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Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict

Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict Cover

ISBN13: 9780393062182
ISBN10: 039306218x
All Product Details

 

Review-A-Day

"The basic premise of Mirror is that Americans can best understand the Arab world by viewing it through the lens of recent Lebanese history. 'By examining the Lebanese experience,' Mackey writes. 'I intend to lead the reader into the Arab world to glimpse its complexities, frustrations and virtues.' This is where the ship begins to sink. Although recent Lebanese history can surely be used to illustrate certain trends and themes in the Arab world, viewing the entire region through this tiny and idiosyncratic country is simplistic to the point of distortion. A more skilled writer or a more learned scholar might find a way to thread 250 million people and 14 centuries of history through the eye of such a tiny needle, but Mackey is neither. The result is a mirror broken into pieces, a kaleidoscope refracting only slivers of truth." Michael Lukas, San Francisco Chronicle (read the entire San Francisco Chronicle review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

How the recent history of Lebanon provides insight into the many trials currently facing the larger Arab community.

It is crucial to the interests of the West to grasp the complexities of the Arab world. In this clear, concise volume, Sandra Mackey provides a unique view of this tortured and tortuous region through the lens of Lebanon.

A small, fractured country at the gateway of the Arab east, Lebanon signals the challenges that the Arab world poses to itself and to the West. As Mackey vividly demonstrates, the Lebanese have experienced every issue currently roiling the Middle East: borders contrived by others, a weak state housing weak institutions, a Palestinian presence, civil war, resistance to societal and political change, Sunni/Shia sectarianism, occupation, militant Islam as a political ideology, conflict over the common identity essential to turning a fragile state into a viable nation, a troubled democratic tradition, and war perpetrated by forces inside and outside its borders. Lessons learned from these conflicts will ease understanding and resolution elsewhere.

Book News Annotation:

For Mackey (a frequent writer on the Arab issues for American newspapers), her portrait of Lebanon serves as a case study for nonspecialist readers on how to think about the Arab world for three reasons: "Lebanon shares many of the characteristics found in all Arab societies and states; the Lebanese have run the gamut of national experience, from the conflicts of family and group to civil war to near destruction at the hands of domestic and foreign forces, to the practice of politics through Islam in its Shia form; and Lebanon is the most transparent of all Arab states." Her description of Lebanese social and political development spans from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which divided the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire, through Israel's failed bid to destroy Hezbollah in 2006. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

How the recent history of Lebanon provides insight into the many trials currently facing the larger Arab community.

Synopsis:

It is crucial to the interests of the West to grasp the complexities of the Arab world. In this clear, concise volume, Sandra Mackey provides a unique view of this tortured and tortuous region through the lens of Lebanon. A small, fractured country at the gateway of the Arab east, Lebanon signals the challenges that the Arab world poses to itself and to the West. As Mackey vividly demonstrates, the Lebanese have experienced every issue currently roiling the Middle East: borders contrived by others, a weak state housing weak institutions, a Palestinian presence, civil war, resistance to societal and political change, Sunni/Shia sectarianism, occupation, militant Islam as a political ideology, conflict over the common identity essential to turning a fragile state into a viable nation, a troubled democratic tradition, and war perpetrated by forces inside and outside its borders. Lessons learned from these conflicts will ease understanding and resolution elsewhere.

Synopsis:

The security of the West is threatened by escalating turmoil rising out of the Arab states is Lebanon, a small, tortured country poised uneasily between East and West. Improbably, this most unique of Arab states has much to teach about the Arab world. Like many Arab little sense of common identity and no strong central government.

The tumultuous history of Lebanon illuminates not only the challenges that Arabs pose to themselves but also the fear and hostility that arise in response to perceived threats from the West. Awareness and understanding circumstances and pressures are the first steps toward resolution, cooperation, and solidity on all sides.

About the Author

Sandra Mackey is a veteran journalist who has written many books on the Middle East, including The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein, The Saudis, and The Iranians. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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CultureWars, September 2, 2008 (view all comments by CultureWars)
Some of Mackey’s observations are downright ridiculous. Consider: ‘It is the Bedouin who was the original Arab and it is the Bedouin who remains the true Arab’. Similar pronouncements are spread throughout the book. Although the language is less guarded than with other Western writers, it echoes the thoughts of those who employ a quasi-anthropological approach to the study of the Arab world and the rest of the ‘developing’ world. Rather than seeing the problems of those countries as a result of their immediate circumstances and in particular their relationship to modernity, many writers go searching for answers in the depths of history. It has become almost obligatory for every book about Middle Eastern politics to recount tales from the early years of Islam and conclude they have an immediate presence in the mind of modern-day Arabs.

Mackey adheres closely to that script. In the better written parts of the book she comes close to understanding the predicaments of the Arab world, but somehow fails to capitalise on those insights: ‘Even defined in terms of Arab culture, modernisation challenges Arab societies because it requires them to surrender their various forms of tribalism to the common identity required by the nation… In this failure to find a common identity, which can be achieved only through altering the patterns of the past, the Lebanese serve as a mirror of the Arabs’.

To a certain extent, the history of the Lebanese civil world could be seen in part and particularly in the early stages as the conflict between the politics of change and common aspirations against the enshrined confessional system and the hegemony of sectarian groups over political life. Several political parties involved in the conflict had managed to recruit members from across the religious divides and had an explicit aim in destroying the confessional system. Although this project ultimately failed, it represented for a brief moment the possibilities of progressive politics that transcend religious and ethnic divides.

The past behaviour of competing groups can only be characterised as political juvenility, constantly seeking outside intervention and mediation. What is quite apparent is that identity politics has come to the fore, while real politics recedes further back. In that, Lebanon is not so much the ‘mirror of the Arab world’ but multiculturalism taken to its ‘illogical’ end.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393062182
Subtitle:
Lebanon in Conflict
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Author:
Mackey, Sandra
Subject:
Middle East - General
Subject:
Palestinian arabs
Subject:
Religion and state
Subject:
Middle East
Subject:
Shåi°ah -- Lebanon.
Subject:
Lebanon Politics and government.
Subject:
World History-Middle East
Publication Date:
20080317
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

» History and Social Science » Middle East » Lebanon
» History and Social Science » World History » Middle East

Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 320 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393062182 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "The basic premise of Mirror is that Americans can best understand the Arab world by viewing it through the lens of recent Lebanese history. 'By examining the Lebanese experience,' Mackey writes. 'I intend to lead the reader into the Arab world to glimpse its complexities, frustrations and virtues.' This is where the ship begins to sink. Although recent Lebanese history can surely be used to illustrate certain trends and themes in the Arab world, viewing the entire region through this tiny and idiosyncratic country is simplistic to the point of distortion. A more skilled writer or a more learned scholar might find a way to thread 250 million people and 14 centuries of history through the eye of such a tiny needle, but Mackey is neither. The result is a mirror broken into pieces, a kaleidoscope refracting only slivers of truth." (read the entire San Francisco Chronicle review)
"Synopsis" by , How the recent history of Lebanon provides insight into the many trials currently facing the larger Arab community.
"Synopsis" by , It is crucial to the interests of the West to grasp the complexities of the Arab world. In this clear, concise volume, Sandra Mackey provides a unique view of this tortured and tortuous region through the lens of Lebanon. A small, fractured country at the gateway of the Arab east, Lebanon signals the challenges that the Arab world poses to itself and to the West. As Mackey vividly demonstrates, the Lebanese have experienced every issue currently roiling the Middle East: borders contrived by others, a weak state housing weak institutions, a Palestinian presence, civil war, resistance to societal and political change, Sunni/Shia sectarianism, occupation, militant Islam as a political ideology, conflict over the common identity essential to turning a fragile state into a viable nation, a troubled democratic tradition, and war perpetrated by forces inside and outside its borders. Lessons learned from these conflicts will ease understanding and resolution elsewhere.
"Synopsis" by , The security of the West is threatened by escalating turmoil rising out of the Arab states is Lebanon, a small, tortured country poised uneasily between East and West. Improbably, this most unique of Arab states has much to teach about the Arab world. Like many Arab little sense of common identity and no strong central government.

The tumultuous history of Lebanon illuminates not only the challenges that Arabs pose to themselves but also the fear and hostility that arise in response to perceived threats from the West. Awareness and understanding circumstances and pressures are the first steps toward resolution, cooperation, and solidity on all sides.

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