In the 1500s and 1600s the Lebanese rulers promoted religious
tolerance and a single Lebanese identity to unite the people. They also developed
better infrastructure along with a series of forts. These improvements worked to
a great degree as the people worked together under Fakhr ad-Din II's rule. The
country also built a large army with the goal of full independence from
Syria, something that took time to build and accomplish without threats
from Syria. In 1623 the Syrians attacked, but the Lebanese won the decisive battle,
giving Lebanon full control over its border, answering directly to the Ottoman rulers.
In 1697 the Shihab family came to power in Lebanon and converted
to Christianity. This family controlled the region until the 1800s. It was under
these rulers that the Ottomans from Damascus (in modern day Syria)
went to war with the city of Acre, a war that resulted in the death of thousands
of Christians. This led to wars based on religion as the Christians, Druze, and
Muslims all fought in the 1820s. The Christian leader at the time sought help so
allied with the Egyptian Pasha, Muhammad Ali, then sought
French assistance. These acts led to the defeat and increasing
poverty of the Druze and the expanding wealth and power of the Christians.
This new power balance only lasted about a decade when the Ottomans took the region
back over and thrust the region back into violence. This violence began as small
battles, but by 1860 had turned into full scale war. The Christians at this point
had outright demands to remove the Ottomans from power. They did this with
French backing, but then the Druze turned to France's enemy, the
British for backing and received it. These wars ended in Druze victory,
at which point the French stepped in, with Europe's backing to end the violence;
the Christians were confined to the region of Mt. Lebanon.
The rest of the 1800s were relatively stable and remained so until the Ottoman Empire
was overthrown by the "Young Turks" who sought a more liberal country
after World War I. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to the League of Nations
putting modern day Lebanon fully under French control. This
agreement also expanded Lebanon's territory at the expense of
Syria, creating some tension, but more importantly a new Lebanon, in which
Christianity was now the minority, a change from the past, when Christians made
up the majority.
During World War II, in 1943 Lebanon was granted independence.
This was done at this time, partially due to the fact that Syria
was importing weapons for Germany to fight the British
in Iraq and Lebanon threatened to do the same; granting them
independence prevented them from siding with Nazi Germany.
After WWII, Israel was formed and in 1948 the Arab-Israeli
war broke out. This led to a massive flooding of the country with Arab refuges,
many of whom remain in Lebanon to this day.
Through the 1950s the country fought instability, but was relatively calm on the
military front. This calm continued into the 1960s as politics stabilized. During
this time the country, most particularly Beirut, became a center of economics and
tourism as many of the oil-rich nations in the Middle East placed their money in
the stable Lebanese banks. However this ended in 1966 with
the collapse of one of the country's largest banks.
Times worsened in 1967 when another Arab-Israeli war broke
out and many more people settled in Lebanon, including Yasser
Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). From this point on many
attacks on Israel were launched from Lebanon, as the government either couldn't
control these people or simply chose not to. This led to counter-attacks by the
Israelis as they struck the Beirut airport. This led to the government finally stepping
in to end the violence, but only divided the people between Muslims and Christians
as many Muslims supported the actions of the Israeli invaders.
Tensions continued to rise as the people were divided on how to handle
Lebanon and its attackers until 1975 when civil war broke out. From this
point until 1990 civil war occurred as Muslims sought greater power and representation
in the government and people both domestically and abroad argued over the role of
the PLO. This essentially escalated everything as this group tended to divide the
country. The PLO eventually took a region in the south of the country, ruling it
like an independent country. When the Christian-led government took action against
them the Muslim population and other Arab countries fought the government, when
the government did nothing violence escalated, attacks by Israel rose, and the Christian
population sought an end to the PLO's dominance in the south.
The time period of the civil war led to treaty after treaty, but no real solution
as the people simply disagreed on what was an acceptable solution. In 1990 the country
came to an uneasy truce as the government's seats were divided between the Muslims
By 1990 nearly every armed resistance group fighting Israel
was disarmed except Hezbollah, while Syrian military units
also gained a presence in the country to maintain stability. Since this time the
country has, with some success, been trying to rebuild their war torn nation. In
the 2000s much of the world asked the government to remove their armed movements,
including Hezbollah and Syrian troops, an act which the government had somewhat
fulfilled by 2005 due to international pressure. However, these issues still linger
in the country and through the process numerous political leaders were assassinated.
Since 2005 relations with Israel have improved as Israel
returned most of the land they took from Lebanon in the
wars. Meanwhile relations with Syria have declined due to
Syrian involvement in Lebanese politics, their military's resistance to leave,
and other factors. These issues have not yet disappeared though and in 2006 Hezbollah
again attacked Israel as the Lebanese government continues to try to remove them
from the country, or at least demilitarize them.