Analysis of international affairs and current crises
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
The New Yorker
After Twin Explosions, an “Apocalypse” in Lebanon
By Robin Wright
Pity Lebanon. The charming Mediterranean nation, smaller than Connecticut, survived a fifteen-year civil war, from 1975 to 1990, that became a battlefield for the entire Middle East—sucking in arms, armies, and issues from around the world. It has endured bombings, hostage-takings, and mass killings by dozens of militias, including the powerful P.L.O. and Hezbollah, both of which used Lebanese soil in order to fight Israel. It has navigated the labyrinthine politics of eighteen religious sects, each officially recognized and allocated proportionate shares of government jobs. It picked up the pieces after the assassinations of Presidents and Prime Ministers, Cabinet members, and Members of Parliament and occupations by Syrian and Israeli troops. It’s been rocked by a series of national protests—from the Cedar Revolution, in 2005, that ousted one government, to the October, 2019, uprising that forced out another Prime Minister. For decades, Lebanon has defied the odds. During an interview on his old Comedy Central show, Stephen Colbert asked me which of the dozen wars that I’ve covered was my favorite. No question: Lebanon and its strife, for my wonderment of that country’s creative, resilient people and its physical beauty as well as the epic political stakes for the country, the region, and the world.
No longer. Lebanon is now on the verge of collapse. It was already a failing state before twin explosions ripped through Beirut’s scenic port, shortly after rush hour began, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The second blast set off a billowing mushroom cloud, reminiscent of a nuclear bomb, and registered seismic waves equivalent to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. The explosion was heard as far away as Cyprus, an island more than a hundred and twenty miles to the northwest. The Lebanese government appealed to every ambulance in the country to head for Beirut. Read on...