Lebanon was established as a modern state in 1920, when both sovereignty and a new political structure were imposed in a top-down manner by the French mandate. After the Lebanese war ended in 1989, sovereignty and democracy have been subjected to a new context where Syria plays a central role by being militarily present in Lebanon and exerting great influence on Lebanese politics. I ask how new norms become part of identity, and what other factors affect the socialisation processes of these norms. The focus of the thesis is sovereignty and democracy as two central themes in Lebanese political identity, and their becoming part of Lebanese political identity.
I have sought to present Lebanese political history and the development of sovereignty and democracy in a structured and comprehensive manner, using a theory based on general constructivist notions of norms and identity change. Risse, Ropp and Sikkink’s theory of norms socialization of human rights norms provides a structured theoretical framework for exploring sovereignty and democracy in Lebanon. The challenges the application of this theory to the chosen case presents are also addressed in the thesis.
In addition to exploring the socialisation processes of sovereignty and democracy in the pre-war period (1920-1975/76), the thesis presents state-society relations, previously present ideas of sovereignty, socialising agents and socio-economic factors. These factors provide the background upon which the new norms are introduced. The new context Lebanese sovereignty and democracy are part of in the post-war period (1989-2002) is the second explorative focus of the thesis, as Syrian presence and influence challenges democracy and sovereignty. This part of the thesis describes three central aspects of post-war sovereignty and democracy: how they continue to formally define Lebanon, the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections, and the debate over Syrian presence that exploded after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
The exploration of pre-war Lebanon showed the development of sovereignty from a contested concept to being defined by central political leaders as the common future of Lebanon. The parallel development of anti-colonialism and Arabism added a complex dimension to the socialisation of this norm. Democracy went through many improvements from 1943 onward, but there were also several incidents of norm-violations in elections. Sovereignty and democracy cannot be said to have been socialised to the point of habitualisation before the Lebanese war.
The Syrian presence in post-war Lebanon has put sovereignty and democracy in a new context. Though the norms still define Lebanon as a sovereign and democratic state, elections are reportedly erroneous, and freedom of speech and association have been restricted. The government and the opposition have engaged in a debate over the Syrian military presence and political influence since the Israeli withdrawal in 2000. It could be that a combination of internal protests and external pressure on the Syrian and Lebanese governments may cause future changes to the current situation.