Lebanon Mountains 2

Lebanon in the Civil War


Lebanon on the eve of the civil war

Lebanon, which had taken on a neutral role in the Middle East conflict until 1969, had, under pressure from the Arab League and after violent clashes between the Lebanese army and the underground fighters of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), on November 3, 1969 in Cairo the so-called Cairo Sign agreement with Arafat. It grants the Palestinian liberation organizations the right to set up armed units in the refugee camps. Lebanon was thus not only directly involved in the Middle East conflict; his monopoly of force was undermined.

With the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in September 1970 (Black September), it was able to fall back on strong foundations in the refugee camps and develop into a “state within the state” – a situation that has not changed to this day, because, as already mentioned, to this day, thirteen years after the end of the civil war, Lebanese security forces cannot and are not allowed to enter the Palestinian refugee camps.

The PLO could not only fall back on its own military structures, but rather large parts of the Muslim population fraternized with the Palestinians. This aroused great fears among the country’s Christians, because an alliance between the powerful Muslim Palestinians and the Muslim Lebanese would shift the denominational balance in favor of the Muslims, which would amount to disempowering Christians. So there was a split within Lebanese society, which since the founding of the state had existed in confessional fragments in a peaceful coexistence without ever having grown together into a nation. With the outbreak of the fighting in 1975, the latent structural weakness of the state became visible, which was caused by the reprivatisation of violence, and caused the collapse of the Lebanese state. De jure, Lebanon continued to exist as a sovereign state, but it lacked any operational sovereignty that is necessary to enforce its authority.

According to politicsezine, the formal parliamentary-democratic basic order of the Lebanese republic lacked any anchoring in a society that only knows solidarity within religious groups and not between them, which explains the fraternization of the Muslims with the Palestinians, who endangered the existence of the state through their military superiority.

Lebanon Mountains 2

Lebanon in the civil war

With the outbreak of the civil war, which lasted until 1990, the religious groups, each with their own guerrilla organizations, were able to expand their positions of power; external actors were given the opportunity to expand their sphere of influence. Rationally, these were the reasons for the outbreak of war in the weak institutionalization of the rule of law and the lack of democratic control, on the basis of which conflicts could have been resolved peacefully in an institutional framework. However, the lines of conflict ran along the borders of the religious community, so that disputes about offices, power and resources mutated into conflicts about truths of an ideological nature. Collective, mostly negative and hurting community experiences had a mobilizing effect. With the outbreak of fighting, people’s need for a secure identity could increasingly only be satisfied by their own group. At the same time became the impotence of the state always more visible. The intensity and brutality of the fighting also led to a positive exaggeration of the we-group, to which the outgroups were perceived all the more negatively, so that the arguments were conducted with a high level of emotionality. The Lebanese state had lost its main function, the protection of its citizens, and it no longer had a monopoly on the use of force. Its institutions, especially security apparatus, also split along denominational fault lines. Whole barracks deserted according to the denomination of their members, including weapons, to the respective guerrilla troops. The escalation dynamic of the civil war developed from the fact that the opponents of deliberate escalations, i.e. the systematic advancement of the conflict to a higher level of intensity, promised an integrating effect within their own group, especially as the violence itself became an economic one for a significant part of the Lebanese Has become a resource. The financial strength of the militias made them the main employer of Lebanon. Meanwhile, the government of official Lebanon got the role of neutral observer. The state could not oppose the militias militarily or financially, so that the already delegitimized institutions of the country could not stop the parallel established institutions and security apparatus of the denominations and the related fragmentation of the country.