Dagher provides a compelling analysis of confessional politics in Lebanon and the need for "political desectarianization," focusing her attention mostly on problems facing the country's Christians, who are emigrating in record numbers. Among all

Related Topics:

Dagher provides a compelling analysis of confessional politics in Lebanon and the need for "political desectarianization," focusing her attention mostly on problems facing the country's Christians, who are emigrating in record numbers. Among all sectarian communities, she shows, "religious and spiritual authorities have gained more political leverage" since the end of the war. Despite this "creeping confessionalization of public life," Dagher finds hope in the fact that Christians and Muslims are increasingly engaged in "common fights for democracy, public freedoms, and economic development."

But Bring Down the Walls makes the common mistake of overstating confessional divisions as the primary obstacle to political stability and prosperity. The author's claim that Christian disenchantment with Lebanon's post-war political system resulted from resentment of the fact that "the leadership of the country was in the hands of Muslim politicians" is questionable. She cites the boycott of the 1992 parliamentary elections by most Christians as evidence of this, but nearly all Christian leaders justified their boycott on different grounds—that the Syrian occupation precluded free and fair elections. Christian malaise stems not so much from the perception that Lebanese Muslims have too much power, but that the Syrians have too much power.

Dagher's overemphasis on political sectarianism a leads her to imply that its abolition will in itself solve the country's most pressing problems, which is plainly not the case. For example, she devotes a whole chapter to the rehabilitation of the Lebanese military which she regards as "a unique and pioneering" accomplishment. True, sectarian quotas have formally been abolished but qualifications still matter less than they should; high-ranking officers now get ahead on the basis but their allegiance to Damascus; thus did a close friend of the Asad family, Michel Sulayman became the army commander in 1998, jumping ahead of dozens of longer-serving and higher-ranking officers. Similarly, General Emile Lahud ascended to the presidency not because of his distinctly non-confessional approach to politics, but because he accepts the Syrian occupation. This type of desectarianization is one most Lebanese would prefer to do without.