Lebanon Table of Contents
President Shihab, having cultivated nonpartisanship during the 1958 Civil War, enjoyed considerable support from the various political factions. However, his initial appointment to the cabinet of a large number of Muslim leaders, such as Rashid Karami, Sunni leader from Tripoli, whom he asked to form a reconciliation government, led to sharp reactions by the Phalange Party. Shihab was obliged to reapportion the balance in the cabinet on the basis of "no victors, no vanquished." He instituted electoral reform and increased the membership of the Chamber of Deputies from sixty-six to ninety-nine, thus enabling leaders of the various factions in the civil war to become active members of the legislature. He was determined to observe the terms of the National Pact and to have the government serve Christian and Muslim groups equally. This policy, combined with Shihab's concept of an enlightened president as one who strengthened the role of the executive and the bureaucracy at the expense of the zuama (sing., zaim--see Glossary), or traditional leaders, was later referred to as "Shihabism." Shihab also concentrated on improving Lebanon's infrastructure, developing an extensive road system, and providing running water and electricity to remote villages. Hospitals and dispensaries were built in many rural areas, although there was difficulty in staffing them.
In foreign affairs, one of Shihab's first acts was to ask the United States to withdraw its troops from Lebanon starting on September 27, 1958, with the withdrawal to be completed by the end of October. He pursued a neutral foreign policy with the object of maintaining good relations with Arab countries as well as the West. Many observers agree that his regime brought stability and economic development to Lebanon and that it demonstrated the need for compromise if the Lebanese confessional system of government were to work. At the same time, however, it showed that in times of crisis the only solution might be to call on an outside power to restore equilibrium.
Data as of December 1987