MIDDLE EAST: The Rise of Athens

As an oasis of tranquillity in the turbulent Middle East, Beirut for years waxed rich, chic and sleek—the region's undisputed center of international business. Lebanon's bloody civil war has changed all that. Once-bustling streets in the capital are choked with rubble. Hotels are gutted, eleven banks have been looted and even during the frequent "truces"—24 so far—the killing continues. Beirut, mourns one American businessman, is like "Dodge City with no Wyatt Earp in sight: 3 million people and 8.5 million submachine guns.

When you have that many arms, how can you keep...

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