Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lebanon & The REAL American Revolution

Abu Kais muses:
Will the Sunni love life and move to Kesrouane? Will the Maronites love life and feel comfortable owning a house in Basta? Can the Shia marry the Sunni, and the Sunni marry the Druze?

Perhaps these things can happen if people choose their principles first, rather than what side they are on. Then - and this is really the key step - they can regroup and create new "sides" of their own, cutting across even sectarian barriers. After all, where was March 14 before Hariri was killed?

The problem with that, I suppose, is that sectarianism is built into the Lebanese system. If reform appears impossible, then perhaps an entirely new system needs to be built. That's what happened in the United States of America, as follows:

I'll begin my explanation with a shocking statement: Everything you read in the history books is wrong, because the American Revolution did not happen in 1776. The real American Revolution happened in 1787.

That's because the Articles of Confederation that united the thirteen states from 1776 to 1789 did little other than restore the situation that existed before the accession of George III to the British crown. George III tried to turn back the clock by taxing the colonies and asserting his authority, so the colonies dumped him. But the Confederation did not work very well without a monarch at the top; it lacked the power and especially the money to carry out the duties specified in the Articles themselves, and was powerless when individual states appealed for help.

Some people even suggested (plotted?) to make George Washington king, but he would have none of it:
I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable...

Lacking any other candidate, this possible coup attempt failed.

The Continental Congress finally invited states to send delegates to a Convention "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation". The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 created the U.S. government in essentially the same form it exists today.

However, although the Continental Congress called for the Convention that created the document, the delegates did not send the Constitution for unanimous approval by the States as the Articles required, because they suspected some states would be stubborn and recalcitrant. Instead, they called for the Constitution to be ratified by individual, popularly elected conventions in each state, and simply declared that it would take effect once two-thirds of the states approved.

By their call to ignore the Articles of Confederation, the delegates themselves broke the law, and in America's embrace of the Constitution, the entire nation - not just the bosses of the state legislatures and rapacious western land-grabbers - became revolutionaries. Bereft of popular support and interest, the Continental Congress quietly faded out before George Washington was inaugurated as president. [1]

We Americans were lucky in that we had it easy; we kicked the butt of an incompetent would-be dictator first, then had the time and security to work out our own system, afterwards; Even so, without the honor and grace of George Washington, these things might never have happened. Lebanon is suffering from the grip of cruelly confident tyrants of proven competence, so Lebanese have a harder task than the Americans did.

Yet perhaps the U.S. example can provide some helpful insight. The creation of March 14th and the desire for political unity between Shia, Sunni, Christian, and Druze - do they not signify progress? What will be the next step for you to take?

1) "The Ratification Contest", Oxford History of the American People, Morison, 1965.

Update, 2/19/07

GWB gave this excellent speech on George Washington today. Also of interest: George Washington's Farewell Address. Happy Presidents' Day!

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