Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle

Article excerpt

The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle. By Michael Young. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010. 254 pp. $26.

Young, a Lebanese-American journalist, turns his memories of assassinated friends and humbled dreams into an emotional tale of Lebanon's political meanderings since 2005.

The good news, Young argues, is that at least part of the puzzle of Lebanon is a form of liberalism at its core. Whereas the region's autocrats are easy to read, Lebanon thrashes around with a "paradoxical" liberalism, in which "illiberal institutions tend to cancel each other out in the shadow of a sectarian system that makes the religious communities and sects more powerful than the state [which is] ... the main barrier to personal freedom in the Middle East." Lebanese politics may be the haunt of swindlers and stomach churning deals with the devil, but there is an invisible hand at work here, one that works against the totalitarian machinations of all confessions jockeying for power.

But in this book about Lebanon, the bad news overpowers the good news. Lebanon is a small state in a shady neighborhood where whatever invisible hand may exist is no match for the foreign hand. Young describes a dazed Lebanon in the fresh ruins of "Pax Syriana" where Syrian president Bashar al-Assad can shamelessly threaten to "break Lebanon" to the U.N. secretary general.1

Young finds Hezbollah's role within the Lebanese army growing and worrisome. In the weeks after Rafiq Hariri's assassination in 2005, the army was given the delicate task of quelling protests but not too vigorously. …

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