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The recent history of the Middle East is marked by military influence (both direct and indirect) over governance. Lebanon, however, has followed a different trajectory: although it was ruled by army commander General Fuad Shihab between 1958 and 1970, this represented a mediated solution to civil unrest. Here, Eduardo W Aboultaif analyses how the army has helped to preserve stability during periods of crisis, in the 1950s and 2000s, by remaining neutral towards those confessional groups struggling for power – the hallmark of what became known as Shihabism. When it failed to do so in 1975, Aboultaif argues, the armed forces fractured along religious faultlines and the country descended into a vicious, protracted conflict.
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