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Experience is the Teacher of Fools
Beirut port’s grain silo is shown the day after the August 4 explosion. (Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images)

Experience is the Teacher of Fools

Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, August 8

“Experience is the teacher of fools,” says the oft-cited American proverb. That is, foolish people only learn from personal experience rather than witnessing others’ mistakes. Lebanon certainly fits this bill. Our country is afflicted not only by the terrible explosion that ravaged Beirut last week, but also – and perhaps more importantly – by the corrupt, fraudulent, and rotten political system governing us. Neither one of these catastrophes will be solved in isolation; they must be addressed together. Rebuilding Beirut and saving the Lebanese economy from collapse will have to come hand in hand with freeing up our country from corruption in our political, financial and defense establishments. This is the exact message that French, American and even Arab allies have sent to Lebanon over the past week. It is also the message made by French President Emmanuel Macron during his historic visit to Beirut. Macron laid out a clear road map: Aid will flow to Lebanon if – and only if – the country rids itself of corruption and rebuilds its political system. Macron is willing to put this to the test. He is scheduled to visit Beirut again in a few short weeks, on September 1, for the 100th anniversary of General Gouraud’s proclamation of the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon, the predecessor of modern Lebanon. Unfortunately, Lebanon’s authorities still haven’t internalized Macron’s message. If anything, Lebanese politicians seem to follow the opposite approach of continuing with their lies and deceit in order to evade accountability. They understand that fighting corruption means uncovering the structure of Lebanon’s entire political system and, with that, an end to their robbery of public and private money, superiority over the law and evasion of responsibility. Political reforms mean an end to their deep-seated habits. Thankfully, Macron’s visit reminded us amidst complete despair that Lebanon can still resuscitate its relationship with the Arab and international community. But to do so, we must defend the Lebanon we long for, not the Lebanon we live in. Lebanon must free itself of Hizbullah’s grip, which puts us at a continuous risk of war with Israel. Lebanon must distance itself from Iran instead of trying to mimic Tehran’s political, religious and social structures. And finally, Lebanon must install a new government that is accountable to the public. Let’s hope that we can finally learn from our mistakes instead of waiting for another disaster to happen. – Rafiq Khoury (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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