The Bitter Truth Behind Lebanon’s Collapse

Photo by Textgrounds

You know it. You’ve read about it. Some video about how the West messed up the Middle East. Perhaps an article about Sykes-Picot? Most people are “familiar” with the turbulent region.

Despite that, it is saddening that so many treat it as a distant problem. Absorbed with national politics and so-called “global issues.” While I agree those obstacles deserve our attention, states are failing left and right, authoritarianism is on the rise, and the West observes from upon a fragile crystal throne.

I don’t hate the West, but I’m disappointed with its incompetence: Its inability to protect nascent nations. Its cuddles with ruthless dictators despite fiery rhetoric. Its incompetence in defending its values. Most importantly, its rotten, vile, hypocrisy.

Yet, I was raised on Western values. I am a lover of liberty, equality, and democracy… Though this contradiction is striking, I’ll discuss it at length in another article.

I digress…

Point being, Lebanon’s imminent collapse isn’t inconsequential; conversely so, it inscribes itself onto a long list of nations attesting to…

The Failure of Diversity

Perhaps more than anything else, Lebanon’s fall would be a testament to a failed experiment. An experiment of peaceful, constructive coexistence.

In 1943, Lebanon becomes a fully independent nation, shirking foreign military presence the following year… but not foreign influence. Throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Lebanon flourished, it is then that it earned the nickname “Switzerland of the East.” Arguably, up until the civil war, Lebanon was a progressive nation, firmly aligned with the West.

The 1958 Lebanon Crisis

Photo by U.S. News and World Report

Quite worthy of note, the 1958 United States military operation in Beirut (Not to be confused with the deployment of U.S. Marines in 1982) The U.S. military was deployed to mediate in a bloody conflict that risked plunging Lebanon into turmoil. The Christian then-President Camille Chamoun unlawfully sought a second term, requesting the U.S. Military’s intervention under the power of the Eisenhower doctrine.

Alright, this is a big load of big words with big history. But grasping these events is key to analyzing how Lebanon drifted from a prosperous progressive nation to a state teetering on collapse.

In his 2019 book “Beirut 1958”, Bruce Riedel, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, highlights the vital role the 1958 operation played in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East for decades to come. He also suggests some of the intricacies the U.S. should have learnt from the successful intervention.

Nationally, the unlawful intervention cemented the resentment of certain sects towards the U.S. and its odious machinations.

1982 Multinational Force (MNF)

Photo by the U.S. Marine Corps

Under the wing of U.S. support, a multinational force was assembled with some 800 marines and others deployed in Beirut.

One year later in 1983, the barracks were bombed by extremist groups amidst growing Lebanese resentment. 241 Marines died.

Then-president Ronald Reagan fully withdrew the mission in 1984 after considerable public outcry against it.

This decision signaled the end of Western involvement and interventionism in Lebanon for decades to come.

In my opinion, the fallout between the West and Lebanon remains a notable reason for the country’s never-ending domestic strife. Despite the West’s almost omnipresent support for Lebanese students and scholars; its tantalizing offers and programs are bitter reflections on how it cares more about reaping the benefits of the Lebanese brain drain, than actually aiding the Lebanese nation.

International Scale

Photo by Aaditya Arora

One need not look further than South Africa, the rainbow nation. Only 20 years ago the country showed so much promise in its diversity and commitment to human rights. Yet today, the specter of apartheid and colonialism still haunts the country.

The rainbow nation, a champion of diversity and multiculturalism has recently plunged into the murky waters of chaos and corruption.

However, it is important to note that correlation does not always equal causation, and it very well may be that both Lebanon and South Africa will turn their respective diversities into a remarkable advantage on the national and international scale.

When one thinks of strength through diversity, it is normal to immediately gravitate around Europe… more specifically: the European Union.

A complex, bureaucratic, and often bloated institution, the European Union finds itself at the center of international dialogue in issues of environment, democracy, feminism, and civil liberties. And indeed, the countries of the European Union are generally the happiest in the world, the most egalitarian, and the most long-living.

Yet it is not all a success story. The EU is mired with internal instability with the rise of the far-right in many countries such as Hungary and Poland. These countries have posed a significant threat to the legitimacy of EU institutions and authority.

Moreover, the European “Union” is far from being united. Member states have drastically different economies, life expectancies, and living standards. The geographical divide is also particularly notable as lines can be easily drawn defining areas of wealth as part of Western Europe while generally considering Southern and Eastern Europe as poorer areas.

Closing Statement

In his May 1997 visit to Lebanon, then-Pope John Paul II, spoke words ingrained in the minds of many Lebanese.

“Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West.”

Maybe Lebanon has not yet had its Nelson Mandela, and is simply waiting for a woman or man to free it from the shackles of sectarianism. More accurately though, Lebanon awaits with decreasing patience, the rise of a generation armed with knowledge and hope.

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A Lebanese guy with too many opinions. I write about what I see around me from social issues to stories.

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Ivan I. Khalil

Ivan I. Khalil

A Lebanese guy with too many opinions. I write about what I see around me from social issues to stories.

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