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And now the other side of the story...

The National Post's Sonia Verma offers a far gloomier future for Lebanon than Béhé:

The Lebanese government estimates it will take between 40 and 50 years to rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Young people in their late 20s and 30s, who are old enough to remember the violence of the civil war and Israel's occupation of the south are also young enough to leave and start fresh somewhere else.

Local observers fear the trend of university-educated people leaving will only radicalize those who are left.

"Those who are leaving are those who can afford to leave and generally speaking these are politically liberal people," says Minia Boujaoude, a columnist with the left-leaning daily As-Safir.

"We need these people to rebuild Lebanon as a modern country. It can't fall to Hezbollah," she said.

At Ashrafieh Mall, a shopping centre in an upscale part of Beirut, the end-of-summer sales have started early, but nobody's buying. Inside, the air-conditioned shops, designer clothes and imported linens seem a world away from the war raging outside, but it is always close to people's hearts.

"When I see my friends leaving, I think this place will be thrown back 60 years in time," says Sami Zakhi, a young doctor who just opened his orthopedic practice.

Oh come on. Sixty years? While I can believe Béhé was being a little optimistic, this is absolute nonsense. And what about this: 'The Lebanese government estimates it will take between 40 and 50 years to rebuild the country's infrastructure.' Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the restraint Israel is showing and how much international aid will be flowing to Lebanon after this is over knows that this is ridiculous. But the statement is made with absolutely no skepticism or further investigation.

Adding more smoke to an already smokey scene is wrong, certainly; but this kind of willfully blind pessimism is far worse, surely.


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