Winslow, Charles, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society London: Routledge, 1996.
Young, Michael. The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Cambanis, Thanassis. A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. New York, Free Press, 2010.
An "Arab Spring" has burst across North Africa and The Near East with fury and vengeance to oust long-time dictators, and to implement modem democracies in those regions. Meanwhile, Lebanon, the most politically unstable state in the area, has remained cool and quiet. Is this some kind of paradox? Absolutely not!
The three books under review in this essay tend to explain the secret of Lebanon's existence-a balance of instability that leads to stability. This is, in essence, a balancing act in which no single person, party or community can come to power over the others. But, clearly, outside interference can and has upset the balance of power from time-to-time.
Our first study, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society is a survey of Lebanese history from the mid 1800's to the present. The book covers the traditional views of Lebanon caught between sectarian strife and foreign interference. Thus, Lebanon is "conflict-prone" (p. 3) in its geographic, economic and moral setting. The Lebanese have become "victims of outsiders" who use them for their own interests in the region. Secularization of the power structure is needed for the security of the individual (p. 296). The author quite correctly calls for new democratic institutions, not the same old balance of power.
In The Ghosts of Martyrs Square the author Michael Young, a career journalist, sees Levanon caught in a "crossfire" of conflicting domestic divisions, religious fundamentalism, and foreign conspiracies while trying to remain "liberal and tolerant' or at least pluralistic. Therefore, Lebanon "remains an exception" in the Arab-Moslem World, despite its domestic and foreign tensions. The book covers the events at Martyrs Square as an attempt at a new beginning for the Lebanese who want peace and stability. The Hariri assassination is covered in detail including its convoluted investigation and the personality conflict involved (pp. 195-200). The author concludes that Hizbollah's (Hizb Allah's) independence from the Lebanese system has put a "headlock" on the institutions of the state and that it is pursuing a separate course...