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The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 13, 2010
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Luminous ... a masterly portrait of the human condition in circumstances of unique stress.
Brett Stephens - The Wall Street Journal
[I]lluminating and knowledgeable ... [Young] is an expert guide to the complex and frequently deadly machinations of Lebanese politics.
Adam LeBor - The New York Times
[E]xtraordinary ... seamlessly interweaves history, political analysis and personal anecdote.
Rayyan al-Shawaf - The Toronto Globe and Mail
[E]asily ... the best book about Lebanon in a generation.
Michael Rubin - Commentary
[A] sober and lucid acclamation of those elements of Lebanese society that both constitute a liberal identity and are antithetical to it.
Elias Muhanna - The Nation
[A] deeply personal effort ... also the definitive book about contemporary Lebanon"
Lee Smith - The American Interest
[A] beautifully written, at times lyrical account of [Lebanon's] tumultuous recent history... [C]arries even more resonance today, as ... popular revolutions in the Arab world have brought down two authoritarian governments and may very well bring about the downfall of other[s] ...
James Kirchick - World Affairs Journal
About the Author
Michael Young was opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut,and is today a senior editor at the Carnegie Center in Beirut, as wellas editor of its blog Diwan. He is also a contributing editor at Reasonin the United States. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Young knows the history and knows the players and this gives him excellent insight into where the country is going since many of the civil war players are now players in this chapter of the country's life. The sectarianism, which many see as a hinderance to the eventual evolution of Lebanon into modernity, Young sees as a possible path toward that future.
Lebanon is the barometer of the entire region. Change Lebanon and change the region. Both sides know this, Iran and the US. Iran has been in the game much longer than has the US. Young touches on this and on the efforts of the US to catch up and to bring Lebanon more toward its natural Western orientation. For years known as the Western window into the East. Young tells us of a future Lebanon as an Eastern Window into the West. A place where the East ever fearful of the ability of the West to swallow them whole, can experience the West and find ways to accommodate their Eastern Ways to the Western culture. This is Lebanon's mission and Young writes it so well.
My grandparents came to the US from Lebanon over 120 years ago. Although I have never been to Lebanon (I have tried to go several times, unfortunately stopped by wars )
I am very proud and have been immersed in the Lebanese heritage, food and culture.
Reporting from Beirut, Scott Wilson and Daniel Williams wrote: "Suddenly [the Lebanese] were at the cutting edge of the Arab world's democratic spring."
But the Beirut Spring was short-lived, despite the Syrian withdrawal that April. On June 2, Kassir was assassinated and became the second victim, after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri whose murder, in February, proved to be the spark that started an uprising.
"The taboos were beginning to fall, but the Syrians and their sympathizers had not called it a day," wrote Michael Young in his book The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, which captures the rise and fall of the democracy frenzy in Lebanon between 2005 and 2009.
Young is the opinion page editor at Beirut's The Daily Star. He was born in the United States to an American father and a Lebanese mother. The father prematurely died when Young was seven, and the mother took the boy back to Lebanon where Michael was raised.
In The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, Young does not follow any particular chronological order, which adds to the book's allure. He opens with a story about his friendship with Kassir, an outspoken pro-democracy intellectual whose face later became the uprising's poster.
Young then sums up his understanding of Lebanon, until recently the only Arab country with an elected parliament and government. Young reasons - and rightly so - that unlike other Arab countries where one group muscled its way to power, Lebanon's diverse population of 18 ethno-religious groups resulted in a zero-sum game.
Lebanon's diversity was its weakness too. Because no group could dominate, the system lingered in paralysis. And while Lebanon's diversity allowed the growth of liberal thought, it also made the country an easy prey for its only neighbor Syria.
"The Syrians played a balancing game. They co-opted the older leaders, promoted new ones entirely dependent on Damascus... and hit out against the incorrigibles," Young argued.
In 2000, Syrian autocrat Hafez Assad died and his son Bashar succeeded him. Unlike his cunning father, who ruled Lebanon through his balancing game, Bashar Assad imposed his will through coercion, which he practiced both directly and through Lebanese army officers loyal to him. It was only a matter of time before the Lebanese establishment, created by the end of the civil war in 1990, revolted in the face of Assad and his Lebanese cronies.
In summer 2004, Assad twisted arms to force the extension of the term of his loyalist Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud, much to the explicit opposition of veteran politician Walid Jumblatt and implicit resistance of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In February 2005, Hariri was murdered.
Young argues that popular frustration resulted in the biggest rally in Lebanon's history. On March 14, 2005, more than one third of Lebanon's four million population took to Martyrs' Square. Lebanon's liberal intellectuals, and later politicians opposed to Syria, helped put a face and give a voice to that movement, which came to be known as March 14.
While the March 14 Movement proved instrumental for winning back Lebanon's independence from the Syrians, it also demonstrated the shortcomings of the Lebanese system unable to build on the 2005 success, as Lebanon remained fractured, thus allowing a Syrian comeback.
"We must cut a deal with Syria, those who went after Hariri won't leave Lebanon so easily," Jumblatt told Young in 2005.
But it would take Jumblatt and March 14 four years before they conceded to the Syrians, and Young skillfully records the events leading to the March 14 demise. These included a 33-day war that Hezbollah started with Israel in July 2006, followed by Hezbollah pulling out of government and instructing its supporters to rally for more than a year in downtown Beirut, shutting down businesses and obstructing government.
In 2007, Lebanon saw more bombs and assassinations, and in May 2008, Hezbollah fighters invaded Beirut and southern Mount Lebanon in a punitive raid that forced March 14 to concede.
Young informatively reports on the UN Security Council formation of a Special Tribunal on Lebanon, designed to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime of Hariri, Kassir and a dozen other journalists, politicians and security officers.
In 2009, even though March 14 defeated Hezbollah and its allies in parliamentary elections, the group remained powerful enough to bully its opponents and force the formation of a cabinet to its liking. Thus ended the democracy saga in the Middle East.