Multi-confessional armies are often seen as being weak and prone to disintegration. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is a case in point. From its inception it was formed as a multi-confessional force meant to serve as a neutral political arbiter, but it experienced civil war fragmentation and dissolution (1975–1990). Post-war restructuring and reform rebuilt the force, but the threat of disintegration along confessional lines has remained. However, the LAF is consistently ranked as the country’s most trusted public institution, its last resort amidst repeated government collapse and state failure. The LAF strives to embody a national ideal: a united force, raised above sectarianism. Even so, the Syrian civil war has strained the LAF’s cohesion and threatens its neutrality – its most valued assets in a deeply divided society.

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