February 14, 2007


Dispatch From Beirut: Forget about Shiites and Sunnis. Lebanon's deepest fault line is between rival Christian groups (Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Feb. 14, 2007, Slate)

Khoury is a Maronite Christian. The men facing him across the barricades last month were also Maronite Christians. The current political standoff has split their community apart--and however inscrutable the internecine feuds may seem, they could prove to be the flashpoint for a broader conflict.

The situation is particularly ominous because today's main Christian antagonists--Gen. Michel Aoun, a former army commander, and Samir Geagea, the leader of a militia-turned-political-party called the Lebanese Forces--have a bitter history of confrontation. In the final years of the 1975-90 civil wars, Geagea's Lebanese Forces and the last remnants of the Aoun-led army massacred each other in the mountains above Beirut in some of the bloodiest battles Lebanon had seen. For most of the subsequent 15 years of Syrian control, both were absent from the political scene. Geagea was thrown in jail. Aoun went into exile in France. Their followers lived, as one Aounist put it, "in a gloom, a decline, without a true leader to represent or fight for us." But soon after the "cedar revolution" that drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon two years ago, Aoun and Geagea came crashing back.

It was not long before Aoun and Geagea had resumed their hostile poses. The Lebanese Forces became the key Christian player in the new Sunni-dominated, pro-Western government--known as the "March 14" government, after the massive anti-Syrian protests that followed former Prime Minster Rafik Hariri's assassination two years ago--while Aoun threw the weight of his Free Patriotic Movement (backed at the time by two-thirds of Lebanon's Christians) with Shiite Hezbollah. In December, when Hezbollah took to the streets in an effort to force early elections, Aoun's partisans--Aldo Khoury among them--joined the occupation. And when Khoury and his camp-mates seized the traffic circle last month, it was Geagea's men who came to bust them up. Now, explained one prominent political observer, "the Lebanese Forces desperately want something to happen so that Geagea can show that he is the muscle of the government. Aoun might not understand how serious the situation is, but on some level he also doesn't mind going back to the 1980s."

To each Muslim state its own Maronite minority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 14, 2007 12:00 AM

You're gonna get yourself hopelessly lost if you try to wade into Lebanese politics & history, oj. Decades ago the Maronites wanted to break Lebanon into pieces for the same reasons you do today. So you should probably lay off them a bit (not that I'm saying these clan leaders are anything but reprehensible people)...

Posted by: b at February 14, 2007 2:23 PM

Yes, that's the solution.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2007 6:22 PM

Years ago I read that the optimum number for a successful clan was about 50 people. Above that number, there are too many differing opinions to resolve peacefully. So using your premise that if one thinks one is a nation, then one is a nation, do you believe that sovereignty will be assigned each time a new splinter group of 50 forms and asks for statehood, including all the privileges entailed like admission into the U.N., NATO, NAFTA, loans from the World Bank and what not.

Posted by: erp at February 15, 2007 10:42 AM