Since 1945, there have been about 150 conflicts of all kinds; perhaps 20 million people have perished in them, not to speak of the maimed, the bereaved and millions of refugees. In this grim catalogue of mayhem, the Lebanon occupies a unique place. It used to do so, in the troubled Middle East, as an oasis of prosperity and peace, the Switzerland of the Eastern Mediterranean. Today, it is unique as the only state in the world in which all semblance of government has collapsed in a prolonged nightmare of civil war and invasion. Even in post-Amin Uganda, even in the ruins of Angola and Mozambique where civil strife has been compounded by South African and other intervention, there has never been a total absence of government exercising some control over some areas of life. In Lebanon, since the Israeli invasion of 1982, this has not been the case: savage and cruel militias, foreign armies and their surrogates have dictated events.
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'Only in Britain, perhaps, could spy chiefs – conventionally viewed as masters of subterfuge – be so highly regarded as ethical guides.'
In this month's Bookends, @AdamCSDouglas looks at the curious life of Henry Labouchere: a friend of Bram Stoker, 'loose cannon', and architect of the law that outlawed homosexual activity in Britain.
'We have all twenty-nine of her Barsetshire novels, and whenever a certain longing reaches critical mass we read all twenty-nine again, straight through.'
Patricia T O'Conner on her love for Angela Thirkell. (£)