Friday, May 29, 2009

The Lebanese Army: A National Institution in a Divided Society

Oren Barak, author of The Lebanese Army, recently wrote about his new book for Middle East Strategy at Harvard. MESH "invites selected authors to offer original first-person statements on their new books—why and how they wrote them, and what impact they hope and expect to achieve." Oren's piece begins:

The puzzle that my book grapples with might be familiar to those who have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a movie that came out in 1975, the same year that Lebanon’s civil war broke out:

Cart Master: Bring out yer dead.

[A customer puts a body on the cart]

Customer: Here’s one.

Cart Master: That’ll be ninepence.

Dead Person: I’m not dead.

Cart Master: What?

Customer: Nothing. There’s your ninepence.

Dead Person: I’m not dead.

Cart Master: ‘Ere, he says he’s not dead.

Customer: Yes he is.

Dead Person: I’m not.

Cart Master: He isn’t.

Customer: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.

Dead Person: I’m getting better.

Customer: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment…

The “Dead Person” is Lebanon and the puzzle is how did this state, which so many observers had referred to as a “non-state state” (or a “failed state,” to use a more up-to-date term), manage to endure despite the long and devastating conflict (1975–90) and be resuscitated in its aftermath. The book suggests that the Lebanese Army has played a significant role in Lebanon’s survival.

Read the full piece here. Order the book here.