21 Oct 2011

A diagram of Lebanon's War and Peace

The diagram maps the conflicts and shifting alliances of Lebanon's civil war and the post-war period, up to the present day. The way the diagram works is it traces which side each party was on and when it shifted direction along a line from 1975 to the present.It also maps the alliances and conflicts along the way, often between parties on the same side. The dividing line represents the major political camps over the past three and a half decades, although that is not necessarily how everyone understands them.

 The diagram is still work in progress and is missing many details so comments are welcome, both on form and content. Parties like Al-Morabitoun, Islalmic Amal, and Elie hobeika's Al Wa'ad, among several others, are not yet represented. I have taken some license in representing the FPM, associating it with its leader even though that's not exactly accurate. I have left out the Palestinian organisations, Syria and Israel for now as I try to work out how to place them without biasing the diagram. Again suggestions welcome. Click on the image for a larger version.

Thanks to Lina Abou Rislan for designing the diagram.  


  1. A couple of remarks: It might be worth adding Palestinian groups, Syria and Israel to the list. Also,I'm not sure how one would write up intra-party fighting or, say, Geagea's consolidation of the LF. Very interesting.

  2. I'd say break it up into several diagrams as well, as it's a lot to take in at once.

  3. Good attempt. But I'm afraid it is visually confusing in certain parts. I second Jad's opinion; maybe breaking it up into more than one diagram is best.

  4. HP, thanks! I wanted to add a note on why I left external players out, (for now), but forgot. I haven't solved the problem on which 'side' to place them as it's so complex. I'll have to think about it. I've left some groups out as well like AL-Morabitoun, and there's the Hobeika splinter of the LF, so more details to add. thanks again.

  5. Jad, Ameen, thanks. Any suggestions along which lines to break it down? I think it's a good idea.



    I find that the dotted line is confusing and you can infer that anyways so no need to be there
    Flags also confusing ....if you put name of HIZB next to color is more than enough

  7. I think it could be inproved visually to be less confusing, but I don't think that you need separate diagrams. I'm sure a visual solution can be found..

  8. OK here's my two cents worth. I think what's creating the most confusion is the "Military Confrontations" items on the figure. I actually think that you can have a different infographic for that, especially considering a lot of those confrontations were not based on their corresponding alliances (ex Hezhollah vs. Amal and FPM vs. Lebanese forces). So I don't find it necessary to have them in the same graph.

    Nice work and looking forward to the progression. :)

  9. nice :) i think the simplicity of the idea can make a really important diagram out of this. every diagram has a political message embedded in it, never neutral. i guess what ur trying to bring out here is the fluctuations, the strong dual division and the many clashes (inno bikaffi hypocrisy and wars)
    now the 'info designer' voice speaking (at break of dawn with some alcohol): yikes!! its a visual disaster :P ok mish lahaddaraji :) i think we need to add in some hierarchy of lines and titles and amplify the message visually.. i have an idea, i will implement and send u some time tomoro. thanks for sharing this! it could become a series of simple infographics that tell the big picture, which we often miss..

  10. Maybe you can add the Democratic Left as a line emerging from that of the Communist Party since they played a major part in the emergence of 'March 14'

  11. Thanks Issam, it's a good idea. I haven't added any of the splinters yet, like Islamic Amal, Hobeika, etc, but I think it would be easy to represent them as a line that comes out of the original. Wait for v3.0

  12. Dear Karl, Interesting but still trying to understand fully. How do you distinguish between 'conflict' and normal political divisions?

  13. Nadim, excellent point, I guess I'm implying that there's continuity between the two in Lebanon always (war is politics by other means...) but of course that's not strictly true. Maybe I should split it into periods, so separate the war from the post-war era. But then again May 7 is a reminder that occasionally political divisions turn into violence. At any rate, in the first diagram, the circle denote conflict whereas the coloured background shows normal political divisions.

  14. Thanks for putting this together--it makes Jumblatt parodies seem a bit hypocritical. I would also love to see a chart on major incidents of violence. The war era will be challenging, but maybe someone could start with the last 5 years, including all unexplained explosions (both lethal and non-lethal) assassinations and attempted assassinations and discoveries of weapons caches, bombs, etc. Seems to be some patterns there as well.

  15. Thanks Habib. I think your suggestion is worthwhile, but as you say it's challenging and a big task. We could probably build it over time.

  16. One thing I'm not sure about in the diagram. It makes it appear as if NationalMovement-ProSyria-March8 is the "natural" trajectory or path, and those who depart from it seem as if they have failed in their consistency. Same applies to LebaneseFront-AntiSyria-March14.
    Diagrammatically speaking, the naming of phases is confusing, because for example: alliances with the Syrian regime were strong even before 1990, so party politics with Syria were also shifting from 1975 to 1990.
    On another level, I see this diagram as also a mapping of polarization, and the position of parties within this polarization. So the 1990-2005 phase could be re-thought. I have nothing to suggest yet, just sharing my feedback. I will get back to you if I think of anything useful.

  17. Let me start by saying "great work" guys. This diagram/infographic is actually a critical intellectual exercise to understand through deconstruction and reconstruction. The 2 terms might be theoretically outdated, but I believe they are needed to dismantle the many complexities that we live. I mean, can anyone really understand the Lebanese Civil War (or any war) and thus explain it to others! In the end, it usually boils down to simplifying it to binaries. So, even simplification can sometimes be the utmost intellectual exercise we are capable of.

    No regarding the visual itself, I believe it can never be perfect but might use some tweaking. Instead of looking at the political eras (3 here) as mere binaries, it can look at them as complexities through the Y dimension of the graph. The main X axis is the temporal dimension, and the Y axis shall be the politico-spatial dimension. This means that, for example, PSP or Comm can traverse time through uneven zigzags instead of straight lines. The grey colors will be intermixed then.

    The way forward could be about sub-divisions. PSP and Comm, for example again, could split at certain intervals to show diversions of the same group into contrasting political spaces.

    Keep it Karl & Lina. Salam to All.

  18. The diagram is amazing and i think that the control of the government should be given to the public leaders by the general election.

  19. For what it's worth, my comment would be that I think this chart is quite clear, revealing even.

  20. I love it!
    But you left out something huge: All of those lines (except for Baath, SSNP, and Amal) should be flipped to the opposite side for a few years starting in 1976, since the Syrians were backing the "right-wing" side against the Palestinians & Joumblatt when they first occupied Lebanon.
    Also, you arguably could put Hezbollah on the "anti-Syrian" side for a few years in the mid-to-late 1980s, during the time when they were closely allied with Fatah against Amal.

  21. 1/ I agree with Miguk.
    2/ I also propose to put FL with pro-syrians between 1990 & 1994 because they fighted Leb Army with the Syrians on October 13th & they aknowledge the Hraoui government which is pro-syrian for 4 years

  22. This is very cool Karl. It would have been interesting to add Walid Jumblat as his own category on this chart. He would have been zigzaging the heck in and out of the Pro and Anti Syrian league just like an oscillating chart of an Alternating Current!!

  23. Karl, I like the chart but I believe it needs some fine tuning:
    1. the question of relation with Syria:
    a. before 1978, lebanese front (kataeb, aurar and marada) were allied to syria, means that marada was always syria allied.
    b. amal before berri was neutral to against syria
    c. ssnp was extremely against syria before 1978 and not really allied to syria till1982.
    d. PSP chart is very complicated even before walid.
    e. Hizballah, was allied to palestinian against syria
    f. FPM should have two lines, the declared policy and the hidden alliance.
    g. Lebanese forces during hobeika era was pro Syrian despite the appearance.
    h. I would put the future movement slightly against syria before 2005 and much more against syria after that date.
    i. baas is irrelevant because it is almost non existent in Lebanon, many other lebanese parties are much bigger like Tanzim, hirras al arz, jamaha al islamiyah, ahbash, 24 october, Mourabitoun. Tawhid islami in addition of different lebanese armies squadrons that took parties.

    2. I beleive that introducing a 3rd column describing the strength of different entities at different points of time.


    1. Thanks very much Hadi, very valuable comments. We knew there were many issues to be resolved at the time and we were hoping people will add their comments, I will adjust to reflect some of those. On a. before 1978 we don't specific if it's pro or against Syria, but National Movement versus Lebanese Front, but it should probably be clarified. The trouble with any 2d diagram is that it will never be comprehensive, we had to brutal. Thanks again for valuable comments.


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