Middle Eastern nation states came into existence not as a result of naturally-evolving and unique historical, social, or political processes reaching a nexus of cohesion, but rather, they emerged as a manifestation of the fragility of colonial power in the region (Zweiri a.o. 2008: 4). The history of statehood in the Middle East and its establishment by colonial powers has ensured that this remains a fragile and unstable region (Zweiri a.o. 2008: 4). After the collapse of the Ottoman empire the state structure of Lebanon, for example, was instituted to ensure the protection and local hegemony of the Christian Maronites, who were backed by the French in the 1930s and 1940s (Zweiri a.o. 2008: 4). The consequences of this structuring can still be felt today (Zweiri a.o. 2008: 4). Furthermore, external actors continue to provide support – either through foreign aid or their policies – to certain select actors within fragile state systems. Such a process of “choosing sides” only causes further instability and exacerbates state fragility (Zweiri a.o. 2008: 4). In the contemporary turbulent world of globalization and ever-increasing interdependence across individuals, groups, international organizations and nation-states, the existence of weak/fragile/failed states is more and more seen as a significant concern (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 2). The media, states, and international organizations have seen such states as threats to order and stability in the international system (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 2). Failed states are seen as being associated with a range of problems: economic, social, political, and military (Iqbal & Starr 2007: 3). And they are seen as having a wide range of negative consequences for their own people, their neighbors, their regions, and the global community; “the chief reason why the world should worry about state failure is that it is contagious” (The Economist, cited in Iqbal & Starr 2007: 3). Is Lebanon a fragile state? Since her independence Lebanon has struggled in keeping up the difficult balance: a small country in a conflict zone, Christians versus Muslims, the civil war, the negative influence of big neighbor Syria, the role of the Palestinians and the refugee problem, the tension with Israel, the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005 which put the political order of the country in great danger, the emergence of Muslim radicalism and extremism and the rise of Hezbollah, the crumbling of the Christian community and the role of the Lebanese diasporas. To answer this question the political order of Lebanon will be examined from a geo-political and internal perspective. The book Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis, is taken as starting point for this paper. It is one of the books from the ‘Middle East in Focus series’, edited by Barry Rubin. The Middle East has become simultaneously the world’s most controversial, crisis-ridden, and yet least-understood region. Taking new perspectives on the area that has undergone the most dramatic changes, the Middle East in Focus series seeks to bring the best, most accurate expertise to bear for understanding the area’s countries, issues, and problems. The resulting books are designed to be balanced, accurate, and comprehensive compendiums of both facts and analysis presented clearly for both experts and the general reader. To answer the central question, the concept of a ‘fragile state’ will first be scrutinized. In the following section the demographics of Lebanon will be reflected upon. The third section outlines the Lebanese state and political system. The fourth section takes into consideration the external influences on the country. The final section depicts the effects of these various factors on the fragility of the Lebanese political system.
1. Conceptualization and determinants of a fragile state
The Failed States Index 2010 ranks Lebanon on the 34th place. With a score of 90.9/120 the country is...
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