To many people throughout the world, the name Lebanon now suggests nothing but war and violence. Once the most peaceful of Mediterranean countries, in the last decade Lebanon has suffered more death and destruction than any of its neighbors. The bare statistics are chilling enough, but no statistics can even begin to convey the psychological and social damage which has affected the very nature of society and civilization.
The horrors of the last decade have made it difficult for foreign observers to realize what Lebanon has been, and is. Yet an explanation of the reasons for Lebanon’s existence, of its cultural heritage and values, is vital to any understanding of its role and of the nature and direction of Lebanon’s policies. While my course may or may not differ from those that others might have followed, I believe the Lebanese heritage would have infused the policies of others as it has certainly guided my own.
The viability—indeed the reality—of Lebanon has come into question in the West. Lebanon has no historic validity, it is said. Or, Lebanon’s boundaries are artificial. Some say Lebanon is a mosaic of minorities, as if this were a blemish on the country’s identity. Others claim that Lebanon is divided by hatreds and beset by perpetual conflict.
Yet Lebanon’s history is longer than that of most societies. The country and its principal features and cities are referred to countless times in the Bible. As a political entity, Lebanon’s history stretches back in a direct line almost five centuries, and Mount Lebanon’s distinct autonomous status throughout the Ottoman era is indicative of the recognition that Lebanon could never be viewed as simply another convenient administrative unit in the empire. While it is true that the current boundaries of Lebanon date only from 1920, it is also true that the boundaries of most states in the Middle East, in the Third World and of some European countries were established after World
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