Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon

Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict

Leila Fawaz
Samir Khalaf
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 224
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    Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon
    Book Description:

    In this long-awaited work, Samir Khalaf analyzes the history of civil strife and political violence in Lebanon and reveals the inherent contradictions that have plagued that country and made it so vulnerable to both inter-Arab and superpower rivalries. How did a

    fairly peaceful and resourceful society, with an impressive history of viable

    pluralism, coexistence, and republicanism, become the site of so much

    barbarism and incivility? Khalaf argues that historically internal grievances have been magnified or deflected to become the source of international conflict. From the beginning, he shows, foreign interventions have consistently exacerbated internal problems.

    Lebanon's fragmented political culture is a byproduct of two general features. First, it reflects the traditional forces and political conflicts caused by striking differences in religious beliefs and communal and sectarian loyalties that continue to split the society and reinforce its factional character. Second, and superimposed on these, are new forms of socioeconomic and cultural stress caused by Lebanon's role in the continuing international conflicts in the region.

    Khalaf concludes that Lebanon is now at a crossroads in its process of political and social transformation, and proposes some strategies to re-create a vibrant civil and political culture that can accommodate profound transformations in the internal, domestic sphere as well as mediate developments taking place internationally. Throughout, Khalaf demonstrates how the internal and external currents must be considered simultaneously in order to understand the complex and tragic history of the country. This deeply considered and subtle analysis of the interplay of complex historical forces helps us to imagine a viable future not only for Lebanon but also for the Middle East as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50536-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Samir Khalaf
  4. Acknowledgment
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  5. 1 On Proxy Wars and Surrogate Victims
    (pp. 1-22)

    The social and political history of Lebanon—despite occasional manifestations of consensus, balance and harmony—has always been characterized by successive outbursts of civil strife and political violence. The brutality and duration of almost two decades of senseless bloodletting might have obscured some of the earlier episodes. Consequently, observers are often unaware that much of Lebanon’s history is essentially a history of intermittent violence. Dramatic episodes such as the peasant uprisings of 1820, 1840, and 1857 and the repeated outbreaks of sectarian hostilities in 1841, 1845, 1860, 1958, and the protracted civil war of 1975–92, reveal, if anything, the...

  6. 2 The Radicalization of Communal Loyalties
    (pp. 23-37)

    A defining element in Lebanon’s checkered sociopolitical history, one that has had substantive implications for the character and magnitude of collective strife, is the survival and reassertion of communal solidarities. In fact, the three overarching and persisting features—(1) foreign intervention, (2) the reawakening of primordial identities, and (3) the escalation of protracted violence—are all intimately related. This is, after all, what informs the major thrust of this study. We will, in subsequent chapters, identify and account for the various forms foreign intervention has assumed. More explicitly, an effort will be made to explore how the unresolved regional and...

  7. 3 The Drift into Incivility
    (pp. 38-61)

    When, why, and under what circumstances does collective violence become uncivil or drift into incivility? More concretely, how is latent enmity released into open but limited conflict and what exacerbates this hostility to assume the pathological manifestations of random and guiltfree violence? Other than implying, as is conventionally done in defining civil violence (i.e., that civilians rather than regular armed forces are engaged in such civil disturbances), what is so civil about civil violence? Can civil violence, in the first place, ever be civil? Is it not a rhetorical conjunction of incongruous terms, bordering on the oxymoron?

    This interest in...

  8. 4 Peasants, Commoners and Clerics: Resistance and Rebellion: 1820–1860
    (pp. 62-102)

    There has been reawakened interest in the forms that peasant resistance are likely to assume, particularly in historical situations where open defiance is either impossible or entails considerable hazards (Scott 1985; Colburn 1989). Under such circumstances, it is argued, peasant resistance is prone to remain in the “hidden realm of political conflict.” Hence, it is less likely to take the form of open collective acts of violence such as riots, rebellion, sedition, or revolutionary movements. Since peasant uprisings, anyway, are “few and far in between,” it is more meaningful, Scott and Colburn tell us, to shift analysis to the more...

  9. 5 Civil Strife of 1958: Revolt and Counter Revolt
    (pp. 103-150)

    For almost a century, from 1860 to 1958, an epoch normally marked by internal, regional, and global turmoil in the lives of new nations, Lebanon was comparatively peaceful and free of any manifestations of civil strife or collective violence. Emerging from decades of bloody communal strife, it weathered the dislocations it was beset with as a plural society embroiled in the tumultuous transformations of a troubled region. Handicapped by a fragmented political culture, uneven development, dissonant growth, inept archaic polity, and deficient resources, Lebanon managed to evolve into a fairly liberal, democratic, prosperous, and vibrant little republic.

    Given its deficient...

  10. 6 Lebanon’s Golden/Gilded Age: 1943—1975
    (pp. 151-203)

    The brief interlude between the relatively benign civil war of 1958 and the protracted cruelties of 1975 stands out as a perplexing often anomalous epoch in Lebanon’s eventful political history. It is a period marked by sustained political stability, economic prosperity, and swift societal transformations, the closest the country ever got to a “golden age” with all the outward manifestations of stupendous vitality, exuberance, and rising expectations. But these were also times of growing disparities, cleavages, neglect, portends perhaps of a more “gilded age” of misdirected and uneven growth, boisterous political culture, conspicuous consumption, and the trappings of frivolous life-style...

  11. 7 From Playground to Battleground: Preludes to Civil Strife
    (pp. 204-231)

    Throughout its checkered history, Lebanon’s enigmatic, Janus-like character has never ceased to baffle. It has been a source of bewilderment, as we have seen, to both its detractors and admirers. A few of those struck by its perplexities have been candid enough to caution against facile analysis and hasty inferences. Two veteran observers, separated by more than two decades of eventful history, advance almost the same sobering caveats. Writing in 1963, to account for the “seeming vitality and durability of the country’s confessional democracy,” J. C. Hurewitz prefaces his essay by stating that Lebanon by then was already an “oddity,...

  12. 8 Scares and Scars of War
    (pp. 232-272)

    For almost two decades, Lebanon was besieged and beleaguered by every possible form of brutality and collective terror known to human history: from the cruelties of factional and religious bigotry to the massive devastations wrought by private militias and state-sponsored armies. They have all generated an endless carnage of innocent victims and an immeasurable toll in human suffering. Even by the most moderate of estimates, the magnitude of such damage to human life and property is staggering. About 170,000 people have perished; twice as many were wounded or disabled; close to two thirds of the population experienced some from of...

  13. 9 From Shakib Efendi to Ta’if
    (pp. 273-303)

    This study is predicated on the overarching premise that much of the displaced and protracted character of collective strife that has beleaguered Lebanon at various interludes could well be a reflection of two other constant features of its fractious political history; namely the radicalization of communal solidarities and the unsettling, often insidious, character of foreign intervention. By probing further into the nature of this interplay one, it is hoped, can better understand when, how and why social strife becomes more belligerent and assumes some of the menacing cruelties of uncivil violence.

    Hopefully the evidence provided thus far has shown how...

  14. 10 Prospects For Civility
    (pp. 304-328)

    Lebanon today is at another fateful crossroads in its political and sociocultural history. At the risk of some oversimplification, the country continues to be imperiled by a set of overwhelming predicaments and unsettling transformations. At least three stand out by virtue of the ominous implications they have for the prospects of forging a viable political culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

    First, Lebanon is in the throes of postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation. Given the magnitude and scale of devastation, the country will almost certainly require massive efforts in virtually all dimensions of society to spearhead its swift recovery and sustained...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 329-334)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 335-352)
  17. Index
    (pp. 353-368)