American Proscenium

The Destruction of Lebanon

Much of the Western commentary on the violence in Lebanon has not been about the events themselves but about the commentators’ feelings about the warring parties.  Israel’s staunch friends and apologists would not admit that the IDF has done anything wrong, or that it could do anything wrong, even if the whole of southern Lebanon were turned into a sandbox, and Beirut, into a replica of Dresden.  On the other hand, those who dislike Israel have gleefully grabbed the opportunity to vent their feelings under the cover of righteous indignation.  In both cases, a multifaceted story with far-reaching geopolitical implications has been reduced to a crude morality play whose lessons are essentially unrelated to the reality on the ground.

That reality is complex but not inscrutable.  Lebanon is being destroyed for the second time in three decades, and her ordeal was triggered by external forces acting in pursuit of interests that are different from those of most Lebanese citizens.

In the 1970’s, the Palestine Liberation Organization came to Beirut after being expelled from Amman.  It quickly shattered the precarious balance between Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze and caused a civil war that eventually involved Syria, Israel, and various international peacekeepers.  The war soon acquired religious undertones and caused an exodus of Lebanon’s Christians, who have declined...

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