The Aftermath in Beirut: The Devastating Long Term Impact

Image Source: The United Nations

Lebanon has been devastated socially, politically, and economically from the massive explosion that occurred in Beirut approximately nine months ago. The blast caused thousands of casualties and more than three billion dollars in damages across the city. Before the explosion, Lebanon was already facing an economic crisis and political instability which had been exacerbated by the international pandemic. Over the nine months following the disaster, Lebanon has descended further into political turmoil and is nearing economic collapse. These past six months may just be the beginning of the country’s struggles, as Lebanon rapidly may soon descend into what international relations scholars term a “failed state.”

Lebanese protestors have consistently gathered outside of government buildings to protest corruption within the current political system. Lebanon’s government is “equally” divided amongst religious, or ethnic, lines between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians. This form of government has led to nepotism and corruption, according to the protestors. These three religious sects fought in the fifteen-year Lebanese civil war and appear unwilling to relinquish power. Following the blast, Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, abruptly resigned which sent shockwaves throughout the country. He has since been reelected, however, which has led to more political unrest.

Lebanon has completely unraveled economically. During the protests, which were carried out mostly by young adults, the nation’s economy collapsed. Unemployment skyrocketed, and banks and ATMs did not allow individuals to withdraw cash due to governmental controls, which further stoked panic. The Lebanese currency, which is pegged to the US dollar,lost eighty percent of its value. The explosion in Beirut has driven the economy to the risk of hyperinflation due to the billions of dollars required in rebuilding costs.

International aid may present a stopgap solution; however, some countries are withholding aid until the Lebanese government enacts specific reforms aimed at ending corruption. French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to offer any aid unless significant changes occur within the Lebanese government. With Prime Minister Hariri once again entering office, the prospect of government reforms that are significant enough to justify international aid seems remote at best.

The consequences of Lebanon’s quagmire go beyond a domestic economic depression or political upheaval. If these conditions continue without any permanent solution or temporary remedy, Lebanon may be on an irreversible course to failed statehood. A “failed state” is one where the government can no longer protect its citizens. Scholars of international relations refer to this definition as the “monopoly of violence.” In other words, what defines a country is its exclusive capability to carry out violence against its population, any other entity in the country would be punished for such an action, by the state, which serves as an effective deterrent. In a failed state, this reality is not the case, a failed state cannot enforce its laws and other entities, such as rebel militias or nefarious individuals, can carry out violent action without penalty.

Lebanon’s currency is rapidly approaching worthlessness, individuals may soon lose confidence in the Lebanese economy. Political unrest in the country is growing; without significant reform, demonstrations could soon become violent. If Lebanon is forced to contend with civil uprisings, a collapsed economy, and the fallout of the Beirut explosion, it will be almost impossible for the country to maintain a monopoly of violence over its populace. Other nations should clearly recognize this situation, since a very similar one occurred in Venezuela seven years ago. International relations scholars mostly agree that Venezuela is a failed state, and there is debate as to whether or when the country will regain control. If Lebanon wishes to avoid this fate, action must be taken quickly.

After the collapse in Venezuela, the situation in Lebanon should be an easily readable warning to world leaders. Playing tough love by withholding aid from an embattled and struggling country will not remedy Lebanon’s underlying issues. World leaders must come together and introduce a comprehensive reform plan, that includes monetary aid tied to specific reform actions that the government must take. Alternatively, world leaders could move toward direct aid to the struggling Lebanese, circumventing the government. In any event, world leaders must devise a strategy to save thousands of citizens from severe hardships that come from failed statehood. If they do not, Venezuela and Lebanon may soon be indistinguishable, which could have disastrous consequences for the Middle East.

Originally published at http://thecentralpost.org.

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Tony Hemphill

Tony Hemphill

Ceaseless thinker | sports & fitness enthusiast | political science and financial markets researcher.