The Lebanese Civil War began in the spring of 1975 and ended in 1990. The war left thousands of people dead, destroyed properties, displaced a lot of people, and crippled the Lebanese economy. Most the civil war was fought between two religious groups or political factions.
The war revolved around some of the issues that dominated the regional politics in the Middle East at the end of the 20th century which include Cold War completion, Arab nationalism, war competition, the Palestine-Israel conflict, the fight between Maronite and Palestinian forces (mainly from the Palestine liberation organization), unpredictable shifting of alliances.
The factors that triggered The Lebanese civil war can be summarized into four which include the social context within Lebanon i.e. the unbalanced sectarian system, the part played by the Palestine refugees and the PLO, and a lot of external actors namely Israel, Syrian, and the United States.
However, it is the mutual interactions of these factors that lead to bloodshed and hatred. Just as a little spark near a tanker of petrol can cause an inferno, these factors sparked a light of hatred and caused chaos.
THE UNBALANCED SECTARIAN SYSTEM
Lebanon consists of diverse religious and ethnic organizations that coexist and play a major role in her sociopolitical system. This system developed sectarian identification instead of national identification. The sectarian structures led to internal conflicts among the diverse group. Lebanon practices a confessional political system which is a social system that practices giving political power to the religious community. The religious group developed into sociopolitical communities with distinct administrative and political functions.
The 1943 National pact of Lebanon which is an unwritten oral supplement to the Lebanese constitution of 1926 did not specifically state the confessional assignment of the political position. The pact was based on the 1932 census which stated the Christian to Muslim ratio to be 52 and 48 respectively. Therefore, Christians are the majority of the total population.
The Christians are entitled to more representation in the political system i.e. the president will be a Maronite Christian, the commander in chief of the armed forces will be Maronite, the prime minister will be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of the chamber will be a Shiite Muslim, the minister for defence will be an orthodox Christian, the minister for the interior will be a Druze. The Christians, as a result, have control of the most significant political, security, and military positions.
Greater Lebanon was created under the French mandate in 1920 which brought an increase to the ratio of Muslims in the new state thereby ending the old order of the Maronite community (Christian community). As a result, the Maronites develops resentment toward the incorporation of Muslims in their Christian dominated state.
The war was fought because the Christians will maintain their political power despite the shift in population which did not favour them and Muslims will get rid of the unbalanced political structure due to the unaddressed population shift.
THE PALESTINE REFUGEES
Civil war broke out between the Palestinian militia and Christian in southern Beirut (capital of Lebanon) in 1975. The high rate of unemployment and political-military mobilization in both communities are the leading factors that caused the struggle. The war began as the military attacks against Israeli posted in south Lebanon and graduated to inter-communal conflict with Palestinian opposing Lebanese Christians.
Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to eliminate the Palestinian resistance there and settle up a friendly Christian regime. Between 1986 and 1988, Lebanon experienced a “camp war” as the displaced Lebanese Shiite group in Beirut attacked the Palestinian camp to eliminate their remaining political and military power. Hostility from the Lebanese population, Shiite attack, and Israel invasion lead to their loss of military and political power which made them flee from their camps.
Conflicts over identity by non-Palestinian in Chatila influenced the context of the intra-communal crisis which occasionally degenerate into conflicts. Palestinian refugee’s interaction with other communities created what some residents refer to as “cultural corruption”
Eternal actors played a part in the civil war which was a series of more or less related conflicts. First, the Palestinians launched a possibly paid-for attack against Israel; then the Shiite Hezbollah. In both cases, external power used the fighting parties against Israel.
The invasion of Israel in 1982 is also a contributing factor to the war. The June 1982 invasion was meant to destroy the PLO’s military strength and restore the Christian regime in Lebanon. Lebanon became a training ground for terrorists all over the world. The PLO recruited sympathizers from hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees camps across the country.
Like Israel, the Syrians gained a foothold in Lebanon. The Syrians intervened first on the side of Christians, then on the side of PLO. In 1981, the Palestinian refugees, with the support of Syrians, launched a huge artillery barrage on northern Israel. The attack would have led to war but at the last minute America mediation.
After the war, the Syrians moved troops back into Lebanon and regained their influence over the Beirut government. A new force emerged in the south which was influenced by the 1979 Khomeini revolution in Iran and formed the Hezbollah militia. Israel maintained their position at the northern border which led to years of war with Hezbollah.
The second Hezbollah war started in 2006 when the Hezbollah group crossed the Israeli border and killed Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. The Israeli government launched an air in response, targeting their hideout in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s conflict system relies on the complex relationship between her social and political community. Hezbollah is on the verge of an internal and external conflict structure in Lebanon. The sophisticated ammunition of Hezbollah makes the group strong compared to the large national army with little or no arms. The sophisticated ammunition of Hezbollah puts the security of the state at stake given the fact that a group is more or less a terrorist group.