This book illuminates the persona of Émile Lahood as both a President and a man who shaped Lebanon’s struggle for liberation from Syrian and Israeli occupations. Karim Pakradouni engages with extensive archival material and his years of meeting with the President to give a micro-level picture of the personalities and events that dominated Lahood’s nine-year tenure from 1998 until 2007.
The memoir is divided into three distinct periods: a strong beginning in which Lahood bolstered Hezbollah and was instrumental in the withdrawal from southern Lebanon (1998-2001), a time characterised by international stability but a rather chaotic domestic political situation between Lahood and Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (2001-2004), and the period following the 2005 assassination of Hariri which oversaw the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the re-invasion of Israeli forces.
Beginning with the constitutional reforms that allowed Lahood, previously a Commander-in-Chief, to become President Pakradouni’s account charts Lahood’s unwavering support for Hezbollah. Pakradouni’s memoirs explore the President’s reluctance to oust Syrian troops to avoid a confrontation with Hezbollah which would have exacerbated confessional discord. One of the main themes which run through the book focuses on the role of regional players in exploiting confessional fault lines and aggravating tensions between the government and the opposition.
Pakradouni’s book is dripping with admiration for Lahood who is viewed as a leader who maintained his integrity during geopolitical and internal turmoil. It is obvious even to the untrained reader that this book falls short of the writer’s promise of objectivity; it is wanting a more nuanced assessment of Lahood’s pro-Syrian stance.
Nonetheless, Pakradouni’s narration of his weekly conversations with the President encapsulates many challenges that remain unaddressed in the Middle East, such as sectarianism and debilitating disunity within the Arab world. The book is, therefore, helpful to scholars and students of international relations who wish to form a deeper understanding of regional politics.
Karim Pakradouni, Years of Resistance: The Mandate of Émile Lahood, the former President of Lebanon. Reading: Garnet Publishing, 2012, pp. 390, ISBN 978-1-85964-307-5
Reviewed by Artemis Niaros, Intern, Australian Institute of International Affairs National Office.