Time was in the 1990s, even after 2000, that any country in danger of political chaos or “implosion” – a word I still instinctively loath, along with “epicentre” – was in danger of being “Lebanised”.
Djibouti would become “the Beirut of the Horn of Africa” and the Balkans, inevitably, subject to “Lebanonisation”. For a while, little civil wars – Tadjikistan, Ukraine – might be “Balkanised”. But the mythical Switzerland of the Middle East, the Beirut of paradise and hell, always crept back. For a country that did – for a decade and a half after its civil war officially ended – imitate the Phoenix, this was very unfair.
But now Beirut is back on the international chart of madness, political irrationality, corruption and violence. And the comparison this time round? With America, of course.The poor old Lebanese don’t deserve this. US policy towards their tiny country and Washington’s grovelling support for Israel’s regular invasions have done much to produce Lebanon’s tragedy.
Yet sure enough, the Donald Trump presidency and its possibly uproarious aftermath – permanent Trumpism while the US military decides whether to defend or attack the White House in November – has brought Beirut back onto the cliché-board.