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Independent Lebanon. The Jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean. Prosperity of Beirut based on upheavals in Arab world in the 1950s Laissez-faire economic system International banking center Trade restrictions removed Financial and commercial center Politically liberal

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The jewel of the eastern mediterranean
The Jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean

  • Prosperity of Beirut based on upheavals in Arab world in the 1950s

  • Laissez-faire economic system

    • International banking center

    • Trade restrictions removed

    • Financial and commercial center

  • Politically liberal

    • Home for political exiles

    • Haven of free expression

    • Center of intellectual exchange and political discussion

    • “Playground” in the Middle East

Sectarian harmony
Sectarian harmony?

  • Sectarian pluralism “worked” in Beirut

  • Confessional politics – system based on a balance of sectarian rivalries

  • Arab state, but could not be merged with another Arab state  ambiguous position towards pan-Arabism (<-> Nasser)

  • Communal differences neutralized, not solved

  • Family/religious ties stronger than national ties

Patron client system
Patron-client system

  • Politics dominated by prominent families

  • Za’im; “feudal lord dressed in tailored European suit”

    – primary responsibility to provide for his clients  enforced regional/sectarian interests

    • Gave rise to sectarian based blocs instead of ideological parties

    • Examples: Kataib/Phalange and the Progressive Socialist Party

Sunni discontent
Sunni discontent

  • Fragmented Sunni Muslim organizations

  • Many attracted to Nasser’s Pan-Arabism

Role of the president
Role of the president

  • National Pact of 1943: President had to be a Maronite Christian

  • The Constitution of 1926 gave the president strong powers (relative to parliament)

  • Six-year terms – challenged by two first presidents

  • Al-Khuri 1943-1952

  • Chamoun 1952-1958

Troubles in the 50s
Troubles in the ’50s

  • Cold War rivalry

  • Rise of Nasser

  • Muslim demands for reform

  • Big question: Pan-Arabism or closer ties to the West?

  • Chamoun decided not to join the Baghdad Pact (as an Arab state) but emphasized close friendship with the West

  • Suez Crisis: Chamoun kept diplomatic ties w/GB and France  Nasser annoyed

Summer of 1958
Summer of 1958

  • Chamoun wanted to stay in power  unacceptable to Muslims  full-scale rebellion/civil war

  • General FuadShihab refused to send in the army to quell the revolt

  • Coup d’etat in Iraq  Chamoun requested US assistance to avoid same fate

    • 15.000 US Marines landed in Lebanon the next day!

    • US intent on helping the friendly regime in Lebanon

  • Chamoun stepped down  FuadShihab president  return to normalcy


  • Program of political and social reform

  • Goal: Modernization of the state

    • More power to the central government

    • Basic welfare system

    • Public work projects; roads, electricity, water supply

  • More Muslims in top administrative positions  a stake in the country

  • Did not end sectarian politics

  • Break-up of UAR eased tension over Pan-Arabism

  • Muslim businessmen skeptical to Nasser’s “Arab socialism”




The gap between rich and poor was not reduced

Larger state  larger bureaucracy

Fairer distribution of positions enforced sectarian system

Sunnis and Christians remained dominant in bureaucracy

Role of state more prominent  complaints increased about power distribution

  • Arab relations improved without affecting Lebanese independence

  • State redistribution of wealth

  • Poorer areas of the country developed

  • More fair distribution of posts among disadvantaged communities

No changes
No changes?

  • Shihab relied on the old notables for his government despite pledge to reduce their importance

  • Notable dominance:

    • 1947-1972: 1/3 of all parliamentary seats split between 26 families

    • 1960: 1/4 of MPs elected inherited their seats

    • Ministerial positions filled with familiar leaders

No support for the system
No support for the system

  • Presidency became more powerful under Shihab

  • Relied on presidential office (Sarkis) and the Deuxieme Bureau (army intelligence dept.) to keep control

  • Army unchanged

  • No strong political party developed by Shihab; relied on Rashid al-Karame to muster parliamentary support

     Limited powerbase for the president; his successor relied on Deuxieme Bureau and Prime Ministers’ parliamentary coalitions