Diversity Is Strength! It`s Also…Lebanonization

With violence and chaos descending
upon Lebanon once again, it`s worth recalling what first
transformed this one-time

"Switzerland of the Middle East"
into a
synonym for horror:

Sound familiar?

Although many in our

ahistorical
punditariat had declared that Iraq was
going to be

"the first Arab democracy",

Lebanon was a successful democracy beginning in 1943,
when it gained independence from France. It enjoyed a
free press, women`s suffrage (from 1953), and a booming
economy centered on banks, trade, and tourism.

And then it all came tumbling down.
A hellish civil war erupted in 1975 and flared on and
off into the early 1990s, with 100 different militias
pounding each other with artillery duels inside Beirut.

Although it`s hard now to remember,
during its three decades of stability and prosperity,
Beirut was known as the

"Paris of the Arab World".

Climatically and topographically, however, it`s more
like

Los Angeles,
which is at the same latitude. Both
cities enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters
and sunny summers moderated by ocean breezes. (The
forecasted high for today in Beirut is 85 degrees,
compared to 113 in Baghdad.) As in LA, the tourist
brochures claimed you could ski in the morning and surf
in the afternoon—although I`ve never actually met
anybody that energetic.

With a superb location at the east
end of the Mediterranean, Lebanon`s Christian Arabs were
Western-oriented, literate, and entrepreneurial.

Protestant missionaries from New England
founded the
American University of Beirut, the premiere university
in the Arab world, as

long ago as 1866
.

Not surprisingly, those Christian
Arabs who emigrated from Lebanon and Syria to America
before the

1924 reform
are among the best-assimilated immigrant
groups in America. Cut off from a constant influx of new
immigrants

after the 1920s
, the Christian Arabs contributed to
this country on an individual basis, without much
remaking America in their own image or inordinately
influencing America foreign policy.

The

list of famous Arab-Americans
kept updated by the
Lebanese Druze disk jockey

Casey Kasem
(the voice of "Shaggy" on
Scooby-Doo
) looks like a random selection of
prominent Americans with no obvious common denominators:
e.g., consumer advocate

Ralph Nader,
quarterback

Doug Flutie,
Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, Indy
500 winner Bobby Rahal,

surf guitarist Dick Dale
, the

Sununu
dynasty of New Hampshire, guitarist Frank
Zappa, heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, and so forth.

Under French
guidance, the Lebanese worked out an ingenious political
system. The goal of this "confessional gerrymander"
was to restrict all political rivalries to within each
ethnic group. The largest and most advanced group, the
Christians, always got the top political post, the
presidency. The Sunnis, who were second in numbers and
wealth, got the number two job, the prime ministership.
The rural Shi`ites were left with the speakership of the
chamber of deputies.

Okay, that`s
a little complicated to remember—even though it skips
the details, such as the divisions between the dominant
Maronites and the other Christians—but it`s not too hard
to keep straight.

Unfortunately, although we are increasingly involved in
that part of the world, we poor dumb naive Americans
still don`t have a clue just how Byzantine the sociology
and politics of the ancient Byzantine Empire remain.
Just when you`ve finally figured out the difference
between the Sunnis and Shi`ites, you discover that the
place is also stocked with a baffling array of
pseudo-Muslim crypto-religions. For example, there are
the arguably quasi-Christian

Alawites
who run the

Syrian
dictatorship; their allegedly

angel-worshiping
cousins, the dissimulating

Alevi
who make up somewhere from 10 to 30 percent of
Turkey; the

Lucifer-loving
Kurdish Yezidis of Iraq; and,
strangest of all, the

Donmeh
, secret followers of the Jewish false messiah

Shabbetai Zevi,
who comprise much of the

secular elite
of

modern Turkey
.

In Lebanon,
the local mystery sect is the

Druze
, who refuse to explain the nature of their
religion. No mutually satisfactory slice of the
political pie could be found for this fourth most
important ethnic group.

But
Lebanon`s “confessional gerrymander” worked
fairly well…for while. Of course, it failed to build
national parties that transcended ethnicity. But, then,
those are rare anywhere.

The more
serious problem: Lebanon`s demographics shifted. The
constitution was based on the 1932 census, when
Christians comprised

54 percent
of the population. Regrettably, but
predictably, the best educated ethnicity, the
Christians, had the lowest birthrate and were most
likely to emigrate. In contrast, the poor and backward
Shi`ites proliferated—and stayed put.

As the
demographics changed, the original distribution of power
among the groups became increasingly contentious. The
Shi`ites demanded a new census. The Christians, who
predominated in the cushiest government jobs and were
guaranteed half the seats in the legislature, resisted.

Then,
immigration became the straw that broke the fragile
Lebanese camel`s back.

David Lamb
, the Los Angeles Times
correspondent in the Middle East, wrote in his 1988 book


The Arabs
:

"Lebanon worked, however artificially, then because
one group, the Christians, were clearly in control,
lesser minorities were given freedom to maneuver as long
as they didn`t get too uppity and everyone who mattered
was making money. Tensions and hostilities festered only
beneath the surface. But in 1970 Lebanon`s delicate
balance was upset."

Palestinian
refugees had started arriving in 1948 and sped up after
the 1967 Six Day War. Then, in the

"Black September"

of 1970, King Hussein of Jordan turned on
Yassir Arafat`s Palestinian Liberation Organization and
booted them out of his country. They relocated to
Lebanon.

By 1973,
Palestinians made up one tenth of Lebanon`s population,
and were radicalizing. They forged alliances with the
other outsiders, the Druze. And PLO attacks on Israel
brought retribution raining down on Lebanon as a whole,
outraging the ruling Maronites.

On

April 13, 1975
, four

Christians
were killed in a drive-by shooting of a
church. Later that day, a Maronite Phalangist militia
massacred 27 Palestinians on a bus. The country
descended into

civil war
, polarizing along Christian-Muslim lines,
but with many strange alliances and rapid betrayals.

The history
of that conflict is insanely convoluted, so I won`t try
to trace its course, but just describe a few bizarre
lowlights. For example:

  • The
    Christians invited the Syrian Army into Lebanon,
    putting Syria and Israel on the same side, only to
    see the Syrians switch to backing the Muslims.

  • The
    Shi`ite masses,

    despising
    the

    PLO
    , initially cheered Ariel Sharon`s Israeli
    invasion in 1982, but later, under Hezbollah, became
    Israel`s implacable foe.

  • President Reagan sent in the U.S. military to
    evacuate the PLO to Tunisia, but we were sucked into
    a war with the Druze, of whom almost nobody in
    America had ever heard. The

    U.S.S. New Jersey
    battleship bombarded Druze
    mountain villages with 2700-pound shells from its

    16-inch guns.

  • After a
    suicide

    truck bomb killed 241 U.S. Marines,
    Reagan
    decided our being involved with all these mafias of
    Lebanese crazies was just as nuts as they were. So
    he got our troops out of Lebanon.

The chaos ground on for another
half dozen years, turning into a Mad Max struggle
between clan-based neighborhood gangs, until Syria
conquered most of the country in 1990.

In
early 2005, during the Beirut demonstrations against
Syrian occupation, there was much fatuous commentary in
America about the inevitable triumph of democracy. One

blogger
got a lot of publicity for a expounding the

flattering idea
that pro-American democracy must
triumph in Lebanon because all the

hot babes
go to the anti-Syrian demonstrations.
Babes attract TV cameras and television rules the world,
right?

This was particularly ironic because the weakness of the
Babe Theory in Lebanon was that those hot babes haven`t
been having enough babies. For generations, the stylish
Christian women have been losing the

Battle of the Cradle
to the Shi`ite women, who are
too covered up to have to worry about losing their

babealicious
figures. If there were real, one-person
one-vote democracy in Lebanon instead of the
"confessional gerrymander"
, the hot babes would be

wearing shapeless sacks
tomorrow.

But don`t worry about this tale of
what multiculturalism can inflict on a country.

Here in America, we`ve all been
told repeatedly that Diversity is Strength!

Yeah…and

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is
Strength
too.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]