November 21, 2013
By nearly all measures, Lebanon should have long ago buckled under the weight of Syria’s civil war.
The fighting next door has swamped Lebanon with refugees and has stoked its Sunni-Shiite tensions, as each community in Lebanon lines up in support of its brethren on the rival sides in Syria. That has fueled predictions that deeply divided Lebanon is only one nudge away from collapsing into full-blown sectarian bloodletting of its own.
Yet, 2 ½ years into Syria’s war, Lebanon is still standing — barely. One reason is Lebanon’s memory of its own traumatizing 15-year civil war. Another, related reason is the internal balance of fear that underpins the country’s ramshackle political system: Each faction and sect is restraining its followers, well aware that the slightest mistake could bring the house down around everyone.