Redefining Lebanon's Place in the Middle East

On Middle East issues, Western countries tend to be concerned primarily with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and international terrorism, but while significant, there are other countries and conflicts that are also important for the stability and progress of the region, none more so than Lebanon.

Lebanon plays an important strategic role for several reasons. Historically, Lebanon has a history going back thousands of years, which includes years of wars and conflict. Despite the problems, however, the country has retained its richness in water, nature, and culture. Lebanon is not replete in oil like many other Middle Eastern nations, but its natural beauty and historical monuments have attracted scores of tourists every year.

Politically, Lebanon is a strategic country. It is one of the only countries in the Arab world that boasts liberties of expression and assembly. Like many of its neighbors, many minorities live in Lebanon, but unlike other nations, Lebanon respects their rights. Due to its variety of cultures and confessions, Lebanon is one of the only countries in this region that links Orientalism to Occidentalism, bridging Arab traditions with Western modern culture.

Unfortunately, its abundance of water and its long border with Israel have made this country a place of conflict. Moreover, internal conflicts abound. Although part of its cultural strength, Lebanon’s multi-confessional population has rendered it vulnerable to interference from external powers seeking to influence internal affairs. For decades, Lebanon has been a place of conflict between Muslim Shi’a and Sunnis, as well as Christians.

If the West better understood the nature of Lebanon’s internal disagreements, they could help redefine Lebanon’s role in the Middle East. This will require that the international community engage in more research and observation of the country's daily affairs to gain insight into the true situation.

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