The old Lebanese political order died in all but name at a Swiss luxury hotel this week. Nattily garbed rival delegates talked past each other for nine days, then, in disarray, caught Mercedes limos for the Geneva airport. Back home, youngsters firing mortars, grenade launchers, and automatic rifles will presumably decide what comes next.
Even these children - constrained by a mix of geography and entangled alliances - may fail to force a workable new power balance any time soon. Yet fight, they will. The only open question is when the battle will begin in earnest. This may depend largely on Syria, Lebanon's neighbor, which has over 40 ,000 troops there.
In Lausanne, the Syrians failed - like the Americans they had chased from Beirut a few weeks earlier - to broker a new arrangement for political power-sharing and stability in Lebanon. It remains to be seen whether Syria will do better at enforcing the ''cease-fire and security plan'' for which the conference had to settle.
It remains to be seen, indeed, whether Syria will even try, or if it will instead concentrate on calibrating the war so as best to retain its own say in the new political order that eventually must follow.
Theoretically, formation of a ''national unity'' government back in Beirut could yet delay new fighting. But this, at best, was only a hope as the conference ended. It was left out of the final communique. One senior Lebanese official remarked: ''I don't think it will happen.''
In the West, only the French, whose troops are the only member of the multinational force left in Beirut, are likely to pay much attention to renewed bloodletting. Amin Gemayel, nominal Lebanese President, was in Paris Wednesday presumably asking the French to stay put.
Mr. Gemayel was the main loser at the talks. He may well prove among the first casualties of its failure, with his political demise coming at the hands of Syria and his Lebanese Druze and Shiite Muslim opponents. Or, quite conceivably, it could come on the impetus of his own Maronite Christian community.
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