Lebanon’s Model of Moderation

US President Barack Obama’s efforts to prevent the advance of the Islamic State may be grabbing headlines, but another force has emerged as an unlikely rampart against the Islamic caliphate: Lebanese pluralism. Indeed, Lebanon can provide a template for managing cultural diversity and rejecting radicalism in the Middle East.

BEIRUT – Global debate in recent weeks has centered on US President Barack Obama’s initiative to prevent the advance of the Islamic State. But another force has emerged as an unlikely rampart against the barbaric and delusional leaders of the self-proclaimed caliphate: Lebanese pluralism. Indeed, despite the shortcomings of its political system, Lebanon can provide a template for managing cultural diversity and rejecting radicalism in an unstable and fragmented setting.

Last month, the Lebanese army showed considerable fortitude as it fought Islamic State militants in the village of Arsal, near the border with Syria. Though the army has sustained heavy losses – including two soldiers that were beheaded – it has managed to compel the militants, who were operating inside a Syrian refugee camp, largely to withdraw. And it continues to fight when the need arises. International aid is now flowing toward the army, with Saudi Arabia alone pledging more than $3 billion.

But the international community should move beyond military aid to support Lebanon’s real strengths: its moderate, pluralist, and vibrant society. After all, that is what has enabled the country, against all odds, to avoid all-out conflict, making it a beacon – however faint – of hope in a crisis-ravaged region.

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