BEIRUT -- The new Lebanon that is emerging in the aftermath of last week's Syrian-backed attack on rebel Gen. Michel Aoun is likely to be a far different place from the old Lebanon -- more controlled, perhaps, but also less democratic; its capital a satellite of Damascus rather than "the Paris of the East."
The transition may be difficult, according to Lebanese analysts. They predict a tense balance in the next few years between Syria's natural inclination to dominate its smaller neighbor and the nostalgia of the Lebanese for their pre-1975 past of sectarian pluralism and democratic participation.
"From now on, every minister and every political or administrative appointment has to be cleared in Damascus. Operationally, there is an undeclared confederation with Syria," observed Sarkis Naoum, a leading Lebanese columnist. "We do not have absolute sovereignty, but a limited one. . . . There is no more anti-Syrian Lebanon."
Meanwhile, bulldozers are destroying the so-called Green Line -- a collection of barbed wire, earth mounds and bombed-out buildings -- that has separated the mostly Christian east Beirut and mostly Moslem west Beirut since the Lebanese civil war began in 1975.
Damascus's newly dominant role is seen in the departure from a Lebanese army jail of Habib Shartouni, the pro-Syrian operative who planted the bomb that killed Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982. Militiamen of the National Syrian Social Party have taken over Christian Phalange Party headquarters in Bikfaya, Gemayel's hometown.
The defeat last Saturday of Gen. Aoun raised hopes for the implementation of a package of reforms reached by Lebanese legislators in Taif, Saudi Arabia, with heavy Saudi and Arab League encouragement and insistence last year. The Taif accords called for, among other things, the dissolution of paramilitary groups and promised an eventual and phased Syrian pullout from Lebanon. But there are growing fears here that the new realities on the ground will reshape and redirect the accords to Syria's needs and wishes in Lebanon.
These new realities are the reinsertion in Christian areas of Syrian troops, National Syrian Social Party elements and fighters of pro-Syrian Christian militia commander Elie Hobeika, armed Syrian plainclothesmen and Christian militiamen released from Aoun's prisons.
Lebanon's turbulent recent history suggests that this may be a recipe for the sort of chaos that would make a continued Syrian presence in Lebanon indispensable, as a skeleton Lebanese state struggles to reconstitute itself with meager resources.
Syria's blessing will also be necessary for Lebanese President Elias Hrawi to realize his hope of dissolving the militias within the six months specified in the Taif accords and rebuilding the fractured Lebanese army.
The Taif accords also provide for an expansion of the Lebanese parliament to allow for an equal number of seats between Moslems and Christians, ending 45 years of Christian political domination. The constitutional reforms were ratified by the parliament and signed by Hrawi last month.
The optimists hope that the entire Taif package can be implemented quickly: that Syria's attack on Aoun's Christian enclave will be followed by a similar strike against strongholds of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Pessimists, however, suspect that the real effect of last week's actions is that Syrian President Hafez Assad has implanted himself even more firmly in Lebanon.
"Assad is an ambitious man and we cannot do without the Syrians. We are sick, we are sinking and the world has abandoned us. What are our choices?" reflected Majeed Jumblatt, a Druze and former deputy governor of Lebanon's central bank.
"Now Syria has effectively consolidated its control over Lebanon," he added.
Lebanese scholar Ghassan Salameh, a political scientist based in Paris, said it will be difficult from now on "to expect a political regime in Lebanon that is very different from the kind of authoritarian regime that Syria is maintaining for itself."
"Lebanon cannot really rediscover its old democracy as long as politics is not democratized and the economy is not liberalized in Syria," Salameh said.
While many hope for a prolonged truce, few believe this is the end of the war in Lebanon.
"What we are witnessing . . . is not very promising and threatens the spirit of Taif. There are serious risks that Taif is being shifted into another direction," one observer here said, noting the reported acts of looting and rape and the increase in the number of militiamen in the mountainous Christian region of Metn, northeast of Beirut.
With Lebanon's state institutions a shambles and its hospitals in ruins, and with the Lebanese in almost total alienation from a government that has been frustrated by militias and occupation armies in performing its national duties, there is an arduous task of nation-building ahead that will not take off without international assistance and a resolution of other regional problems.
For now, Lebanon's Christians, who stood up against Syrian domination in Lebanon and helped to father an Arab political and cultural renaissance earlier in the century, have retreated from their historical position of dominance in Lebanon.
"In a way, Christian Arabs as a small minority in the Arab world acted as pilot fish serving the whale, pointing out the direction to the massive body of Arab Moslems because of tremendous historical heritage which made them slow-moving," historian Kamal Salibi said, evaluating the important role that Lebanon's Christians once had in accepting ideas from the West and packaging them for Arab and Moslem consumption.
Many Lebanese appear to share the view expressed by Raghida Saadeh, who insisted that the old Lebanon had collapsed forever. "I am not leaving only because I don't feel like packing," Saadeh said.
Meanwhile, Aoun's wife and three daughters flew to exile in France Friday.
Aoun, wanted on criminal charges by the Lebanese government, remains holed up in Beirut's French Embassy.