Lebanon, a country no bigger than Connecticut, has become a battleground for the political, strategic and ideological conflicts of its neighbors and the great powers. It has come to reflect the broad historical experiences of the modern Middle East. Beware of Small States is an elegant and incisive history of Lebanon culminating with the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and its aftermath. David Hirst—a former Middle East correspondent for The Guardian, whose tough, skeptical voice has earned him death threats and seen him banned from six Arab countries—crafts a narrative that is essential for anyone wishing to understand the current political climate of the Middle East.
A former Middle Eastern correspondent for the Guardian, Hirst (The Gun and the Olive Branch) chronicles the travails of modern Lebanon in this provocative polemic that doubles as a history of the Arab-Israeli struggle. Given Lebanon's tiny size, sectarian polity, and strategic location in a volatile region, Hirst observes that it was almost designed to be the everlasting battleground for others' political, strategic and ideological conflicts. Lebanon's role in the struggle for Palestine, however, is the author's primary interest. Displaced Palestinians flooded into southern Lebanon following the first Arab-Israeli War (1948) and spawned a guerilla 'state-within-a-state' on Israel's northern border. Hirst is solidly in the Palestinians' corner throughout; he inveighs against Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing and blocking progress toward a settlement of the Palestinian issue. The author also faults the United States for its deference to all things Israeli ; takes to task Israel and the Israeli lobby in the U.S. for provoking the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and anoints the Iranians as the only true victor of America's war in Iraq. Hirst's is a passionately partisan and eloquent recounting of the tragic fate of modern Lebanon and the Palestinian people.