Keserwan’s MP Farid El Khazen stands out as an anomaly amongst his Reform and Change parliamentary bloc colleagues. An academic, acclaimed political scientist, author of one of the few books out there on the causes of the Lebanese Civil War, and a charismatic personality in his own right, his decision back in 2005 to run on the Free Patriotic Movement’s list came as a surprise to some and a shock to many. A founding member of the Qornet Shehwan Movement, his name always appeared by the side of current March 14 disciples like Boutros Harb and Samir Frangieh. There seemed to be no question that should the popular AUB professor and then-Chairperson of the Political Studies and Public Administration Department enter the public service domain, that he would do so under the name of March 14. When the announcement was publicly made that the Maronite instead chose to ally himself with General Michel Aoun, flabbergasted blabber could be heard amongst AUB students on campus. The Lebanese Forces online forum overloaded with exclamations of disbelief and confusion.
The choice to run with the General was pragmatist with short-term gratifying results: winning a seat in parliament. But the professor’s enterprise for public office stripped him of his ability to decipher the long-term repercussions that would come from aligning with the losing party. Today, following the end of the July War, violent street activities, and the assassination of the Kataib’s Minister of Industry Pierre Gemayel, and a former independent member of Qornet Shehwan, Aoun has been maneuvered into a corner he now uncomfortably shares with a Hezbollah that advocates a non-sovereign Lebanon relegated to a puppet-hood status with its strings pulled by Syrian and Iranian will. The problem is that wherever Aoun goes, his supporters feel obliged to follow suit. This includes the Christian who was the first Lebanese to call for a sovereign and independent Lebanon in the 1980s free-ridden of Syrian hegemony. When the General allowed personal bickering with certain March 14 leaders to take precedence over the Christians’ natural nationalist prerogatives, the Christians found themselves outside of the very vision of Lebanon that promotes their political legitimacy and leadership. In effect, General Aoun went from Christian leader to populist demagogue.
Scared to leave or actually agrees?
As a former student of Professor El Khazen who took his reputable course, PSPA 236 The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, I finished the semester convinced that the professor was a brilliant intellectual who lectured with a passionate and often times satirical linguistic dexterity. I recall his discussion on the political plight of the Sheba’a Farms, when he proclaimed: “Let me remind you that the reconsideration of the Lebanese armistice of 1949 is a recent phenomena with the sole purpose of legitimizing Hezbollah’s armed presence in the South.” Such academic analysis does not match Aoun’s populist speech and presentation of the Christian carte blanche on a silver platter to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. At AUB, one mentions Professor El Khazen with great pride and never fails to recall one of his many fantastic displays of sarcastic humor: after one student droned for ten minutes on how Gamal Abdel Nasser was a state-of-the-art pan-Arab leader, the professor looked at him perplexed, raised his right brow, scanned the rest of the classroom, and then announced, “Congratulations! You’ve just won a car!” Given current events, the mismatch of this scholarly gentleman with his political circle is once again back on the discussion table.
El Khazen’s book: The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon: 1967-1976
Aoun’s camp is beginning to fragment. First Gebran Tueni, and now, MP of Keserwan Naamtallah Abi Nasr. There is even talk of Metn’s MP Ghassan Mkhayber changing course. A new political status quo is in the making and all it takes is for one courageous fellow to embrace the open door and walk out. When it comes to intellectuals, our tendency is to expect too much of them. What makes an intellectual retain their noble title is their consistent commitment to guarding grander interests that surpass sectarian Realpolitik tendencies. Yet, what makes an intellectual a true leader is embracing the courage to not only walk out that door, but also firmly close it behind them, walk down nazlit Falafel Sahyoun, and buy a Lebanese flag at that unnamed miscellaneous store for a mere 5,000 LL. The question is when will Farid El Khazen finally make that purchase and head for Seniora’s office.