Defence Minister Murr announced the creation of a special account at the Central Bank to raise funds for the Lebanese Army. The account will be used to collect voluntary donations from the Lebanese, and he even seeded the account with a donation of his own. A fine patriotic gesture....but wait a minute, what will the funds be actually used for?
While the Lebanese armed forces were amidst the Great Landscaping Battle, a good (and perplexingly wannabe-Lebanese American) friend of mine asked me a simple question: Why does Lebanon actually need an Army? Why not have a Costa Rica-like state, with no army at all?
The truth is that we need an army to feed our delusions.
The Lebanese government never deployed the army at moments of serious need, and the Army is almost always a spectator during any real battles in the country. The army was able to deploy in South Lebanon only after the area was completely devastated by the 2006 Hizbollah-Israel war. The army failed to protect civilians of Beirut in May 2008, and was not deployed until five days after a gang of militias had overrun the city. Having a large army barrack in Baalback did not stop two narcotic-smuggling clans from lobbing rocket propelled grenades at each other in the town yesterday.
To be fair, the army has been effective in dealing with one terrorist organisation, Fatah al-Islam. What is not clear is whether this matter could have been handled more effectively - at a lower cost in terms of human lives - by the Internal Security Forces.
It would be a monumental stretch to imagine that the Lebanese Army will be able to stop any Israeli invasion, or even Syrian tanks from rolling across the border. Would it not be better to be pragmatic and just rely on the ISF? Why not use our scarce resources for far more achievable and basic goals, such as a reliable supply of electricity and water?
Does Lebanon really need to pay the cost of training soldiers to shoot and ski simultaneously? Or spend on maintaining a prime real estate beach club for officers, even if some of them are cute?