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Lebanon, Levantine Calvary 1958-1990...


...from Pen and Sword


Title: Lebanon, Levantine Calvary 1958-1990

Author: Al J. Venter

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-52670-782-6

The Middle East has been a region that has seen violent unrest on a regular basis pretty much since the late 1940's.  As part of their Cold War series from Pen and Sword this one by author Al J. Venter tackles the topic of Lebanon, a small country roughly similar in size to Wales or if you like, just the US State of Connecticut.  A Civil War existed in Lebanon for roughly 17 years, from 1975 through to 1991 but the issues affecting the country are clearly even more widespread in the region and continue to influence events to this day.

The 128-page softcover book starts with a Timeline of significant events between April 1975 and agreements that brought some peace to the country in May 1991.  The  introduction that gives a useful insight into the varied complexities of the country is followed by another 9 chapters exploring the history of events over the years.  There are tribal/clan rivalries, religious differences and external influences not only from their immediate neighbours but also as a pawn in international power struggles between the super powers.  When you see the variety of these different interests it is little wonder that any government finds it difficult to maintain real control.

Chapter 1 kicks things off with the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956, when the pro-Western President of Lebanon wouldn't join in to condemn the invasion and as a result (with some encouragement from the Soviet Union) both Egypt and Syria joined attempts to overthrow the Lebanese government.  That leads on to The US Invasion of 1958 and their direct involvement.  Getting to Lebanon sees the story get to the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, largely between Muslim and Christian sects.  Lebanon's Woes continues with chapter 4 as the once beautiful city of Beirut is largely destroyed.

Religion again features in the next chapter, Lebanon's Islamic Revolution and then Israel's Border Wars. Amidst all their own internal problems, the arrival of Palestinians from outside their own borders and groups such as the PLO expelled from Jordan and using the south of Lebanon as a base from which to launch attacks against neighbouring Israel led to the IDF invasion to tackle their enemies head-on. Chapter 7 is Remez Revolution - from 1970 Onwards, when certain events changed the dynamics of things, such as the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut in October 1983 where 241 US Personnel were killed in October 1983 and kidnappings became another threat for many.  Next it tackles Israel's War at Sea and finally rounding things off with A Pawn in the Power Struggle.  Throughout the book the story is illustrated by archive photos, and in the centre of the book a section of colour images plus maps and artwork profiles.

Speaking personally I can remember the news stories of the time but knew little of the internal complexities of the events I saw reported.  Living in the UK I can genuinely say I never give a second thought about the religious beliefs of my neighbours and I have no wish to go to battle with inhabitants of our other nearby towns.  I remember being saddened  at the images of the destroyed buildings of Beirut in particular, images which we see repeated more recently in neighbouring Syria.  Understanding the issues and cultures at work in these warzones of the Middle East is vital if there is to be any hope of finding some sort of solution to their issues.  There is clearly no simple answer as demonstrated by ongoing problems in the region but I found this a very interesting read and enlightening on some of the complexities in Lebanon at least.  Well worth a read.


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