And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that I am only half-way through the book Beware of Small States by David Hirst. The sub-title of the book, published in 2010 by Nation Books, is “Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East.”
I was going to wait until I had finished the book before making comments, but the weekend TV panel shows and newspapers were full of discussion about the area. The president’s people seemed to indicate they were surprised at how rapidly the Islamic State grew, while opponents were claiming they should have known a year ago.
A year ago? Hurst says “the seeds of the Islamic state were planted in Lebanon in 1983!”
So I repeat a question I have often asked here before. Don’t current decision makers ever read history? And if they did, or do, how could something like that be missed?
In a nation which will appoint an ambassador to a country he has never studied, has never visited, and who cannot speak the local language, it probably should not be surprising that many appointed and elected officials have never studied history after high school, and have no qualifications for the jobs they hold other than that they are members of the “right” political party.
Hurst names chapters after the years they cover. It starts in 1860.1 am up to 2000, the tenth of 15 chapters. There is an epilogue, “Obaman Peace, Or Seventh War?” I was tempted to read ahead, but won’t, just as I would not read the final chapter of a mystery novel first.
The author is not enamored of Israel. He lays at least half of the blame on Zionism. The United States does not escape criticism either.
Lebanon, one of the “small” states, is described as a garden without a fence. Since formation it has been the scene of shifting alliances, proving the Muslim adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Another Muslim proverb he cites is: After Saturday, Sunday. Saturday being the Jewish Sabbath and Sunday the Christian day of religious observance. In other words, after they eliminate the Jews, Christians are next.
Many Muslims trace the present desire for an Islamic homeland to the Holocaust of World War II, which tried but failed to eliminate the Jews, and led to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Muslims say that created a foreign nation in the heart of what they consider the historic home of the Arabs, Palestine itself. It should be noted that the Jews trace their claim to the land to the Bible.
But Beirut, in Lebanon, is also cited as the “great city of the Levant.” The president uses the word Levant instead of the more common Syria, ISIL vs. ISIS.
The author also goes into some detail describing why Muslims of the area support such organizations as Hizbullah (his spelling) despite the fact that it grew out of “a scuffle of camels in the desert” in 1982. The reference is to Muslim sects fighting each other. He says the move to nationhood is a “movement of the deprived” and credits Hizbullah’s use of “welfare and social justice” to achieve its goals.
Whatever, it seems a Sisyphean task to sort all that out, from inside or outside.

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