Poor, poor little Lebanon.


"Late last year also saw the unravelling of what analysts said was effectively a state-sponsored pyramid, or Ponzi, scheme run by the central bank, which was borrowing from commercial banks at above-market interest rates to pay back its debts and maintain the Lebanese pound's fixed exchange rate with the US dollar.

At the same time, people were getting increasingly angry and frustrated about the government's failure to provide even basic services. They were having to deal with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water, limited public healthcare, and some of the world's worst internet connections.

Many blamed the ruling elite who have dominated politics for years and amassed their own wealth while failing to carry out the sweeping reforms necessary to solve the country's problems."  BBC


"The ruling elites"  Ah, yes.  I watched them struggle over things like cell phone network licenses and commercial banking licenses needed for money laundering for the drug trade on a grand scale.  The level of criminality in the "Ruling Elites" was all pervasive for many years.  It was everywhere and so accepted that it was barely hidden at all.

I remember a city wide official promotion for sales of consumer goods.  I went into a fancy men's wear shop that week and decided to buy a very fine Italian made black silk jacket.  The manager was visibly reluctant.  I thought at first it was the sale price.  I pressed him on this and he finally said, "Look if I sell it to you, I will just have to stock another one …"  Get it?  The goods in the store were just props for the façade of whatever criminal enterprise some member of  "the elites" was running using the store's overseas supply connections as tools.

But, people were exquisitely polite.  The cuisine of all types was exquisitely good in the restaurants.  The hotels were above average on the international scene.

But, the government was crooked., very very crooked.

As an example, the reconstruction of the center of Beirut was financed by selling masses of government backed bonds to cronies.  These were gifts that keep on giving for a long time.

This kind of catastrophe was inevitable.  pl


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9 Responses to Poor, poor little Lebanon.

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Great anecdote Colonel. I guess the enormous scale the economic charade must have been apparent after the silk jacket episode, even if it had not been beforehand.
    What lies in store for Lebanon when it finally reaches the inevitable end of this sorry road? Is there a path which does not lead to descent back into sectarian civil war?
    I have to pity the many Lebanese just trying to live their lives under their government’s kleptocratic rule. Its days must surely be numbered.

  2. turcopolier says:

    Barbara Ann
    The jacket is still in my closet. I wear it on the rare occasions when I think I should dress up a bit. Yes, the pervasive nature of corruption in Lebanon had to be understood through experience of the system. The Lebanese don’t think they are corrupt. They are part of the system. They bitch about each other but not the system.

  3. Horace says:

    This is the inevitable consequence of diversity and multiculturalism. It’s bad enough when it is only the working class that get diversified, but when the ruling elites themselves are not homogeneous there is no agreement over civilizational mission. No one faction possesses the whole so no one has incentive to be a good steward growing the whole. Each faction cares about carving as much out of the diminishing whole as possible. Steal it before your hostile neighbor (who is to you a foreigner with whom you share only the same state-issued paperwork) steals it first.
    It is “renter’s disease” writ civilizational. While we are not nearly so far gone as Lebanon, we Americans have exactly the same problem.

  4. eakens says:

    Yes. It is much easier to divide a people who are already divided. The same principle applies in business, which is the most significant conflict of interest in the way decisions are being made in capitals around the world (for the most part).
    How does the calculus change for Iran and HZB?

  5. blum says:

    Posted by: Horace | 22 July 2020 at 11:55 AM
    Horace, how would you define the civilizational mission of the US? Why not as compared to those dissenting with that mission?

  6. turcopolier says:

    IMO we have not had a “civilizational mission” since FDR gave up on the Philippines in 1937? The political wars of choice since WW2 are nothing like that.

  7. Eric Newhill says:

    My family had a friends, friends of friends and distant relatives come to the US from Lebanon in the mid-70s. Same story back then; war, rumors of war and corruption. I used to listen to them talk to my father in the living room and always felt honored when they allowed me to sit in on the discussions. Great people. All of the sudden I a lot of new “Uncles” and Aunties” that treated me (10 or 11 at the time) like they’d known me my whole life. The Aunties were fabulous cooks and picked up on teaching my WASP mother how to cook the dishes where my Armenian grandmother left off when she died. The men were fantastic backgammon players (we called it “Tabli”, “Tabla” or “Sesh Besh”) and my game improved greatly over the many hours spent battling them on the board. As far as I know, most of these people went on to be quit successful in the US. Too bad there own country didn’t have a system in which they could thrive. Lebanon would be a jewel in the world with such people being able to fully express their talents.

  8. Leith says:

    Eric –
    Any insight from your ‘Uncles’ as to what is going on now at the Armenian/Azeri border? And the threats to the nuke power plant at Metsamor? Seems to be completely ignored by the US media.

  9. Eric Newhill says:

    Hi Leith,
    Sorry, no. Those people are all gone now.
    I used to have subscriptions to a couple of different Armenia based publications, but those have lapsed in recent years and I haven’t felt a need to renew them. I am more concerned with my own country and its troubles as of late.

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