Facing possible invasion from both Britain and Germany in 1940 and determined to remain neutral, the Irish government in Dublin asked one of its senior ministers to draft a memorandum on how to stay out of the Second World War. “Neutrality is a form of limited warfare,” was his eloquent but bleak response.
The Lebanese would agree. For seven years, they have been pleading and praying and parleying to stay out of the Syrian war nextdoor, to ignore Israel’s threats, Syria’s sisterly embrace, America’s warnings, Russia’s entreaties and Iran’s blandishments. I guess you have to be an especially gifted people to smile obligingly – ingratiatingly, simplistically, bravely, grovellingly, wearily – at all around you and get away with it.