Public expressions of support and a pragmatic acceptance of the important role the army plays, but suspicion lingers.
To witness the public expressions of support for the army on Lebanese TV, billboards and blogs, you’d be excused to believe that everybody is taking part of the collective festival of idolatry sweeping the country and that only terrorists and cold-hearted fanatics disagree with the sentiment. But there is one group that supports the army without being terribly excited about over-the-top expressions of unconditional support.
Some explaining to do
The general attitudes of average Sunnis is that the army has every right to respond forcefully to criminals and soldier-slayers like Ahmad al Assir, and that every dead soldier is a terrible loss for Lebanon. But there is a very real and disconcerting sense that the army is only expressing its lethal force on Sunni militias and criminals, while turning a blind eye to Shiaa criminals and coordinating with their militias.
Where are the plain-faced killers of Hashem Salman? Where is the man accused of planning to kill Butros Harb? Where are the four people indicted by the international Tribunal for killing Hariri? What with Nasrallah’s blatant confession of fighting in Syria? All questions that are constantly being asked by Sunnis, with dark mutterings of army complicity. Facebook and twitter are drowned in photos and footage of the Lebanese army sitting idly as Hezbollah gunmen with yellow armed bands handle “security”.
To put it plainly, the support of the Sunni community for the army is guarded and conditional. Guarded because they understand that the army, despite their suspicions, is the only institution left that has a semblance of state control and unity, and conditional because they are waiting to see what the Army is planning to do with Hezbollah’s armed security zones in Sunni areas.
The pragmatic and right thing to do is to support the Lebanese army. All the heavyweight Sunni politicians have been driving home that message relentlessly (to the extent you wonder why they feel compelled to repeat it again and again). For now, most of the population understand this and are very aware of its importance.
But they will pass on the hero worship.