Michael Totten

Paris: The Beirut of Europe

They say Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. Does that mean Paris is the Beirut of Europe? Or is that an insult to Beirut?
Paris has been on fire for 11 days now. The violence is out of control and it’s spreading. Some are calling this the French Intifada.
Meanwhile, Beirut is peaceful and calm. And Beirut has and has had a lot more political problems than Paris.
The Lebanese people threw off the yoke of Syrian occupation, oppression, and de facto annexation while committing no violence. The Western model of civil disobedience and protest worked beautifully and, more important, it worked rapidly.
The disgruntled of Paris, on the other hand, are inviting a brutal crackdown from a state infinitely less oppressive that the Syrian Baath regime. While some parts of the Middle East import liberal “Western” political ideas into their culture, some parts of Europe import pathologies from the illiberal places in the Middle East and North Africa. Ah, the ironies of globalization.
My mother is going to visit me next week. For months I’ve been trying to convince her that Lebanon is much safer than it appears from a distance, that it’s actually safer here than in Europe. That runs directly counter to what most Westerners understandably think. And it seems, from my discussions with her, that she only half believes me. But last night she emailed and said she is glad she’s not stopping in Paris on her way to Beirut. I’ll bet she never imagined she would say such a thing, but she did.
It’s slightly bizarre to watch Europe explode from the tranquility of Beirut. But I’m getting used to it.