January 27, 2007


Along Beirut's Line of Confrontation (Anthony Shadid, January 27, 2007, Washington Post)

During Lebanon's 15-year civil war, the Green Line divided Beirut into predominantly Christian and Muslim halves along a road that became a symbol as telling as it was intimidating. In time, in a war in which more than 100,000 people were killed, it was less a front line and more a no man's land, named, some say, for its unkempt weeds and bushes.

Little remains of the Green Line today, save the Barakat Building near the downtown, its stately columns and arches still honeycombed by the damage of war. Like much of Lebanon itself, the other scarred buildings along the road are sheathed in a thin facade of concrete, stone and glass.

These days, the front has shifted to the Old Airport Road, a mile-long stretch of which divides its residents by Muslim sect -- Sunni or Shiite. The emerging border evokes the old and the new of Lebanon's two-month-old crisis: civil war memories and the sectarian schism transforming Lebanon and the region around it.

The pretense that the Lebanon is a nation is belied by a de facto internal border.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2007 8:41 AM

"Good borders make good nations" — except in the southern United States.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 27, 2007 11:52 AM

Geez, you walked right into that one. America isn't a nation.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2007 3:12 PM

I know I'll be sorry, but I gotta ask -- why isn't the United States a nation?

Posted by: erp at January 27, 2007 5:26 PM

In Judd-speak, a nation is a polity based on ethnicity, as opposed to a universalist creed such as Shi'a Islam. Except in southern Lebanon. Nations are bad for this reason. Except when they're good, like in this post. Or when they're Mexico, without a northern border. I am sure the phase of the Moon figures in it as well, I just haven't worked out exactly how yet.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 27, 2007 5:52 PM

See, that's not hard.

Nations aren't good in themselves. They're modern political reality. As always, it is America that runs counter to that reality. That's why we have no borders.

The Shi'a of South Lebanon think of themselves as a people. The Sunni of North Lebanon think of them as an inferior people. Therefore there are two nations there.

You ought to read The Kite Runner. It'd ameliorate some of your ignorance about the Shi'a/Sunni divide.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2007 5:58 PM


To be American all you have to do is believe in our Founding credo. That's why we've been able to assimilate such a varied population so thoroughly and accept such high levels of newcomers so readily.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2007 6:30 PM

Agreed, but why aren't we a nation of assimilates?

Posted by: erp at January 28, 2007 8:57 AM

The law doesn't require it.

Posted by: Bartman at January 28, 2007 9:53 AM

Everyone assimilates to the one set of ideas.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2007 11:45 AM

Sorry, I don't have enough grey matter left to distinguish the difference. Let's just agree the U.S. is a nation of assimilates.

Posted by: erp at January 28, 2007 12:05 PM