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Christian Decline and Models of Lebanon

Mordechai Nisan
Policy Paper No. 83, 1999


The struggle of the Lebanese Christians, especially the Maronites among them, is a long historical drama of struggle against the forces of Islam and Arabism. After the outbreak of the war in Lebanon in 1975, the embattled Christians suffered a loss of power and numbers that culminated in Syrian invasion and occupation of much of the country. The fate of Lebanon and the Christians of the Middle East has been in a precarious and deteriorating condition ever since.

This policy paper examines the character of Lebanon according to four political models. One is the dhimmi paradigm whereby the subjugated Christians, no less in this era of powerful Islamic resurgence, face Muslim rule and the veritable Islamization of Lebanon which once served as a native homeland of Oriental Christianity. A second model, yet related to the first, posits Syrian occupation as the fundamental framework of Lebanese life leading to the Syrianization of the country's security, political, economic, and educational domains. A third model for Lebanon considers the Israeli connection which evolved into an intimate national relationship and a tight military bond, however lapsing to some degree since the 1980s. And lastly, we examine the feasibility of a Christian-led Lebanese national struggle against Syrian hegemonic rule, that would mount a military and political resistance movement from within Lebanon and from abroad. The base of active operations would be southern Lebanon with the Southern Lebanese Army serving as the spearhead of an offensive strategy against Islamic and Syrian forces.

Two conditions in particular can make a Free Lebanon a true political possibility. One is the instability which may strike at a post-Assad regime in Damascus, and the second, a renewed Israeli commitment to support a Lebanese Christian national struggle. A viable and successful southern Lebanese resistance can also provide the foundation for Israel's military withdrawal as a prudent policy option.

Ultimately, only the free Lebanese can liberate themselves and no outside power can, or should, do the job for them.

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