In the early 1980s, at the height of the Lebanese civil war, Michel Aoun successfully led Lebanese forces against Syrian-backed militias, attaining a heroic reputation in the eyes of many of his compatriots. But like Philippe Pétain, France’s most admired general during World War I who would later surrender his country to the Nazis, Aoun has for over a decade served as Hizballah’s greatest Christian supporter. Alberto Miguel Fernandez writes:
Four years ago this month, Aoun was elected Lebanon’s president by the country’s parliament. . . . Feeling that he did not get his due from the anti-Syria and anti-Hizballah March 14 Alliance, the aging Aoun—still proud and ambitious—in February 2006 forged a political alliance with Hizballah that would not waver even during an astonishing series of events. This included Hizballah’s destructive 2006 war with Israel and a string of assassinations, blamed on Hizballah, of opposition figures, journalists, and military officers, many of them Christians (none of them Aounists, of course).
As recently as 2018, Aoun’s presidency, and this alliance, had not seemed to have hurt him much. The pro-Aoun coalition did quite well in parliamentary elections that year, allying with Sunni and Shiite parties in different areas of the country. An objective observer might conclude that Aoun’s four years in power have been nothing short of disastrous. . . . But as a politician he has been a resounding success, if measured in cynical terms of political survival and in aggressively climbing the ladders of power in this fragmented country.
Whether he is today only a passive symbol or still a willing collaborator in the catastrophic Lebanese status quo, Aoun, the brash champion of Lebanon’s Christian rights since 1989, has become the undertaker of the historic Christian presence in this country. He did not accomplish this on his own, of course. Lebanon’s implosion was a multi-confessional multi-party conspiracy bringing down the entire country. But since 2006, his alliance with Hizballah has given that terrorist group an extensive sectarian and political cover that it might not have had otherwise—only making a bad situation worse.