materialize. There is talk of possible future deals with various scenarios and dimensions being mentioned whilst many remain ignorant to the specifics of such deals. However, they cannot be denied altogether.
Michel Aoun was the spiritual father of the Syria Accountability Act [Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, December 12, 2003] which was passed by the United States Congress, and which Aoun personally pursued along its various stages. Aoun built up his reputation as a leader in Lebanon through his firm stance of rejecting Syrian presence in any way, shape, or form on Lebanese territory. However he has now become a representative of this approach.
Since General Michel Aoun’s return to Lebanon following his 15 year exile in France, his position has changed, puzzling all those who knew and supported him. General Aoun reminds me of two novels by the great Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, entitled ‘The General in his Labyrinth’ and ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’ both of which deal with the realities of soldiers in search of a new life.
Michel Aoun is a political riddle, but one which is typical within the Lebanese political structure. He is not the first to have performed a U-turn with regards to his political position, as there are others like him. The coming days will clarify the dimensions of Aoun’s visit to Damascus and what it means for the Lebanese political scene.