Cultural Revolutions

Occupying Iraq

Beirut's occupation in 1983 by U.S. Marines may provide a small-scale sample of what a prolonged U.S. occupation of Iraq could be like, should the Pollyannaish postwar scenarios of some members of the War Party fail to materialize.  Of course, the two situations are, in some ways, very different.  Beirut, for instance, is just a city, while Iraq is a country spanning 169,000 square miles with a population in excess of 20 million and, thus, will require many more than the roughly 1,300 men that the Reagan administration placed at Beirut International Airport.  And the Beirut occupation was but a blip on the political radar screen for the Reagan administration compared to the importance of Iraq to George W. Bush in 2003—and 2004.

A key similarity between the two counties is their multicultural diversity.  Lebanon was split between Christians and Muslims.  A power-sharing arrangement between the two groups dissolved when the Muslim population grew, in part because the country absorbed Palestinian refugees.  By the early 1980’s, Lebanon had been embroiled in civil war and chaos for seven years.  Iraq, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly Islamic, but a Sunni minority dominates the Shiite majority.  The situation is complicated by the presence of a large Kurdish minority (about 20 percent).

In June 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in order to expel the Palestine Liberation...

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