"A vivid picture of the crushing difficulties faced by every Arab government."Kirkus Reviews
The security of the West is threatened by escalating turmoil rising out of the Arab states is Lebanon, a small, tortured country poised uneasily between East and West. Improbably, this most unique of Arab states has much to teach about the Arab world. Like many Arab little sense of common identity and no strong central government.
The tumultuous history of Lebanon illuminates not only the challenges that Arabs pose to themselves but also the fear and hostility that arise in response to perceived threats from the West. Awareness and understanding circumstances and pressures are the first steps toward resolution, cooperation, and solidity on all sides.
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About 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.
Table of Contents
Author's Note 3
Chapter 1 A Collection of Tribes 15
Chapter 2 The Hollow State 41
Chapter 3 The Palestinians: Victims and Villains 71
Chapter 4 Woe Be to the State 97
Chapter 5 Identity in Pursuit of a Nation 125
Chapter 6 The Rise of the Shia 157
Chapter 7 A Tale of Four Countries 183
Chapter 8 Islam as Politics 213
Selected Bibliography 275
What People are Saying About This
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mackey really packs a lot into such a short (266-page) book. It's history, popular history, but she writes like a journalist, imho. She's obviously been immersed in the region for a very long time. For readers looking for a summary of the 15-year civil war, here it is, complete with historical context going back to Phoenecia, the Ottoman Empire, betrayal of the Arabs by the French and British, the nonsensical geographical boundaries, impact of Palestinian influx and on and on.The chapter on Palestine was especially sharp--and who hasn't already read a lot about the plight of the Palestinians?Reading through the whole civil war is a haul all right. But once you get a grasp of all the different actors--Maronites, other Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, Druze, leftists, PLO, Hezbollah, Israelis ...well, you know they're going to be shifting alliances, so you can skip to 1989 and find ... the most influential figures in Lebanon--whether rich business families or leaders of religious factions--are still unwilling to give up the powers necessry to create the kind of institutions that constitute a modern state. Despite the veneer of modernity prior to 1975 (and since the the end of the war) this is still a tiny makeshift state run in a tribal or feudal fashion. Pretty depressing. And it would be hard enough for a state that didn't have Iran (funding Hezbollah), Palestine and Israel as neighbors.Where I think she fails is the final chapter, reflecting the book's title, in which she argues that Lebanon is a microcosm of the issues and conflicts elsewhere in the Arab world. OK, yes, in this tiny place (7/10 the size of Connecticut!), there's nearly every community and political strain (what about Wahhabis?) found in the Arab states, but in its heyday, it was run by business families, most of them probably Christian at that. It doesn't have the problems or advantages (see Jordan) of a royal family. It doesn't have oil. Does anywhere else have such different communities packed into such a small area, so close to the sea?Then there's the afterword, in which she brings in the extremist post 9/11 reactions in the US and the growing hostility of Islam in Europe. She probably has a lot to say about such matters, but she doesn't have enough space to say it. It feels tacked on. Skip it.
Sandra Mackey does an admirable job telling the history of Lebanon. The story focuses on the role that Lebanon has played in the confusing world of Middle East politics. This role is usually being the pawn of major world powers as well as regional ones.
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.