Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict

Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict

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by Sandra Mackey
     
 

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How the recent history of Lebanon provides insight into the many trials currently facing the larger Arab community.

It is crucial to the interests of the West to grasp the complexities of the Arab world. In this clear, concise volume, Sandra Mackey provides a unique view of this tortured and tortuous region through the lens of Lebanon.

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Overview

How the recent history of Lebanon provides insight into the many trials currently facing the larger Arab community.

It is crucial to the interests of the West to grasp the complexities of the Arab world. In this clear, concise volume, Sandra Mackey provides a unique view of this tortured and tortuous region through the lens of Lebanon.

A small, fractured country at the gateway of the Arab east, Lebanon signals the challenges that the Arab world poses to itself and to the West. As Mackey vividly demonstrates, the Lebanese have experienced every issue currently roiling the Middle East: borders contrived by others, a weak state housing weak institutions, a Palestinian presence, civil war, resistance to societal and political change, Sunni/Shia sectarianism, occupation, militant Islam as a political ideology, conflict over the common identity essential to turning a fragile state into a viable nation, a troubled democratic tradition, and war perpetrated by forces inside and outside its borders. Lessons learned from these conflicts will ease understanding and resolution elsewhere.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael J. Totten
Mirror of the Arab World is really two books in one. Mackey's narrative deftly weaves Lebanon's tragic history with that of the Arab Middle East as a whole…Mackey performs the tricky balancing act of demonstrating that Lebanon is unique yet somehow still reflective of all Arab countries. "The world of the Arabs is no longer a mysterious, romanticized region lying somewhere between Europe and Asia," she writes. "It is here. It is now. And it is difficult." Lebanon is especially difficult. Beirut has long been considered a gateway between the West and the East. It is also a doorway to understanding, because to know Lebanon is to know the Arabs. Mirror of the Arab World is an expert depiction of both.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Absorbing history emphasizing Lebanon's disastrous post-World War II years. France and Britain created Lebanon after World War I for purely selfish reasons, explains veteran Middle East journalist Mackey (The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein, 2002, etc.). She adds that no change in boundaries would have produced a country whose people shared national feeling and democratic institutions, because these were absent throughout the Middle East. At independence in 1946, an informal agreement divided the Lebanese parliament and bureaucracy among Maronite and Greek Orthodox Christians and Sunni, Shia and Druze Muslims. This feeble government exerted little control over the leaders of these sects, who gained influence by granting favors, pulling strings and quashing ambitious opponents. In return they expected absolute loyalty and permanent high office; none paid attention to the public good. Ironically, this corrupt system led to a permissive, laissez-faire economy whose initial prosperity in the 1950s led observers to call Lebanon the Switzerland of the Middle East. This fantasy evaporated in 1958 when a Maronite boss, Camille Chamoun, violated the status quo by arranging his reelection as president. Although trivial compared with later catastrophes, the year-long civil war that ensued claimed several thousand lives before Chamoun resigned. Calm returned, but government weakness persisted, aggravated by the 1970s influx of Palestinians. Their guerrilla raids infuriated Israel, whose repeated retaliations ravaged the nation. A 1975 clash between Palestinian and Maronite militia escalated into another civil war, this one lasting 15 years. It was aggravated by Israeli incursions,the arrival of U.S. forces (which quickly left in 1983 after a suicide bomber killed 240 Marines), and a Syrian invasion followed by an occupation that ended only in 2005. The 1989 cease-fire left the government unreformed and the nation prostrate, bankrupt and even more divided along sectarian lines. Mackey interrupts this relentlessly depressing account with histories of other Arab nations, stressing parallels with Lebanon's experience. A vivid picture of the crushing difficulties faced by every Arab government. Agent: Gail Ross/Gail Ross Literary Agency
Vali Nasr
“Incisive, timely, and eminently readable. A wonderful guide to the complexity of the brewing conflict in Lebanon and what it will mean for the Middle East.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393068245
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/17/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
696 KB

What People are saying about this

Vali Nasr
Incisive, timely, and eminently readable. A wonderful guide to the complexity of the brewing conflict in Lebanon and what it will mean for the Middle East.

Meet the Author

Sandra Mackey is a veteran journalist who has written many books on the Middle East, including The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein, The Saudis, and The Iranians. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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After reading A Mirror of the Arab World the Middle East conflict is a bit more understandable. Reading just one book is not enough, but it's a lot better than going with the sound bites from the media or statements from the concerned parties. Sandra Mackey has written a number of books on the Middle East and this one was recommended to me. A few quotes from the first part of the book lay the foundation to understand the conflicts in Lebanon and in a larger sense the Arab world. *The definition of family in Arab culture is not nuclear or even extended. The concept of ahl (kin) means a first cousin is like a brother and a distant cousin is an integral part of the total family, regardless of gaps in wealth, education, and social status. This potent sense of family has cast societies into an amalgam of primordial allegiances governed by the most Arab of utterances: ¿My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the alien.¿ Pg 18. * In terms of the contemporary Arab world, the largest tribe in the metaphorical sense is housed in Islam. Within it there are sub tribes composed of the orthodox and the dissenters. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the sectarian split between the orthodox Sunnis and the dissenting Shia is the most poisonous divide among the Arabs from Iraq in the east to Lebanon in the west. Knowledge of the origins of each of these sects, their differing theologies, their attitudes toward authority, their differing definitions of the nation-state, and the their means of pursuing political power is essential to understanding the mounting tensions within Islam that are threatening to rip the world of the Arabs apart. Pg 20. Just getting a grasp on the importance of the family in the Arab world overlaid with the sectarian split between the Sunnis and the Shia helps get the Western reader (mind) better oriented to what's going on.