Active Minds: Through the lens of Lebanon |

Active Minds: Through the lens of Lebanon

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Lebanon is far more than just a sea-side off-shoot of Syria. In fact, the little country is an extremely complex melange of cultures, religions and political agendas.

“A fascinating mix of cultures is Lebanon,” said John Henderson, instructor and co-founder of Active Minds. “The key thing to focus on is the way in which the recent political strife and near chaos in Lebanon has unfolded: It’s an extremely complex patchwork of religions in a tiny, tiny country.”

This month’s Active Minds program will take a look at Lebanon at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Singletree Community Center in Edwards.

Henderson will review the complex history of Lebanon. Participants can expect to learn the geographic and historical background of Lebanon, discuss the sources of internal conflict and the rise of Hezbollah, as well as the origins and dissect key issues involved in Lebanon’s recent conflict with Israel.

Following the capture of Syria, Lebanon’s present day neighbor to the north and east, France created the regional boundaries of Lebanon in 1920. In 1943, France granted independence to Lebanon. The country was engaged in civil war from 1975-1990, and is still rebuilding some of its political institutions. Lebanon also has a rocky relationship with neighbors Syria and Israel. Some of the neighborly turbulence has influenced Lebanon’s recent political conflicts.

“The resolution of the recent political conflict has led to the solidification of power for Hezbollah,” Henderson said. Still considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, Hezbollah has become legitimized in the Lebanese parliament.

Lebanon has major political implications from the U.S. perspective. According to Henderson, there are three major reasons to attend this lecture on Lebanon.

First, Lebanon raises the issue, as well as the concern, about the effectiveness of U.S. policies in the Middle East. More specifically, Henderson states, “Fostering a representative democracy in the Middle East has led to the legitimization of rogues. In the case of Lebanon, Hezbollah is the rogue. Another example of rogue legitimization happened in the Palestinian territories in the 2003 elections, when Hamas was elected as the majority party. The key issue here is what happens, and what will happen when representative democracy is practiced in the Middle East.”

Secondly, the topic of Lebanon draws questions with respect to U.S. relations with Syria and Iran. Historic and current supporters of Hezbollah since the days of the civil war, Iran and Syria have recently become major players on the world scene.

“Is Lebanon further expansion of Iranian interests in U.S. foreign policy? This is an important question, and we will look at it through the lense of understanding Lebanon,” Henderson said.

Thirdly, there is the issue of Israel. “Israel’s policies and the policies of the United States with respect to Israel become a big factor when we consider the influence of Hezbollah in Israel,” Henderson said.

– Wednesday: Lebanon

Location: Singletree Community Center Edwards

– Oct. 15: Nigeria

Location: Golden Eagle Community Center

All programs begin at 5:30 p.m. and are free. For more information, contact the Vail Symposium at 970-476-0954 or

– Lebanon is about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut

– Lebanon’s natural hazards are dust storms and sandstorms

– Population is 95 percent Arab, 4 percent Armenian, 1 percent other

– Religious breakdown: 59.7 percent Muslim, 39 percent Christian and 1.3 percent other. Of this division, there are five different Muslim sects and 11 different Christian sects.

– Lebanon’s languages are: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian

– There are six major ski resorts in Lebanon.

– Lebanon’s highest altitude peak for skiing is 10,122 feet.

Facts compiled courtesy of John Henderson and the CIA

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