Skidmore College

Lebanon: Caught in the Crossfire by Jillian Seigel @Skidmore College

International relations between countries come with very high stakes. The geopolitical climate of the Middle East has perpetuated conflict to spread throughout the world but has also receive the brunt of other conflicts inflicted by other countries. The country I wrote my case study on was Lebanon who’s democratic backsliding is mostly as a result of the relationship the country has with Syria but further as a result of international interventions. The Syrian War has had a huge impact on the democratic conditions in Lebanon. Historically, Syria has had military control and its internal struggles have had a direct impact on Lebanon which have led to a series of consequences. The geographic location of Lebanon has proved challenging, specifically, Syria because it has caused internal political parties to continue to divide along pro-Syria and anti-Syria lines.

With the Syrian Civil War starting in 2011, Lebanon has been the largest recipient of refugees, which, they do not have any official capacity to host them. The prolonged conflict has continued to affect the stability and political control of Lebanon. Democratic backsliding is in direct response to the circumstances in Lebanon, much of which, is creating larger issues between Lebanese residents and the refugees. Further disruption to the internal structure of Lebanon has perpetuated the decline in democratization in Lebanon. Ellen Lust and David Walder, of USAID, claim that democratic backsliding “…entails a deterioration of qualities associated with democratic governance within any regime. It is a decline in the quality of democracy…”

The use of missiles have long been used to show superiority and dominance in different regional territories but also around the world. The United States and Russia have been in constant battle in developing the most efficient and powerful arms to use at threats on any country that might pose to challenge their superiority. President Donald Trump has continued to provoke the thought that he is not afraid to use missiles and weapons against other nations that threaten his government and the United States. With tensions rising all over the world, countries have been developing the strongest of weapons as threats and to establish dominance as a world power. The Middle East has been in recent discussion of being targeted because of its geopolitical notions that have direct influences on other countries around the world. Whenever there is an attack on civilians, prominent world leaders are forced to address and/or condone the actions of the perpetrator.

The United States has been at odds with Syria for some time. However, Russia one of America’s top competitors has a working relationship with Syria; they each have embassies in the other’s country. The geopolitical relationship is certainly strategic for Russia because it allows them to have a foothold in one of the most contentious areas of the world. Vox published an article that addressed the possibility of a U.S.-Russian War over Syria. On April 7, Assad, President of Syria, was suspected of a chemical attack on civilians killing more than 40 people.

This past week, President Trump tweeted, “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal Who kills his people and enjoys it!” This was in response to a Russian envoy telling Lebanon that any missiles fired at Syria will be shot down; indicating that they will have no voice in the matter. The problem with all of this is that Lebanon has been a weak force in the Middle East because of its close proximity to Syria. Any attack on Syria would escalate the Syrian War which would have impending effects on Lebanon. While, it is important to keep in mind that President Trump desperately wants to rekindle a relationship between Russia and the United States.

Lebanon is clearly caught in the crossfire of all of this international conflict. Russia and U.S. conflict has circled around for decades. Yet, because of Lebanon’s location in the Middle East, there is little the country can do and so the deterioration of democracy will continue until there is peace in the Middle East or other international actors stop using the countries as pawns. This recent event is nothing new to the world; there are constant attacks on civilians, other countries, and the aftermaths that need dealing with. How leaders react to these events have been in recent discussion because it not only affects their role in the world, but can have significant consequences on other countries in the world. It is important to establish power in the international world, however, responding to violence with threats and more violence might not always be the right response. Though this current event was not specifically in the country of Lebanon, the implications and aftermath will continue to play a role in Lebanon’s geopolitical conflicts which inevitably will continue democratic backsliding. We cannot discuss the democratic backsliding in Lebanon without addressing what is happening in the region but furthermore what is happening around the world between other leading nations. 

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