For the past thirty years, Lebanon has been fighting for a sliver of normalcy— to unfurl a moment of peace. Efforts to support its revival from the 1975-1990 civil war were all in vain— the corrupt political leaders made sure of that. Their consistent presence and avaricious efforts to snag all the country has to offer has placed Lebanon back (and possibly, in a worse situation) where it was in 1990. According to the World Bank, the economic and financial crisis can be categorized as the “top 3 most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century”.
1990 in Lebanon’s history marked the end of a fifteen-year-long civil war. A war, like any other in the Middle East, fought amongst communal militias but not limited to, to gain state control: Phalangists, a Christian clan that historically dominated the socio-political spectrum in Lebanon; the coalition of secular leftists and Sunni Muslims (aligned with Arab nationalism); the Shia Muslim populists; and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the self-proclaimed saviour of Lebanese Palestinians. Lebanon’s geopolitical position made this civil tiff a region-wide battle with countries like Syria and Israel participating. Not surprisingly, when the war ended, it had rendered 120,000 people dead and a million people in the refuge. These are the figures provided by aid agencies— and might be understated.
When the war ended, economic stability was provided by tieing the U.S. dollar to the Lebanese lira. Foreign funding increased, imports became the backbone of the Republic and the country was attempting to discover its glory in a conflict-less time. However, the somewhat-serene era came to a halt when political tensions in the Middle East sidelined Lebanon in the eyes of foreign investors. Hezbollah, a political party and militant group in Lebanon grew prominent, and an annoyance to the de facto Western superpower, the United States of America. With the labelling of Hezbollah as a “terrorist group” by the USA, foreign powers withdrew their funding. Banks created Ponzi schemes and encouraged people to invest their dollars in an attempt to compensate for the dissipating U.S. dollars in the depository.
By 2019, it became impossible to withdraw money from the bank. Over these two years, around 78 per cent of the Lebanese population fell into poverty. By 2021, the cost of food items increased by ten times.
Lebanon, like other developing countries, is largely dependent on two things for a booming economy: imports and tourism. Imports decreased because of the dearth in the deposits of foreign currency. Tourism, on the other hand, suffered because of the abundance of political and economic instability in the country. Tourism also provided foreign currency, which becomes useful to pay off imports. The fall in tourism led to a fall in imports leading to a food crisis in the country. Medicine has suffered enormously too. The price of something as common (and as important during the COVID-19 pandemic) as paracetamol increased by five times. The Republic is also facing a severe medicine shortage as uncertainty has propelled citizens to panic-buy and hoard. People are coming to the streets to protest violently about the hike in prices. Lebanon is also reporting a prominent fuel shortage, which has led to sectarian standoffs at gas stations, weapons being drawn out and fuel stations being hijacked. In times like these, the state relies on armed forces to maintain peace. The reduction in the wages of the army has threatened to harm this peace-keeping role.
The 2021 Lebanon crisis is grave and as international agencies label it, one of the worst global crises. However, the term ‘crisis’ underplays the role of global leaders in Lebanon’s poverty-stricken state. This is not a product of a mistake or a force of nature. Lebanon is what it is today because of venal megalomaniacs parading as leaders of countries. Lebanon’s destruction is the result of both domestic politicians as well as global politicians. Domestically— although law-making bodies ensure equal representation of different communities, inter-sect fighting and animosity prevail. There is adamant defiance to the concept of introducing reforms and instead, sectarian policies are promoted and continued. Internationally, Lebanon has been used as a battleground for Middle-Eastern conflicts, that is fueled by the United States of America’s desperation for its currency to remain relevant (Oil gives the U.S. dollar the international relevance it holds today).
This is not a crisis. It is a globally manufactured catastrophe. One that yet again exposes how little regard the people ‘who know the best for the public’ have for the innocent when it comes to winning meaningless wars.
The United States of America’s saviour complex seems to be absent in Lebanon. Apart from promising to throw a 100 million-dollar aid, there has been no significant effort from the Biden administration. Aimless, the people have turned to an unlikely power for direction— the Hezbollah.