A Brief History of Lebanon Dispels the Illusion that President Bush Is Driving Events There

News Abroad

Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com/.

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It is often pointed out that presidents get too much praise and blame for the economy, since the domestic economy has its own rhythms. We are now going to see everything that happens in the Middle East attributed to George W. Bush, whether he had much to do with it or not (usually not).

What is now Lebanon consists of relatively hilly territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. The mountains allowed small and often heterodox religious groups to survive, since the mountain inhabitants were relatively isolated and central governments had a difficult time getting hold of them. On the broad plains of Syria, governments could encourage conversion to Islam, then to Shiism, then to Sunnism, and most of the population went along. In the mountains near the coast, the population stuck to its guns. Thus, the Maronite Christians resisted conversion to Islam, as did many Eastern Orthodox Christains. The success the Ismaili government of medieval Egypt had in converting Muslims to Shiite Islam was long-lived, though most of these Shiites went over to the rival "Twelver" branch of Shiism that is now practiced in Iraq and Iran. Likewise, Egyptian Ismailism spun off an esoteric sect, the Druze, who survive in the Shouf Mountains and elsewhere in Lebanon. In the coastal cities and in the Biqaa valley near Syria, the population adopted Sunni Islam with the Sunni revival of Saladin and his successors in the medieval period in Egypt, which continued under the Sunni Ottoman Empire (1516-1918 in Syria). (Egypt has been since the 1100s staunchly Sunni).

In the 1600s and 1700s, the Druze were the most powerful community on the Levantine coast. But in the 1800s the Druze were eclipsed by the Maronite Christians, both because the latter had a population boom and because they grew wealthy off their commercial ties to France and their early adoption of silk growing and modern commerce.

When the French conquered Syria in 1920, they decided to make it easier to rule by dividing it. They carved off what is now Lebanon and gerrymandered it so that it had a Christian majority. In 1920, Maronite Catholics were probably 40 percent of the population, and with Greek Orthodox and others the Christian population came to 51 percent. The Shiites were probably only about 18 percent of the population then. Both under the French Mandate (1920-1946) and in the early years of the Lebanese Republic, the Maronites were the dominant political force. When Lebanon became independent in 1943, the system was set up so that Christians always had a 6 to 5 majority in parliament.

Lebanon had a relatively free parliamentary democracy 1943-1956. In 1957, I have been told by a former US government official, the US CIA intervened covertly in the Lebanese elections to ensure that the Lebanese constitution would be amended to allow far-right Maronite President Camille Chamoun (1952-1958) to have a second term. As the Library of Congress research division ("country studies") notes:

In 1957 the question of the reelection of Shamun [Chamoun] was added to these problems of ideological cleavage. In order to be reelected, the president needed to have the Constitution amended to permit a president to succeed himself. A constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote by the Chamber of Deputies, so Shamun and his followers had to obtain a majority in the May-June 1957 elections. Shamun's followers did obtain a solid majority in the elections, which the opposition considered "rigged," with the result that some non-Christian leaders with pan-Arab sympathies were not elected. Deprived of a legal platform from which to voice their political opinions, they sought to express them by extralegal means.

This account agrees with what I was told in every particular except that it does not explicitly mention the CIA engineering of the election. Chamoun was unacceptable to the Druze and to the Sunni nationalists newly under the influence of Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt. A small civil war broke out. Chamoun lied to Eisenhower and told him that the Druze goatherds were Communists, and Ike dutifully sent in the Marines to save Chamoun in 1958. Thereafter the Maronites erected a police state, with much power in the Dueuxieme Bureau or secret police. Since Washington had already overthrown the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, and is said to have helped install the Baath in power in Iraq, it may well be that the Illiberal Age in the Middle East of the second half of the 20th century was in important part the doing of Washington and was for Cold War purposes. (Those namby pamby democracies were just too weak to forestall sly Communists).

The Christian-dominated system of Lebanon fell apart for a number of reasons. The Israelis expelled 100,000 or so Palestinians north to Lebanon in 1948. The Christians of Lebanon refused to give the Palestinians Lebanese citizenship, since the Palestinians were 80 to 85 percent Muslim and their becoming Lebanese would have endangered Christian dominance. Over time the stateless Palestinians living in wretched camps grew to 300,000. (In contrast, the Maronite elite gave the Armenians who immigrated citizenship so fast it would make your head spin.)

In the second half of the 20th century, the Lebanese Shiites grew much faster, being poor tobacco farmers with large families, than did the increasingly urban and middle class Maronites. Maronites emigrated on a large scale (it is said that there are 6 million Lebanese outside Lebanon and only 3 million inside), to North America (think Danny Thomas and Salma Hayek) and to South America (think Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina and Shakira of Colombia).

By 1975 the Maronites were no longer the dominant force in Lebanon. Of a 3 million population, the Shiites had grown to be 35 percent (and may now be 40 percent), and the Maronites had shrunk to a quarter, and are probably now 20 percent. The Shiites were mobilizing both politically and militarily. So, too, were the Palestinians.

The Maronite elite found the newly assertive Muslims of the south intolerable, and a war broke out between the Maronite party-militia, the Phalange (modeled on Franco's and Mussolini's Brown Shirts) and the PLO. The war raged through 1975 and into 1976 (I saw some of it with my own eyes). The PLO was supported by the Druze and the Sunnis. They began winning against the Maronites.

The prospect of a PLO-dominated Lebanon scared the Syrians. Yasser Arafat would have been able to provoke battles with Israel at will, into which Syria might be drawn. Hafez al-Asad determined to intervene to stop it. First he sought a green light from the Israelis through Kissinger. He got it.

In spring of 1976 the Syrians sent 40,000 troops into Lebanon and massacred the Palestinian fighters, saving the Maronites, with Israeli and US approval. Since the Baathists in Syria should theoretically have been allies of the Palestinians, it was the damnedest thing. But it was just Realpolitik on al-Asad's part. Syria felt that its national interests were threatened by developments in Lebanon and that it was in mortal danger if it did not occupy its neighbor.

The Druze never forgave the Syrians for the intervention, or for killing their leader, Kamal Jumblatt. Although the Palestinians were sullen and crushed, they declined as a factor in Lebanese politics once they were largely disarmed, since they still lack citizenship and face employment and other restrictions. The UN statistics show almost 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, half of them in squalid camps. But some social scientists believe that because of massive out-migration to Europe, there are actually less than 200,000 in the country now.

In 1982 the Israelis mounted an unprovoked invasion of Lebanon as Ariel Sharon sought to destroy the remnants of the weakened PLO in Beirut. He failed, but the war killed nearly 20,000 persons, about half of them innocent civilians. Ziad Jarrah had a long-term grudge about that. The Israelis militarily occupied southern Lebanon, refusing to relinquish sovereign Lebanese territory.

The Shiites of the south were radicalized by the Israeli occupation and threw up the Hizbullah party-militia, which pioneered suicide bombs and roadside bombs, and forced the Israeli occupiers out in 2000.

One foreign occupation had been ended, but the Syrians retained about 14,000 troops in the Biqa Valley. The Israeli withdrawal weakened the Syrians in Lebanon, since many Lebanese had seen the Syrians as a bulwark against Israeli expansionism, but now Damascus appeared less needed.

Over time the Maronites came to feel that the Syrians had outstayed their welcome. So both they and the Druze wanted a complete Syrian withdrawal by the early zeroes.

In the meantime, Syria gradually had gained a new client in Lebanon, the Shiites, and especially Hizbullah. Likewise many Sunnis supported the Syrians.

The Syrians made a big mistake in growing attached to Gen. Emile Lahoud, their favorite Lebanese president. When his 6-year term was about to expire last fall, the Syrians intervened to have the Lebanese constitution amended to allow him to remain for another 3 years. Across the board, the Lebanese public was angered and appalled at this foreign tinkering with their constitution.

Rafiq al-Hariri resigned over the constitutional change. He was replaced as prime minister by another Sunni, Omar Karami of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

The assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the popular multi-billionnaire Sunni prime minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004), angered a broad swathe of the Sunni community, convincing them it was time for the Syrians to go. Despite the lack of any real evidence for the identity of the assassin, the Lebanese public fixed on the Syrians as the most likely culprit. The Sunnis, the Druze and the Maronites have seldom agreed in history. The last time they all did, it was about the need to end the French Mandate, which they made happen in 1943. This cross-confessional unity helps explain how the crowds managed to precipitate the downfall of the government of PM Omar Karami.

If Lebanese people power can force a Syrian withdrawal, the public relations implications may be ambiguous for Tel Aviv. After the US withdrawal from Iraq, Israeli dominance of the West Bank and Gaza will be the last military occupation of major territory in the Middle East. People in the region, in Europe, and in the US itself may begin asking why, if Syria had to leave Lebanon, Israel should not have to leave the West Bank and Gaza.

I don't think Bush had anything much to do with the current Lebanese national movement except at the margins. Walid Jumblatt, the embittered son of Kamal whom the Syrians defeated in 1976 at the American behest, said he was inspired by the fall of Saddam. But this sort of statement from a Druze warlord strikes me as just as manipulative as the news conferences of Ahmad Chalabi, who is also inspired by Saddam's fall. Jumblatt has a long history of anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that makes his sudden conversion to neoconism likely a mirage. He has wanted the Syrians back out since 1976, so it is not plausible that anything changed for him in 2003.

The Lebanese are still not entirely united on a Syrian military withdrawal. Supporters of outgoing PM Omar Karami rioted in Tripoli on Monday. Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah still supports the Syrians and has expressed anxieties about the Hariri assassination and its aftermath leading to renewed civil war (an argument for continued Syrian military presence).

Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism.

But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of Bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people power really is.

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Oy Arnold! You said the attacks were not real, everyone knows they were. Now, having been called on your lies, you change the subject to how many Arabs were killed also. I don't know Arnold, why don't you look it up . . .

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

My God, is Juan Cole not the most dishonest weasel yet produced by the weasel-infested field of Middle Eastern Studies? I understand the prospect of Syria leaving Lebanon must him very sad, but can he stop dragging Israel into for ten seconds?

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Christ Almighty Arnold!
Let us recap the events: You said that there were no missile attacks, that it was a phony excuse "manufactured" by Israel. I pointed out that Israeli civilians had been terrorized and murdered by these attacks for years. 200 plus civilian deaths. You responded by saying "Yeah? well, umm, what about all the Arabs killed?" I'd call that changing the subject. And as to your desire to know "precisely" how many Arabs were killed during this period, I admit that I have not a clue and helpfully suggested you find out. If you're so interested.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


I apologize, it's just that Cole is such a liar that he makes me lose my normal composure. His version of the outbreak of WW II would be "a regrettable, if justified, response by Germany to a series of viscious attacks by genocidal Polish post office employees."

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


I apologize, it's just that Cole is such a liar that he makes me lose my normal composure. His version of the outbreak of WW II would be "a regrettable, if justified, response by Germany to a series of viscious attacks by genocidal Polish post office employees."

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

It's Lopescu with a c.
Jews who live in Northern Israel are not "Settlers" (or "settlemen" whatever the hell that means). Look at a map, Arnie. The borders are not disputed, not even by the UN--the only alter at which you seem to worship. The figure, 203, refers exclusively to civilians--no soldiers. 203 Jews murdered by missile attacks and other acts of terrorism. One of them, you may recall, involved throwing little children off the roof of a kindergarten. You'd probably call them "5 and 6 six year old zionist setllechildren."

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing Arnold, as you've proved a dozen times on these boards. Are the 200+ Israelis who were murdered by those rocket attacks throughout the 1970s also fabrications? If you know where they are, do tell, their families would love to hear from them.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/11/2005

"Maybe so. And yet, at the same time, I wonder who it was in the War of Independence that fought "the enemy of Great Britain" other than for - you guessed it... the immediate descendants of English colonists."

Good question. For an answer to this might I suggest two essays: "Enlistment: Economic Opportunities for the Poor and Working Classes" by Mark E. Lender of Kean College, and "Enlistment: The Complexity of Motivations" by Gregory T. Knouf of Princeton University.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2005

Mr. Lopesku,

Your screams to your God does not impress me much, since
I'm an atheist and a Jew.
You would be much better off when debating with me by sticking to facts and to the main line of dicussion.
I did not responded JUST with the concern about the Arabs
killed in the hostilities, but asked you quite pointed and specific questions, such as where did you get the figure 200+ Israelis killed over the missile and other attacks on the Israeli territory by Lebanese and about the make-up of that figure (soldiers, armed settlemen, and unarmed civilians), the answers to which are always important in international legal opinion for reconstructing the truth about past events.
I repeat for the slow thinkers: I asked those questions
NOT because I was trying to back up from my initial statements that those alleged attacks were not the primary
reason for the Israel's agression against Lebanon (and the
UN characterized it as 'agression', not just me), but because I wanted to show you that the figure you presented had little to do with the real situation there
at the time, since it was WRONG by itself and/or its make-up was WRONG. Again, for mentally less than fast, I
decipher that the make-up is very important, since if those victims were primarily soldiers or armed illegal settlemen, then the terrorist charge could not be invoked
with any substantial legitimacy!
Thus, I never did and never will back up from any of my statements, unless have been PROVEN to be wrong.
So, the ball is still in your yard to answer those two questions to the best of your knowledge and abilities.

E. Simon - 3/8/2005

Maybe so. And yet, at the same time, I wonder who it was in the War of Independence that fought "the enemy of Great Britain" other than for - you guessed it... the immediate descendants of English colonists.

Apparently George Washington was leading a fight against England not for his country's independence but for allowing his forebears to settle in "American lands." I'll keep that one in mind.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/8/2005

<gibberish about "the enemy of Great Britain, who colonized American lands..." ????
If that is gibberish, than you are nothing but an imperialist hack and dwarf of history.

E. Simon - 3/7/2005


Your assertion that the German officers who came closest to successfully assassinating Hitler were not patriotic because you assume the majority in their country would have objected to it, is at odds with how most people define patriotism. If you have access to a dictionary, I suggest you look it up -

Merriam-Websters -

patriotism: love for or devotion to one's country

As Stauffenberg's quote attests, patriotism has nothing to do with reverence for a madman who is bringing about a country's downfall, or anything to do with a leader, period. I find no definition of patriotism that implies a love of the decisions of other citizens or of the government. If you do maybe you could provide the reference.

Or, of course, you could always choose to ramble on instead with some gibberish about "the enemy of Great Britain, who colonized American lands..."

Arnold Shcherban - 3/7/2005

You right about me being right, I give you that, Mr Simon.
All of your historical references purporting to prove I'm wrong has one main fallacy in relation to the issue I raised: France was at the time America's natural ally, as
the enemy of Great Britain, who colonized American lands, the French resistance enlisted British help against Nazi occupation, and Germans, as a nation, i.e. by majority will, did not enlist foreign help to assassinate Hitler, but a couple of officers from the Hitler's surroundings did (though I would be really happy if that had been done at the German majority will).
Iraq, in its turn, has not been occupied or colonized by any country, and the change of regime there has not been the will of the nation, since it has never been expressed by any large group of its population, except Kurds, that for several decades were also asking the change of regime in Turkey, that killed much more Kurds than Iraqi authorities, under Saddam Hussein's rule. (Sorry, I forgot, that the latter does not count, since Turkey is
the US ally and at the time of gassing Kurds Hussein was a the US goverments' friend, and somehow never was seriously questioned by the US for that terrible deed, let alone punished.)
If Iraqi's great majority was as much against Baathists, as the US propaganda purports(ed) to present it, that regime, weakened so greatly by the first Gulf war and severest economic sanctions would fall to the people's anger without any external help, as it happened to Shah's
brutal regime in Iran, even despite the wholesale aid from
the US, and other pro-US regimes in South-East Asia, Central and South America, at their respective times.

Therefore, if those pro-US Iraqis in exile represented the will of the Iraqi nation, not its pro-American elite, I would never objected their political status, and never questioned their patriotism regardless of their
possible or suspected CIA connection.

Thus, you have to admit that my position on the patriotism issue is as objective, as it gets, versus yours - ahistorical one.

E. Simon - 3/7/2005

There's actually more here. I'd start by looking into Wilhelm Canaris, and possibly Hans Bernd Gisevius.

The words of co-conspirator Claus vos Stauffenberg upon his execution for the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler were "Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland! ('Long live our sacred Germany!')" Again, apparently a different kind of patriot than one that fits your definition.

E. Simon - 3/7/2005

Correction - I'm not sure that any of the plots by Germans to assassinate Hitler actually enlisted assistance from groups in other countries. But it is clear that some German groups who wanted him, at the least, overthrown or stopped, did in fact do so. The point is just as valid for the purpose of Arnold's argument.

E. Simon - 3/7/2005

No Arnold, you're right - as always. Patriots certainly never enlist the assistance of other countries in seeking the embetterment of their own. That's why Americans remember Benjamin Franklin as such an unpatriotic charlatan. He sought the financial and military assistance of France, at the expense of British efforts to maintain hegemony over the American colonies. Unfortunately for the "patriotic" Tories, their side lost the Revolutionary War, and America became a free, albeit "unpatriotic" country.

Same would go for rebellious, unpatriotic Germans who enlisted the help of other countries to assassinate Hitler. And the French resistance during WWII - vis a vis the help they received from Britain. All unpatriotic according to your argument.

However, for the rest of us, patriotism does not imply some kind of blind subservience to the most authoritarian nationalist exercising absolute power over one's own country and the citizens' lives. Not that I would expect you to understand that.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/6/2005

Well, I don't know about the majority of the "Iraqi goverment in exile", being the CIA operatives, but was/is it a common knowledge that many of them have links to
"the US intelligence community and financial elite", as they were, at least partially, characterized (besides of being the "great patriots" of their native country) by
some mainstream media sources?
So educate me if I'm wrong on that point by considering them unfit to govern Iraq from the patriotic point of view, even if they are only suspected by Iraqis
to have those links.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/5/2005

Wrong! I did not back up or changed the subject.
I just asked you specific questions about the figures you provided to establish their credibility.
Having the exact answers to those specific questions
would help me and you to come to a certain conclusion: who of the two of us lied (provided we both are unbiased
observers and not ideologues.)

So would you be so kind to really call me on my "lies"
by presenting the evidence I asked you?
I've presented you the arguments and statements of the
specific persons which confirm my previous judgement
on the Israeli-Lebanon conflict and can give you more if so needed.
So why don't I have to "look it up" (who knows where) to confirm the validity of your arguments and statements?

Arnold Shcherban - 3/4/2005

There are at least two points of contention here:
first, you have to tell me where did you get 200+ figure from and how reliable it is and why;
second, how many of those 200+, provided it is the real figure, were soldiers, or armed residents of the Israeli settlements on the forcefully occupied Arab territories,
not peaceful civilians.
The third point is not a contention one, but just "minor" consideration: how many Palestinians and other Arabs were killed by Israelis over the same time frame, i.e. throughout 70s?
And if the figure lies within thousands, don't you think
(straining your rich imagination to the limits) it could have been considered as quite a "compensation" for the 200+ killed on the other side of the conflict by the Palestinians and other Arabs and any impartial observer.
And don't you think 20,000 mostly peaceful citizens (far from only PLO members, primarily respoinsible for the attacks on Israelis) is quite an overkill in any case?
Besides, you didn't answer my main argument that somehow
the real purposes of the invasion into Lebanon were different according to the some more open statements of the very ones who designed it and was/is common knowledge in Isreal itself, though admittedly sparkled with ideological anti-Palestinian retoric.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/3/2005

"a shift away from realpolitik has occurred and that George W. Bush's neo-cons are mainly responsible for this shift. I'd feel more sorry for him if he wasn't completely wrapped in denial."

If it is a shift away from realpolitik then it is a shift away from their "previous" policy. IF that is the case, than it is most dramatic and quite astounding. Nonetheless, I still doubt it and we shall see in a few years. Let us hope that I am wrong.

Dylan Sherlock - 3/3/2005

That's nothing. Remember when Juan tried to out Ali Abbas and his brothers (the publishers of the weblog "Iraq the Model") by accusing them of being CIA operatives!

Juan Cole is a moonbat. Plain and simple.

I almost feel sorry for him. He just can't comprehend that in US policy, a shift away from realpolitik has occurred and that George W. Bush's neo-cons are mainly responsible for this shift. I'd feel more sorry for him if he wasn't completely wrapped in denial.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/3/2005

What Mr. Cole appears to be doing is to disperse the tales
about unprovoked rocket attacks on innocent Israelis and similar fabrications allegedly leading to its agression
in Lebanon that only recently (since the incident has extinguished its political, though not historical, importance) turned to be recognized as such by some mainstream US journalists, but were common knowledge in Israel for many years.
New York times correspondent James Bennett, eg. writes that the goal of the 1982 invasion "was to install a friendly regime and destroy Mr. Arafat's Palestinian
Liberation organization. That, the theory went, would help persuade Palestinians to accept Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
The US backed the agression that according to the declaration of the Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan was a complete success, because it weakened the "political status" (note, not military one!)
of the PLO and set back its struggle for a Palestinian state. (Israel continued to occupy parts of Lebanon for another 20 years).
The 1982 invasion and its immediate aftermath left some 20,000 dead; according to lebanese sources, the toll in the following years was about 25,000.
I'm not already mentioning Sabra-Shatila case, since only
ideological fanatics argue against Israeli (and Sharon's personal) guilt there.

All this does not looked at all as the "retaliation" for
the terrorist attacks, which were not sponsored or supported by the Lebanon goverment at the time.
In fact, judging by such criteria, Cuba, to name just one, had the full right to attack and occupy this country (provided it could), killing thousands of American civilians, for many terrorist attacks launched from the US territory, which in addition, were supported (and some organized) by the US govermental agencies.

Richard Henry Morgan - 3/3/2005

Yeah, I remember that one. I also remember the one where Cole chastizes the Bush Administration for failing to anticipate that the invasion and occupation would unite the Iraqi people against the occupiers, in a reignited Iraqi nationalism. You can, as they say, look it up.

John H. Lederer - 3/3/2005

by calling the Iraq election "a joke", one can move onto even more perceptive analysis.


"These elections are a joke," said Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan.

"The Bush administration has created the worst possible advertisement for democracy because the perception across the Middle East is that democracy means you get a country where everything is out of control," he said.

N. Friedman - 3/3/2005


Sandor's last comment (i.e. His version of the outbreak of WW II would be "a regrettable, if justified, response by Germany to a series of viscious attacks by genocidal Polish post office employees") makes a good point. Such, in essence, is what Cole appears to be doing.

N. Friedman - 3/3/2005


Point well taken.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/2/2005

No need to apologize. It is just that if my memory of your past posts are correct, I believe you are capable of mounting a credible refutation of the article without resorting to the temptation of personal attacks. If Cole is all that you say, why give him the satisfaction of your anger?

Richard Henry Morgan - 3/2/2005

What should one say about an account that explains the Syrian anti-PLO intervention in terms of the Israeli conflict, and not in terms of Assad's Greater Syria ambitions?

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/2/2005

With all respect, your post is vitriolic and personal, and has nothing to do with this article. I really don’t mean to preach and am in no way attacking your intelligence, but by attacking the author rather than the argument, you contribute nothing to this discussion and only reveal immense personal prejudice in this case.

I mean, “the most dishonest weasel yet produced by the weasel-infested field of Middle Eastern Studies”? Come now, surely we find some other way to disagree with someone.

Richard Henry Morgan - 3/2/2005

It's amazing that one can write a potted history of Lebanon and the political breakdown there (I was there in the late 60's) without mentioning the role of the Black September expulsions in Lebanese politics. It should be pointed out that the PLO, as they did in Jordan, tried to set up an armed state within a state, with the eventual goal of taking over Lebanon and using it as a permanent sanctuary for attacks on Israel. One certainly doesn't get the impression from the article that the PLO were foreigners interfering in the domestic politics of Lebanon. The "Christians" were not alone in not providing for citizenship for Palestinians -- none of the Arab-dominated states took that step either. In fact, one could say it was UN policy to oppose citizenship.

Cary Fraser - 3/2/2005

It might be useful to read Israel's Lebanon War by Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari to understand the strategic issues that led to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Robert Howard Whealey - 3/2/2005

This is the best thing I've seen on Lebanon. A+

N. Friedman - 3/2/2005

Professor Cole,

You write: In 1982 the Israelis mounted an unprovoked invasion of Lebanon as Ariel Sharon sought to destroy the remnants of the weakened PLO in Beirut.

What you write is simply not the case. I know people who lived in Northern Israel at that time. In fact, there were regular incidents of shooting of Israelis and sabotage of Israeli property. In addition, a substantial number of terror attacks originated from Lebanon during that period.

While it may be true that there was no attack against Israelis the week of the Israeli invasion or, perhaps even for a very short period before the invasion. However, the situation which existed was unacceptable. Would you, who lives in Michigan, accept regular incidents coming out of Canada or, by contrast, demand that the US government eliminate those who made your life unbearable? Somehow, I think you would not accept regular incidents and, whether or not there were attacks just before the Israeli invasion, you would demand that your government deal with the attackers and silence their war of attitrition.

In short, what you have written on the topic is nonsense.