Denial runs through Lebanon.

Notes from different corners of the world.
July 14 2006 12:10 PM

Denial Runs Through Lebanon

It's time for Beirutis to face up to reality.

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Those Lebanese closer to the reality of things—the materialists, not the ideologues—bemoan the fate of the tourist season. Maybe it is a psychological defense mechanism to reckon loss in terms of tourist dollars, not lives; maybe it is too painful and terrifying to think beyond the vacant hotel rooms and the empty restaurants. And it is true that after a string of assassinations last year kept Gulf Arabs away and the Lebanese diaspora from returning, this summer promised to be especially lucrative. Things were looking up for Lebanon—except for the small matter of an Islamist militia based on a border facing the most powerful military in the region. All the tourists were willing to overlook the unpleasantness, just as the Lebanese were, but now the tourists are gone, and the Lebanese are left to themselves to figure out what happened, what to do about it, and whether or not they are capable of it.

Lee Smith is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.