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Kings, Queens, Rooks and Pawns: Deciphering Lebanon's Political Chessboard

  • Bordenkircher, Eric
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
eScholarship - University of California
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This dissertation analyzes a fundamental and ubiquitous facet of Lebanese politics that has been relatively absent from scholarship -- the strategic interaction that occurs amongst and between domestic and regional/extra-regional actors. In Lebanon's complicated political landscape which individuals, political parties or countries are necessary for a political agreement, what makes these actors necessary for an agreement and how do they arrive at an agreement? To answer these questions and make sense of Lebanon's intricate political space, my work employs an innovative framework of analysis, an adaptation of George Tsebelis's veto players approach. Tsebelis's framework provides an ideal way to trace and interpret the agreement-making process because it allows one to incorporate domestic and international politics. The veto players framework is utilized to examine four instances of agreement in Lebanese history that incorporated external actors: 1) the transfer of the presidency from Camille Shamun to Fuad Shihab in 1958; 2) the Cairo Agreement of 1969; 3) the Taif Accord; and 4) the Doha Agreement in 2008.An extensive analysis of these cases reveals two sets of findings. In regards to Lebanon, I argue that Lebanese politics fluctuates between a 2 and 3- veto player system. The oscillating of actors is attributable to the degree, acquisition and retention of veto power of an actor. Additionally, the foundation of Lebanon's political stability has historically been understood as a modus vivendi between the Maronite Catholics and Sunni Muslims. As these cases have demonstrated, political agreement has never truly been between the leadership of the Maronites and the Sunnis. From a broader perspective I argue that the intra-confessional politics, not inter-confessional politics are critical for the arrival at an agreement. Furthermore, the international factor is crucial to the enhancement of a domestic actor's power, so much so that we find only two exceptions. These findings are not only significant for comprehending Lebanon, but can provide insight into the political dynamics of other weak/failed states.

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