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Lebanon - a state trapped in conflict

Do a conflict mapping, analyzing conflict sources and dynamics. Also analyze what conflict management approaches (if any) were employed and how they impacted the conflict process.

©2009 Studienarbeit 13 Seiten


As the analysis of the most recent conflict in Lebanon has shown, there have been successful efforts to solve two of the three major conflict issues by means of a mediation approach. However, several spoiling factors complicate a peaceful solution, and in particular the long-term aim of creating a durable and ultimate peace in the troubled country. However, additional approaches within the peacemaking as well as peacebuilding frameworks help to stabilize the country and can set examples for a stable and promising future. The upcoming elections in June 2009 will show, if Lebanon will carry on its way towards a sustainable and peaceful future in national unity.


Research Question: The goal of this assignment is for students to integrate course materials into real-world situations as they assume the role of conflict management specialist. I would like to see student engagement with course topics − conflict dynamics, considerations/constraints, conflict management approaches − that affect the top, mid-range, and grassroots levels of interaction during peacemaking, transition from war, and peacebuilding. Review the materials discussed in the module. Taking these materials as your guide, answer one of the questions below. (Each question has three parts that must be addressed.)

B. Choose a conflict that occurred within the last 50 years. (1) Do a conflict mapping, analyzing conflict sources and dynamics. Also analyze what conflict management approaches (if any) were employed and how they impacted the conflict process. Then (2) discuss three considerations and constraints that affected the conflict (spoilers, child soldiers, human trafficking, warlords, private security contractors, spillover effects, ethnicity) and how these factors impacted efforts at conflict management. Finally (3) discuss four additional conflict management strategies or tactics that might have proven effective in peacemaking, transitions from war, or peacebuilding. Discuss why these strategies or tactics would be appropriate, and how they could have facilitated conflict management.

Lebanon – a state trapped in conflict

This tiny state in the Middle East, being located amidst a plethora of regional hotspots, pops up over and again in our news. The most recent significant occurrences in terms of conflict were the 2006 war against Israel and lately, the events in May 2008, which nearly led to another civil war. On this latest conflict I am going to concentrate. In the following, I will map its origin and dynamics and then present undertaken conflict management approaches to de-escalate it. Afterwards, I will illustrate several constraints regarding settlement ambitions that have been affecting the country and conflict management efforts up to now. Last but not least, I am going to discuss other conflict management strategies that could prove effective in the Lebanese peacemaking and peacebuilding process. All this will be done by means of an analysis along the concepts, theories and aspects of conflict management literature. But first of all, I am going to outline the course of events that provoked an almost civil war.

Mapping the Lebanese conflict

Conflict managers need to know background, structure and dynamics of a conflict1, because such knowledge considerably increases the chances of developing appropriate conflict management strategies and solutions. Also, through such a conflict analysis process the fine-tuning of corresponding measures is facilitated.

Last May, the ongoing strained political situation in Lebanon nearly provoked a further civil war, which for sure would have involved severe implications for the neighbouring states as well – and hence for general stability in the crisis ridden region of the Middle East.

Lebanon is a small but complex country2. The political situation has been marked by an 18-month deadlock, which was triggered in November 2006 by the resignation of all Shiite3 ministers from the coalition Cabinet. In what Rabil identifies as a “battle of wills”, serious differences over governmental power-sharing and over a new electoral law were the main cause for the subsequent standstill (Rabil 2008). In addition, the regular term of president Lahoud came to an end – without a successor being nominated as a result of the Shiite withdrawal. The consequence was a power vacuum that paralysed the whole country for the coming 1.5 years.

Finally in May 2008 this political logjam came to a head when a Hezbollah organized demonstration got out of hand, resulting in deadly clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The reason for running wild is rooted in Prime Minister Siniora’s move to shut down a recently detected private telecommunications network being operated by Hezbollah as well as an illegal CCTV system, installed at Beirut International Airport in order to oversee incoming planes and persons. The situation was about to escalate when adherents of both sides started to block the airport and important border crossings, and contemporaneously extended the clashes beyond Beirut to locations in the mountains (see Butters 2008, BpB 2008).

Mediation as conflict management approach

The urgency of the escalating situation demanded immediate action. In this specific case, a conflict management approach was applied in a relatively early stage in order to turn away the danger of another civil war with all its negative consequences that might affect the whole region. A solution to end the political logjam had to be found, juggling all the conflicting interests of the different parties in a preferably balanced manner.

Within the context of peacemaking mediation was the means of choice, because parties were caught in a “hurting stalemate” (Pruitt and Carnevale 1993, p. 178), which in turn raised the disputants’ receptivity. Otherwise, no real progress was to be achieved without risking considerable costs in terms of human lives and a possible destabilization of the region. Generally, mediation is applied when a conflict is highly complex and intense, when the parties are fractioned and their will to find peaceful solutions isn’t serious (see Bercovitch and Jackson 2001, p. 59). Or to conclude in Terris’ and Maoz’ words – the more versatile the conflict, the rather mediation is going to occur (2005, p. 577). It is considered “a special case of (bilateral) negotiation in which a third-party facilitator is brought to enable the parties to do what they could not do when left alone” (Zartman 2002, p. 78).

It was the Arab League committee of foreign ministers that convinced the feuding parties to work towards an acceptable agreement, aiming at the regulation of Lebanon’s political future. The negotiations were held under the auspices of Qatari mediators in Doha, where high-ranking representatives from the quarrelling parties should bring forward their bygone fruitless talks (see BpB 2008). The pressure to finally reach an agreement had positive effects on the negotiation dynamics. As Hampson and Hart point out, such a ‘hurting’ crisis like this one “enhances perceptions of mutual vulnerability or joint losses while reinforcing the perceptions that potential costs to all parties can only be reduced or eliminated via cooperative measures and solutions” (1995, p.35).

The agreement was to be based on consensus-building, i.e. joint decisions being in the foreground as the best option concerning the issue of abidance (see Touval 1993, p. 361). Due to the absence of an overarching power in the international system, this way seemed to be most promising one when it comes to the prospect of adhering to a negotiated agreement by both sides.

In the end, the mediators successfully managed to build up trust and confidence among the rivalling factions, thus inducing a better future relationship. A consensus was reached regarding two major agenda points4: the formation of a new government including the issue of power-sharing5 (plus a veto-right for the opposition) as well as the implementation of electoral reforms6 with a reorganisation of the electoral districts (Now Lebanon 2008).

This specific conflict management method took its effects primarily on the top level of interactions, i.e. appeasing parts of Lebanon’s leading political elite by granting them new rights and prospects in governmental participation. However, in this case also mid-range and local community leaders demonstrated a wide support for the achieved measures (in this regard the reorganisation of electoral districts). And last but not least, representatives of all levels accepted the appointment of a neutral candidate for presidency – Michel Sleiman7.


Usually, a conflict situation gives rise to various types of spoiling factors and constraints that can take negative effects on conflict management efforts. Often, theses factors are intertwined with each other. In general, as Greenhill tellingly concludes, “all parties to a conflict are potential spoilers, but only the powerful ones tend to become manifest threats” (2006, p. 37). He refers to a category of three kinds – i.e. “limited”, “greedy” and “total spoilers”, that might threaten peace efforts to a different extent. While the weak type disposes of rather limited capacities and goals, being confined to a certain locality, its extreme form strives for total control (Greenhill 2006, p. 9).


At least with regard to potential, a powerful spoiler in this last category can be found: Hezbollah. To be more precisely, the ‘Party of God’ is indeed an important political party within the Lebanese system, enjoying a great deal of political authority. At the same time, it is the only party that after the Lebanese civil war from 1975-1990 has kept its military wing – the so called Islamic Resistance. And this arm impressively demonstrated in May what can happen when governmental decisions are made that are not in line with the party’s goals. The result was that Hezbollah turned its weapons against its own people to get its way (see Butters 2008). No one of the latter dared to prevent the party’s Shiite militiamen, who are backed by Syria and Iran and who are supposed to be better equipped than the official security forces, from its campaign.

Likewise, it was Hezbollah that spoiled Cabinet work for the past 18 months through the withdrawal of its Shiite ministers. Resumption could only be achieved by granting the party its demanded veto right during the Qatari mediation (“blocking minority”, Naharnet 2008). With this right the party is now enabled to avert all important decisions and resolutions, and thus to paralyse again governmental work and the general peace process in the worst case (SZ 2008).

Last but not least, the issue of weapons has not been solved yet, except for promising not to turn them against the own people again (Naharnet 2008). No one dares to touch the controversial topic. When it comes to disarmament and integration of the militia into the state Hezbollah blocks any effort. So, in the end the question arises how stable this negotiated settlement de facto is and if it will last in the future, what no one really knows for sure. The party and its military wing have awesomely demonstrated that they dispose of the capabilities to form a “state within a state” (Butters 2008) and to undermine the implementation of governmental decisions in a state, which is earmarked by weak and insufficiently equipped institutions.


1 Maulden points at various aspects, which could be considered in a conflict analysis (2009a, p. 5):
– Sources of the conflict
– Parties involved in the conflict
– Issues in contention
– Tactics used by all parties
– Changes in tactics, issues, and/or parties over time
– Enlargement or expansion of issues and/or parties over time
– Roles that conflict parties or conflict interveners have assumed
– Outcomes of the conflict or of previous interventions

2 The political system is based on a thorough sectarianism, which is embedded in the constitution. 18 confessions are officially registered. Posts in public administration and governmental institutions are allocated according to sectarian quotas following a complicated key. Political decisions can only be taken, when the constitutional confessional representation in the cabinet is given. Otherwise the system becomes easily blocked (Rabil 2008).

3 The Lebanese government includes ministers from the elected majority and its minority opposition. In both of these larger blocks coalitions of different (confessional) parties are aligned. In the majority coalition one can find among others the following parties: Lebanese Forces (Christian), Phalange (Christian), Future Movement (Sunni), Progressive Socialist Party (Druze). In the opposition: Free Patriotic Movement (Christian), Hezbollah (Shiite), Amal (Shiite), Lebanese Democratic Party (Druze).

4 For the third point concerning Hezbollah’s weapons no immediate solution could be achieved, so it had to be postponed.

5 based on a ministerial formula of 16-11-3, i.e. 16 ministers for the majority, 11 for the opposition and 3 neutral (named by the new president)

6 in particular the reorganization of electoral districts in Beirut on the basis of the 1960 accord

7 The new government went into effect in July.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
494 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Freie Universität Berlin – Center for Global Politics
2011 (Oktober)
security Sicherheit Libanon Lebanon conflict management Konfliktmanagement conflict Konflikt conflict mapping ethnicity spoilers spillover effects conflict management strategies peacemaking peacebuilding

Titel: Lebanon - a state trapped in conflict