"The Looting of Lebanon: The Civil Wars Reconsidered."
This paper offers a revisionist account of the end of the Lebanese civil wars of 1975-90. To do so it draws upon and challenges the “New Wars” paradigm, which developed to explain post cold war conflicts in Eastern Europe and Africa. This approach makes three primary claims. First, these conflicts exhibit unprecedented ethno-religious violence and the deliberate targeting of civilians. Second, that capital accumulation rivals victory on the battlefield as the goal of protracted violence. Finally, it claims that war economies emerge on the ashes of the normal economy, and, marked by criminality, predation and warlordism, they so inhabit politico-economic spaces outside of “normal” trajectories of development and globalization.
In this paper I engage the second and third claim through a multi-sited political economy of the civil wars anchored by three years of fieldwork in Beirut. In tracing connections between the Lebanese “militia economy” and its imagined exterior, I demonstrate the degree to which the civil wars were not about sectarian rivalries, but about capturing the commanding heights of a globalizing Lebanese political economy: the banking sector. Moreover, I argue, it was the integration of the war economy within larger regional and global financial processes and networks – not its exclusion from them – that helps us to understand why the Lebanese wars ended when they did, and how post-war Lebanon was integrated within both regional and global processes of neoliberalization.