Is Lebanon a Fragile State?
Introduction Middle Eastern nation states came into existence not as a result of naturally-evolving and unique historical, social, or political processes reaching a nexus of cohesion, but rather, they emerged as a manifestation of the fragility of colonial power in the region (Zweiri a. o. 2008: 4).
The history of statehood in the Middle East and its establishment by colonial powers has ensured that this remains a fragile and unstable region (Zweiri a. o. 2008: 4).
After the collapse of the Ottoman empire the state structure of Lebanon, for example, was instituted to ensure the protection and local hegemony of the Christian Maronites, who were backed by the French in the 1930s and 1940s (Zweiri a. o. 2008: 4). The consequences of this structuring can still be felt today (Zweiri a. o. 2008: 4). Furthermore, external actors continue to provide support – either through foreign aid or their policies – to certain select actors within fragile state systems.
Such a process of “choosing sides” only causes further instability and exacerbates state fragility (Zweiri a. o. 2008: 4). In the contemporary turbulent world of globalization and ever-increasing interdependence across individuals, groups, international organizations and nation-states, the existence of weak/fragile/failed states is more and more seen as a significant concern (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 2). The media, states, and international organizations have seen such states as threats to order and stability in the international system (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 2).
Failed states are seen as being associated with a range of problems: economic, social, political, and military (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 3). And they are seen as having a wide range of negative consequences for their own people, their neighbors, their regions, and the global community; “the chief reason why the world should worry about state failure is that it is contagious” (The Economist, cited in Iqbal & Starr 2007: 3). Is Lebanon a fragile state?
Since her independence Lebanon has struggled in keeping up the difficult balance: a small country in a conflict zone, Christians versus Muslims, the civil war, the negative influence of big neighbor Syria, the role of the Palestinians and the refugee problem, the tension with Israel, the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005 which put the political order of the country in great danger, the emergence of Muslim adicalism and extremism and the rise of Hezbollah, the crumbling of the Christian community and the role of the Lebanese diasporas. To answer this question the political order of Lebanon will be examined from a geo-political and internal perspective. The book Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis, is taken as starting point for this paper. It is one of the books from the ‘Middle East in Focus series’, edited by Barry Rubin. The Middle East has become simultaneously the world’s most controversial, crisis-ridden, and yet least-understood region.
Taking new perspectives on the area that has undergone the most dramatic changes, the Middle East in Focus series seeks to bring the best, most accurate expertise to bear for understanding the area’s countries, issues, and problems. The resulting books are designed to be balanced, accurate, and comprehensive compendiums of both facts and analysis presented clearly for both experts and the general reader. To answer the central question, the concept of a ‘fragile state’ will first be scrutinized. In the following section the demographics of Lebanon will be reflected upon. The third section outlines the Lebanese state and political system.
The fourth section takes into consideration the external influences on the country. The final section depicts the effects of these various factors on the fragility of the Lebanese political system. 1. Conceptualization and determinants of a fragile state The Failed States Index 2010 ranks Lebanon on the 34th place. With a score of 90. 9/120 the country is considered to be “in danger” (Foreign Policy 2011b). What does “state failure” actually mean? There is no agreement on what constitutes fragility and no state likes to be labeled as fragile by the international community (Iqbal & Starr: 4, see also Stewart and Brown 2010).
Below a set of existing definitions or characterizations of the general phenomenon of state failure will be outlined. It is helpful to begin by looking at existing definitions within the aid community. According to the Fund for Peace “A state that is failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to nteract with other states as a full member of the international community. The 12 social, economic, political and military indicators cover a wide range of elements of the risk of state failure, such as extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination, severe demographic pressures, brain drain, and environmental decay. States can fail at varying rates through explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion over different time periods. (Foreign Policy 2011a). The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) definition of fragile states focuses on service entitlements (Stewart and Brown 2005: 1-2). DfID defines fragile states as occurring “… where the government cannot or will not deliver core functions to the majority of its people, including the poor. The most important functions of the state for poverty reduction are territorial control, safety and security, capacity to manage public resources, delivery of basic services, and the ability to protect and support the ways in which the poorest people sustain themselves. (DfID 2005: 7). Four broad categories of “indicative features of fragile states” were provided: state authority for safety and security; effective political power; economic management; administrative capacity to deliver services (Iqball & Starr: 4). Each was categorized in terms of “capacity” to provide them, and the “willingness” to provide them (Iqball & Starr: 4). In as much, DfID explicitly notes that it does not restrict its definition of fragility to conflict or immediate post-conflict countries (Stewart and Brown 2005: 2).
Non-conflict countries which are failing to ensure service entitlements constitute fragile states under DfID’s definition; similarly, countries in conflict but which are nonetheless providing an acceptable level of service entitlements to the majority of the population would not constitute fragile states under DfID’s definition (Stewart and Brown 2005: 2). The definition which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) employs, is similar but goes beyond a government’s failure to provide comprehensive services and includes the protection of the population’s human rights and security: ‘States are fragile when state tructures lack political will and/or capacity to provide the basic functions needed for poverty reduction, development and to safeguard the security and human rights of their populations’ (Stewart & Brown 2010: 9). Finally, for the World Bank ‘fragile states’ refers to “countries facing particularly severe development challenges: weak institutional capacity, poor governance, and political instability. Often these countries experience ongoing violence as the residue of past severe conflict.
Ongoing armed conflicts affect three out of four fragile states” (World Bank 2011). From this brief review, we can see that there are considerable areas of overlap in the current use of the term ‘fragile states’ within the development community, but also differences of breadth and emphasis. Here, in this paper, fragile states are to be defined as states that are failing, or at risk of failing, with respect to authority, comprehensive basic service provision, or legitimacy.
Authority failures are cases where the state lacks the authority to protect its citizens from violence of various kinds; service failures are cases where the state fails to ensure that all citizens have access to basic services; legitimacy failures occur where the state lacks legitimacy (Stewart & Brown 2010: 10). 2. Demographic dilemmas One of the features that distinguish Lebanon in the region is its social composition, a spectrum of different religious minorities. (Fawaz 2009: 25). A large majority of the 4. million Lebanese belong to one of three main sects—Sunni Muslims, Shi’a Muslims, and Maronite Christians—with Greek Orthodox, Druze, and over a dozen other groups comprising the rest (Farha 2009: 83). Demographic and political representations never fully overlapped in the course of Lebanon’s history (Farha 2009: 83). Recurrent phases of incongruity between demographic and political balances of power have been a major driving force in all cycles of conflict (Farha 2009: 83). “Lebanon’s modern history has been punctuated by periodic outbreaks of fratricidal violence, followed by political compromises that recalibrated the istribution of power and privilege among the major confessional communities” (Farha 2009:83). Let’s have a closer look at the demographics of Lebanon. In Lebanon we find higher Muslims birthrates (Farha 2009: 87). Fertility favors the Shi’a of Lebanon in particular and the Muslims in general (Raphaeli 2009: 110). However, a projection based on fertility rates, ignores the lower infant and child mortality rates among Christians, which have counterbalanced higher Muslim birthrates to some extent (Farha 2009: 87).
Some doubt should always be cast on the accuracy of projected estimates with regard to the precise size of the resident population as the last census took place in 1932. Different actors present different numbers for different political reasons (Farha 2009). Emigration is a big issue; there are more Lebanese living abroad than Lebanese-born living inside the country. A disproportionately high rate of Christian emigration took place from the mid-nineteenth- through the twentieth century, particularly during and after eruptions of civil strife in 1860, 1914–1918, and 1975–1990 (Farha 2009: 86). Over 900,000 Lebanese emigrated between the outbreak of civil war in 1975 and 2001” (Farha 2009: 86). By 2006, the size of the Christian community was reduced to 30 percent of the total Lebanese population (Raphaeli 2009: 110). However it is said that these recent immigrants were not only Christians, but also Muslims (Farha 2009: 86). It is debated whether the Christian Lebanese people worldwide outnumber the Muslim Lebanese. Against the notion that descendants of Lebanese Christians comprise the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese in the diaspora, Farha (2009: 86) argues that emigration is equally sought By Muslims and Christians.
Moreover, a 2006 study conducted by the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at NDU found that the percentage departure rates within each confession were almost equal (Farha 2009: 86). This is politically relevant as MP Nimtallah Abi Nasr hopes to expand the prospective pool of expatriate Christian voters with his campaign for a (re)naturalization of second and third-generation Lebanese abroad (Farha 2009: 87). Also “Hezbollah has actively encouraged first-generation Shi’a emigrants to register their children as citizens for much the same reason (Farha 2009: 87)”.
Lebanon’s current power sharing covenant is far out of step with demographic realities (Farha 2009: 88). “Even the most conservative statistical conjectures leave Lebanese Muslims significantly underrepresented in the parliament and the council of ministers, an incongruity that will grow in the years ahead” (Farha 2009: 88). A revision of the 1989 Ta’if agreement, which was the basis for ending the decades-long Lebanese civil war, and in which the Christians gave up their majority whereby granting Muslims a true partnership in the political process, has been discussed though.
However, up till now we see that the Ta’if agreement is being preserved not amended. Amending the Ta’if will not serve the interests of the Christians considering the population-increase of non-Christians. In view of the growing disequilibrium between demographic and political representation in Lebanon, a recalibration of the Ta’if power-sharing formula along the lines of a tripartite division of power (muthalatha) among Christians, Sunnis, and Shi’a is all but inevitable in the coming years (Farha 2009: 90).
While a tripartite division of power may not correspond precisely with Lebanon’s demographic balance, it is the closest possible approximation in the absence of a census and the only recalibration formula that could conceivably win the support of all three (Farha 2009: 90). “So long as no one sect compromises a demographic majority few Lebanese would feel themselves egregiously underrepresented by a tripartite division of power” (Farha 2009: 90).
However, while proposals to this effect have circulated for over two decades a sweeping revision of the Constitution is highly unlikely in the short term (Farha 2009: 90). “Indeed, the main leaders of both March 14 and the opposition have explicitly rejected Sunni-Shi’a-Christian tripartism as an alternative to Muslim-Christian parity—a position that perhaps has less to do with innate preferences than with the political exigencies of appealing to a deeply divided and anxious Christian community” (Farha 2009: 90).
Ideally, Lebanon should of course be reconfigured on a non-confessional basis. A political system is needed which is not based on the (numerical) strength of religious communities. “Although, deconfessionalization may be a better cure for Lebanon’s ailments in principle, in practice those who hold positions of power under the sectarian system are not likely to promulgate its abrogation” (Farha 2009: 90) . 3. The dilemmas of the Lebanese political system and state 3. The state “In Lebanon there is controversy over the nature of the state, as well as over national identity” (El-Khazer 2004: 6). There is a problem of defining the boundaries of the state and, more important, of the nation (El-Khazen 2004: 6). Lebanon is a multi-communal state which raises the question of legitimacy, and, by extension, the effectiveness of the political system in situations of crisis (El-Khazen 2004: 6). We see loyalties transcending state boundaries.
El-Khazen (2004: 8) argues that several, interpretations explaining the weakness of the Lebanese state, and later the causes of its collapse in the mid-1970s such as the growing imbalance between loads and capabilities on the political system, the divisive forces inherent in Lebanon’s political system, increasing socio-economic inequalities along sectarian, class and regional lines or government inefficiency, nepotism and corruption, are of limited explanatory value, as none of these problems where unique to Lebanon. While Lebanon shares broad characteristic with other heterogeneous societies, it has particular features of its own” (El-Khazen 2004: 32).
First Lebanon has a large number of communities that are politically active, some of whom have distinctly communal agenda’s; second, in Lebanon there is no numerically dominant group which constitutes 60 or 70 percent of the total population (furthermore, the differences in the size of the three major groups are relatively small, which limits political significance); third is the changing demographic balance in Lebanon; fourth, communal transformations in Lebanon have not reached a significant degree of maturity, moreover, in Lebanon communal development has been in constant flux and disputes have changed partly because of internal politics and partly because of the unstable regional situation which has deeply affected Lebanon; fifth, what sets Lebanon apart from other divided societies is the regional order with which it has had to interact, the Middle East in one of the most unstable regional orders in the post-Second World War international system (El-Khazen 2004: 32).
Where Lebanon’s problems ultimately differ according to El-Khazen (2004: 10) is in the nature and scope of externally-generated problems originating mainly from its regional order – specifically the Arab state system and post-1967 PLO. “Lebanon’s confessional political system (…) functioned relatively well for over three decades. It collapsed when it was subjected to pressure, particularly externally-generated pressure, which the system could not contain while preserving its open character and the plural nature of society” (El-Kahzen 2004:32). El-Khazen (2004: 6) suggests three phases which characterize the breakdown of the state in Lebanon: first the erosion and eventual loss of power; second, the political paralysis and power vacuum; third, the collapse of state institutions and the eruption of violence. 3. 2 The political system
Ever since it attained independence from the French in 1943, Lebanon’s political system has been based on the National Charter (al-mithaq al-watani)—an unwritten but enforced pact that recognizes the division of the country into religious communities (Raphaeli 2009: 110). According to the 1943 National Pact between sectarian leaders, the president would be a Maronite; the prime minister a Sunni; and the parliamentary speaker a Shi’a (Harris 2009: 16). The charter’s distribution of power among the various religious communities reflects the fact that in the 1940s, Christians represented 60 percent of the population and the various Muslim communities occupied the remaining 40 percent (Raphaeli 2009: 110).
This was adjusted to an even split in 1989. Unstable multisectarian factions rather than ideological parties have dominated the legislature (Harris 2009: 17). The Lebanese political system has some positives to it. First, Lebanon is one of the very few Middle Eastern countries where the government arises from parliament (Harris 2009: 17). Second, the Lebanese system has been the political framework for a dynamic public pluralism unheard of anywhere else in the Arab world (Harris 2009: 17). Even the intimidation from 1990 to 2005 by the Damascus-directed security apparatus did not destroy a freewheeling civil society and an assertive media (Harris 2009: 17).
Third, the reemergence of “confessional democracy” in May 2005, with Syria’s enforced military withdrawal and the first free elections since 1972, produced a parliamentary balance close to the probable numerical weight of major political forces (Harris 2009: 17). Still, Lebanon’s political system has many deficiencies. Between 1975 and 2005, it effectively ceased to function, with 15 years of violent breakdown followed by 15 years of manipulative Syrian hegemony—a hegemony approved by the West until about 2000 (Harris 2009: 17). Even when operating, the system has never reconciled representation of communities with representation of individual citizens (Harris 2009: 17). Parliamentary deputies are elected under sectarian labels at the same time as they are constitutionally bound to act for the citizenry regardless of sect (Harris 2009: 17).
The allocation of parliamentary seats has become out of line with the numerical weighting of the communities (Harris 2009: 17). Only an internationally supervised census, which no one wants, can resolve the issue (Harris 2009: 17). Every community has its demographic mythology, which they do not want punctured (Harris 2009: 17). The Shi’a community has increased from one-fifth of the population in 1932 to probably around one-third today. Even under the 1989 adjustment, it gets 27 seats out of 128 when it should have at least 40 (Harris 2009: 17). 4. Regionally powered dilemmas “The external connections of Lebanon’s communal blocs involve antagonists in Middle Eastern disputes” (Harris 2009: 10).
The Maronite Catholics have longstanding relations with the west; Lebanon’s Shi’a provided religious scholars who assisted the conversion of Iranians to Twelver Shi’ism in the sixteenth century, Lebanese Sunni affinities is more with Saudi-Arabia (Harris 2009: 10). The extension of Lebanon’s differences reach[es] into the divide between Sunni Arab states and Shi’a Iran and into the standoff between the United States, France, and Saudi Arabia on one hand and Syria and Iran on the other. “In this sense, Lebanon really is the cockpit of the Middle East” (Harris 2009: 10). As we shall see it is in Syrian, Israeli and Iran’s interest to see a high degree of conflict. 4. 1 Syria Due to its geography and history, Lebanon always has to deal with Syria, whose regime had always considered it as an ‘illegitimate political entity’ that has to be dominated.
According to Harris (2009: 1) “Lebanon is therefore the target of all the ambitions and phobias of the Syrian dictatorship, which cannot function as an Arab power without commanding the Lebanese”. Lebanon’s multicommunal history makes for problems of coherence in modern Lebanese politics. “Communal suspicion—today principally on a Sunni-Shi’a fault line—produces paralysis that saps Lebanon’s viability and pluralist foundations. This is fine for a Syrian Ba’thist regime that denies there is anything significant about the Lebanese and their history, despises pluralism, and regards restored command of Lebanon as vital to its own viability as the “beating heart” of Arabism” (Harris 2009: 20). Syria and its Lebanese allies paralyzed the Lebanese state, declaring the government illegitimate, refusing to allow parliament to meet, and blocking the election of a Lebanese president after Emile Lahoud finally left office in November 2007. Syrian military intelligence manipulated so-called al-Qa’ida elements in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon—the Fath al-Islam group—to destabilize Lebanon, debilitate its army, and disrupt Lebanon’s Sunni community” (Harris 2009: 19). “The problem is that the Syrian ruling clique will not leave Lebanon alone. It is determined on reassertion through its allies, and its victory will be the end of any decent Lebanon. Lebanese pluralism cannot coexist with Bashar al-Asad’s regime” (Harris 2009: 22).
The 2005 murder of Rafik Hariri started a period of exceptional domestic political turbulence and regional tensions, it led to institutional paralysis (ICG 2010: i). Initially experts accused Damascus. It is assumed that it is part of a Syrian plot to destabilize the country. Officially no one knows who carried out the attack and who was behind it. What can be said is that the assassination of Hariri opened doors for many political actors to get into the Lebanese and Arab political scene. 4. 2 Israel “Throughout the relatively short history of their existence as modern states, Israel’s and Lebanon’s mutual border has proven to be largely disadvantageous to both countries” (Spyer 2009: 195).
For Lebanon, Israel’s establishment was the primary cause for the eventual arrival of the Palestinian national movement to within its borders in 1970 (Spyer 2009: 195). This, in turn, was a key factor in precipitating the country’s ruinous civil war, the Israel-PLO war on Lebanese soil in 1982, the partial collapse of Lebanese sovereignty after the Syrian entry in 1990, and the partial Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon until 2000 (Spyer 2009: 195). The series of events that would lead to Israel’s involvement in Lebanon began with the Palestinian national movement in Lebanon. (Spyer 2009: 198). “Beirut became the international center of focus for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the place of residence of its senior leadership” (Spyer 2009: 198).
As a result, Lebanon became one of the theatres in which the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians would be played out (Spyer 2009:198). Civil order broke down in Lebanon in 1975, in a civil war in which the Palestinians played a central role. Contacts between Israel and prominent Lebanese Maronite politicians had been developing since the mid-1970s against the background of the breakdown of civil order in Lebanon and the central role of the PLO in the Muslim/ leftist coalition against which the Maronites were fighting (Spyer 2009: 199). Over time, Bashir Gemayel, most prominent among anti- Syrian Maronite leaders at the time, became the main Maronite contact for the Israelis (Spyer 2009: 199). Throughout, Bashir’s purpose was to encourage Israel to intervene against the Syrian garrison forces in Lebanon” (Spyer 2009: 199). The 1982 Lebanon War was very much the brainchild of Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977 till 1983 and Ariel Sharon the Israeli Minister of Defense during the war (Spyer 2009: 202). An anti-Gemayel, anti-Israel, anti-U. S. , and pro-Syrian alignment was now emerging as the key political force in the country (Spyer 2009: 203). A number of inflammatory incidents deriving from Israel’s ignorance of the sensibilities of Shi’a Muslims contributed to the deterioration of the situation (Spyer 2009: 203). In 1985 Israeli forces occupied a strip of territory in southern Lebanon.
A “security zone” close to the Israeli border, which was maintained in cooperation with the SLA (Spyer 2009: 204). Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the security zone took place in 2000, thus ending the 18-year period of Israeli military involvement on Lebanese soil (Spyer 2009: 205). The Second Lebanon War which began on July 12, 2006 was one between Hezbollah and Israel. Resolution 1701, which ended the fighting, changed the situation in southern Lebanon to Israel’s advantage, in that it ended the de facto Hezbollah domination of the southern border area that had pertained since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal in May 2000 (Spyer 2009: 208). Israel currently has no dealings with any of the major political actors within Lebanon.
However, while large-scale Israeli adventures to make alliance with political forces within Lebanon are part of the past, the weakness of the Lebanese state and central authority remain very much part of the present. One of the results of this weakness, which is itself a product of the country’s divided sectarian makeup, is its vulnerability to outside penetration, and therefore its oft-repeated, luckless fate as the launching ground for attacks by various forces (the PLO, Syria, now Iran and Hizballah) against Israel, its southern neighbor. This fact remains the core reality behind Israel’s relations with Lebanon. It is unlikely that the final word in this story has been written. 4. 3 Iran Lebanon’s Shi’a community resides in the heart of the largely Sunni Arab world and on the frontline with Israel; therefore, Lebanon’s Shi’a are of double interest to their coreligionists in revolutionary Shi’a Iran” (Harris 2009: 10). “Hezbollah was and remains a militant Khomeinist Islamist movement that adheres to Khomeini’s doctrine of velayet-e-faqih, rule by a cleric in an Islamist state. Its ties to Iran are organic, multifaceted, and complex” (Badran 2009: 47). In order to understand Hezbollah’s origins properly, one must remember that the major force pushing for its establishment was the Islamic regime in Iran, as it worked to unite the Shi’a factions and forces operating in Lebanon (Zisser 2009: 158). Iran wanted everyone to work together under the Hezbollah framework (Zisser 2009: 158).
The crisis situation that developed from the early 1970s onward became the breeding ground for a process of religious radicalization (Zisser 2009: 158). In these circumstances, Musa al-Sadr, a religious figure of Iranian origin, appeared and gained a position of great influence and power in the Shi’a community (Zisser 2009: 158). Hezbollah’s dilemma has to do with its identity, which contains a tension built into its very origins and being (Zisser 2009: 156). How is this tension—between the organization’s Lebanese-Shi’a identity on the one hand and its Islamic-revolutionary identity, its commitments to Iran, and its conception of the holy jihad on the other—to be resolved? The balance ow seems to be turning in favor of the Islamic-revolutionary identity, which also means turning in favor of Tehran (Zisser 2009: 156). There is no doubt that the war and its aftermath revealed as never before, and against the desire and interests of Hezbollah, the fact that the organization is the handiwork of Tehran, if not simply its instrument. Hezbollah has also been exposed as an organization dedicated to and active in achieving radical and far-reaching aims (Zisser 2009: 156-157). Its aim in the short term is to gain dominance over Lebanon and in the long term to turn that country into a Shi’a-dominated state ruled by Islamic law and closely linked to Iran (Zisser 2009: 157).
From the mid- 1980s the organization began (with generous Iranian help) to establish a network of social and welfare services that would draw the support of the Shi’a community and provide it with an alternative to the services provided by the Lebanese state, or, to be more precise, to the benefits and aid the state should have provided for this population and did not (Zisser 2009: 159). With the build-up of this social infrastructure, the movement contributed to undermining the position of the Lebanese government. By the end of the 1980s the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah grew in popularity as a force combining opposition to Israeli occupation with a wider Shi’a Islamist ideology implacably opposed to Israel’s existence and to the West (Sper 2009: 204).
Hezbollah’s advance to the international boundary in southern Lebanon made it even more useful to its Iranian and Syrian patrons as a deterrent force in case of threats from Israel or the United States. It seemed to have it within its power to take over Lebanon—or at least those parts of the country inhabited by Shi’a—and to establish an Islamic order there on the Iranian model (Harris 2009: 71). As a result of the Iranian-Syrian agreement after the Ta’if Accord ended the Lebanese war, Hezbollah was the only militia to be excluded from handing over its weapons under the pretext that it was a “resistance movement” fighting Israeli occupation rather than a militia (Badran 2009: 47). This was a big mistake as it induces fragility.
Since the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 and more so after the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, the fate of Hezbollah’s armed status (which has grown massively and developed doctrinally, ironically, after the Israeli withdrawal) is the central issue in Lebanon today (Badran 2009: 47). Hezbollah had presented itself as the “defender of Lebanon” but proved to be its ruination since it brought so much destruction down upon the heads of its people (Zisser 2009: 166). After the 2006 war Hezbollah had difficulty maintaining the ambiguity about its identity (Zisser 2009: 166). In particular, the contrasts and contradictions between the organization’s Lebanese identity and its loyalty to Iran, on the one hand, and its Islamic-revolutionary identity with its commitments to Iran, on the other, were exposed (Zisser 2009: 173).
Hezbollah had tried to bridge or obscure these troublesome conflicting elements over the years (Zisser 2009: 173). Yet in the moment of truth it became clear that it was not prepared to renounce its partially hidden agenda—that is, its loyalty to Iran and the ideas of radical Islam and jihad (Zisser 2009: 173). Hezbollah was now perceived more and more as a Shi’a organization serving the interests of Iran, as well as being an organization sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of Lebanese politics (Zisser 2009: 166). It dragged Lebanon into a bloody battle with Israel, whose price was paid, first and foremost, by the Shi’a of Lebanon but also by many other Lebanese from other ethnic communities (Zisser 2009: 173).
It seems that the organization, inspired and helped by Iran, its ally and patron, is more committed than ever to continue the long and unremitting struggle it began when it was first established in the early 1980s, with the ultimate aim of taking power in Lebanon (Zisser 2009: 174). The possibility that Hezbollah might succeed in its mission has become more realistic, thanks to the demographic processes taking place in Lebanon. Hezbollah is therefore a major destabilizing factor (Zisser 2009: 175). 5. Lebanon: a conflict-affected fragile state When Lebanon gained independence in 1941, the country found itself at a loss without the French hierarchy to maintain internal control and order. A new class of political elites, with little experience, was forced to discover ways to deal with the diversity of Lebanese society. It was with this in mind that the National Pact of 1943 was crafted.
The Pact was based on the census of 1932, and sought to address divisions among the Lebanese, but in the end, it would only serve to deepen them. In the years after the Arab-Israeli War, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict landed on Lebanon’s doorstep with the arrival of Palestinian commandos. Many Palestinian refugees, as well as militants, settled in camps in southern Lebanon, the legacy of which continues to influence Lebanese society. The migration of Shi’a to the capital, which was triggered by Israeli raids, heightened the already volatile mix of interests within the Lebanese political sphere. Ignored throughout the mandate years, the introduction of the confessional system saw the Shi’a fight for an equal voice alongside the Sunnis, Druze, and Maronites.
As Lebanese society became increasingly divided, individual sectarian groups began to arm themselves militarily through their own militia organizations. Today, these militias still play a key role within the Lebanese security sphere. Ultimately, the Palestinian presence within Lebanon acted as a trigger to the outbreak of civil war among all Lebanese factions. Although Palestinian militants were the original cause of the war, it was sectarian interest and division that sustained the conflict well into the following decade. The ceasefire agreement reached by Syria and the PLO in 1976 sealed Syrian dominance within Lebanon and has had a lasting impact on the country well into the early 2000s.
Nonetheless, the agreement did little to improve sectarian division and militia violence on the ground. The decades following the 1982 Israeli War continued to be marred by sectarian conflict and an international tug of war for Lebanon. Tensions along the Lebanese-Israeli border have continued well into the present day, in light of suspicions that Hezbollah is rearming for any future conflict. Ultimately, the greatest consequence of the summer war can be understood in terms of power within Lebanon. Indeed, the summer 2006 war marked the advent of power for Hezbollah, both within Lebanon and throughout the region. Considering it is a non-state actor, and that Lebanese President Fouad Siniora was in power, Hezbollah acted with state authority.
This conflict reopened old wounds within Lebanese society, seeing as Hezbollah feels vindicated by the 2006 conflict and now seeks full recognition of its power. Moreover, state fragility is further deepened in a context where conflict has led to the intervention of external actors, each of whom have chosen sides in a dispute whose political and strategic consequences extend well beyond Lebanon. The current dynamics of fragile state security in Lebanon are not being dictated by Lebanese interests, but rather by the broader external policy aims of foreign parties such as Syria, Israel, and Iran. This situation is particularly problematic for the prospects of long-term and lasting stability within Lebanon.
Although sectarian politics have been an influential reality since Lebanon became a fully independent state in 1941, they have taken on a new shape in an environment defined by the post 9/11 context and by three main evolutions, namely the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri, the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian military forces, and Hezbollah’s rise to power in Lebanon. Conclusion The central question throughout this paper has been whether Lebanon is a fragile state or not. The precarious political order of Lebanon has illustrated the distinctiveness of the country. Although colonial rule is not unique to the Lebanon, its colonial past, combined with the evolution of politics, economics, and society in the region, as well as the role played by external actors, molds a very specific set of circumstances vis-a-vis state security that translates into an expression of fragile state security very specific to the region. The Lebanese State has always been weak.
Politicians have generally sought to serve interests of their constituencies instead of the national interest. This factor has its roots in the National Pact that limited the authority of the state to maximize the autonomy of sectarian groups. As a result, Lebanese citizens feel loyalty towards their community instead of towards the country. Lebanon’s political system erodes the authority of the state by fuelling clientelism. Foreign protection of or influence on each community further undermines this authority. Moreover, Lebanon’s political system makes the state vulnerable to any stifled sense of frustration or injustice or dispossession felt by any community. Consequently, patronage networks swiftly re-emerged.
In all, Lebanon’s political system is based upon the principle that the State should interfere in society as little as possible. The resulting weakness of state institutions has made Lebanon vulnerable to infringements of its domestic, interdependence and sovereignty. The rise of Hezbollah has made this clear. In section 1, fragile states were defined as states that are failing, or at risk of failing, with respect to authority, comprehensive basic service provision, or legitimacy. In conclusion, in this sense, Lebanon “passed” on all three domains. Lebanon fails to protect its citizens as there is significant organized political violence; civil war’s.
Also there is periodic political or communal violence causing deaths and destruction. Although the authority of the state is being undermined, it does not go as far as to say that the state authority (at present) does not extend to a significant proportion of the country. Hezbollah made sure to illustrate the inadequate delivery of services by the state. Also, in Lebanon the question of legitimacy is raised, inherent in being a multi-communal state. “Lebanon, from all observable indicators, embodies the phenomenon of schism in the political and cultural realms (…) it is a society without foundation, fragile, divided, disjointed and torn” (Dr.
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