Lebanon's Journey

Lebanon's effort to distance itself from anarchy and violence is far from over. But recent years have seen significant strides. Washington has at last recognized this and lifted its ban on travel to Lebanon by US citizens. American executives and tourists can now assess the country's rebirth for themselves, and perhaps take part in it.

Beirut, once the "Paris of the Middle East," has been extensively rebuilt since the end of a civil war that stretched from 1975 to 1990. The city has regained much of its past cultural vibrancy. It is again a center of intellectual endeavors, with a thriving publishing industry.

The Lebanese capital's politics remain unsettled, if relatively stable. A formal division of power between the Christian and Muslim communities is still in effect, on a somewhat fairer basis than in the past. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees remain an alienated minority.

The biggest question mark for Lebanon, as ever, is the outlook for wider, regional peace. Syria retains a strong grip on Lebanese affairs, as does Israel, with its heavily patrolled buffer zone carved out of southern Lebanon. The future of peace negotiations between those dominant neighbors regrettably still hangs over Lebanon's own future as a potential banking, trading, and technology center for the eastern Mediterranean.

Permitting American business representatives to travel there on their US passports is a belated but welcome step to improve that future.

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