Ten months after a final cease-fire formally ended the long Lebanese civil war, nothing has even begun to be settled. Echoes of the fighting in southen Lebanon have paralayzed efforts toward normalization.
Posters throughout Beirut advertise the movie "The Enforcer," an appropriate title for a country that owes its surface calm to the presence of some 30,000 occupation troops, mainly front Syria.
"Take them away and the fighting will start in 15 minutes," is about the only thing that Palestinians and Lebanese - Christian and Moslem, rightists and leftists - agree on.
With a political settlement of the war postponed by the running southern Lebanese fighting, many Lebanese who returned after the shooting are leaving again.
The hundreds lining up for American, French and Saudi Arabian visas testify to the vote of no confidence in a society that seems to have mislaid the magic formula that allowed miraculous growth in the 1950s and 1960s.
Plans for rebuilding the devasted business center of the capital have been approved for months. Yet, despite as much as $1 billion in excess liquidity in banks here, no one is willing to invest.
According to one pessimistic report, it wil take Beirut $12 billion and 12 years to get back to its prewar level of prosperity.
The oil-rich Arabs, who contributed heavily both to prewar investments and to the wartime pay of militiamen, insist that the Lebanese put their own money.
The trouble is that movers and shakers, the perhaps 10,000 men who made pre-war Beirut the service capital of the Middle East, have learned how to make money with their oil-state clients working from their London and Paris offices.
Still, the American embassy only this week authorized its diplomats to have their families live in Beirut for the first time in nearly two years.
Even so long after the November 1976 cease-fire, Beirut remains two cities - and - given the small dimensions of Lebanon - there is a temptation to say that Lebanon remains two countries.
Asrafiyeh, the Christian heartland during the war but previously a mostly working and middle-class residential neighborhood, suddenly has sprouted airline offices, travel agencies and bank branches.
The traditional business center lies in ruins and many Christians simply no longer want to live or take their trade to Moslem-dominated West Beirut, especially Hamra, the once fashionable shopping district.
Asrafiyeh rents have skyrocketed because the neighborhood simply di not have enough free space to meet the demands. Curiously, even Hamra prices have followed suit because of the yet unchallenged prewar tradition that made it the most expensive real estate in the capital.
Yet, throughout the city many apartments are empty or occupied by squatters driven out of their homes during the civil war or more recently by artillery barrages in the south.
The Christians feel they won the war. The Phalange, the largest Christian organization, has been recycling as many as 1,000 men every two weeks through five military training camps in the mountains.
In part, it is a tactical decision to try to keep the Christians keyed up to the wartime pitch and signs of Christian militancy abound.
Fewer Syrian occupation troops are stationed in their territory than in the rest of the country, especially Moslem West Beirut.
The Phalange runs its own post office system - a hangover from the war. It also maintains its illegal radio station long after the other wartime militias abandoned theirs in favor of the state monopoly.And the Phalangists have recently completed an airport capable of handling Boeing 727s along one of the rare flat expanses of their craggy mountain heartland.
Taken almost for granted if Lebanon is ever allowed to sort itself out is Christian domination of the central government to a degree unrivalled since the country became independent of France in 1943.
"The left and Moslems have demobilized," one Moslem said.Yet, the war was precipitated in part by Moslem demands for a bigger share of the action in a country where they enjoy a clear numerical majority. The presence of some 300,000 Palestianians, a heavly armed minority amounting to a tenth of the indigenous Lebanese population, gave added weight to the Moslem demands for a share of power.
"Now many Moslems are convinced they lost the war and many Palestianians curse themselves for getting sucked into a Lebanese squabble," a Christian said. "But the fact is that without the Syrian occupation army the Christians would have come out second best."
More sensitive Christians wonder what kind of a victory entailed such a massive brain drain, involving mostly Christian professional people."
"The people interested in change, reform, the people who ask questions have emigrated," a Christian lawyer noted, "and they left behind the Conservatives interested in preserving the status quo by force in necessary.
"Before the war I didn't think of myself as a Christian when people asked what I was. It was a question which had no meaning for me," a Christian industrialist said. "Now when I read about the problems of the Copts [Egypt's Christian minority] I know what it means to be a Christian in a Moslem sea.
Across town a young Moslem woman educated in Christian schools recalled that "for the first time in my life during the war I felt Moslem, very Moslem. Now I just don't know I'd really like to leave."
The cosmopolitan veneer that made Beirut seem a half-Western city still lingers on. Both French language daily newspapers and an English language magazine have gone back to their pre-war habit of devoting pages and photographs of Beirut social happenings.
And now that the memory of the war has begun to dim. West Beirut women have taken to complaining about the new wave of Moslem fanaticism they detect as a result of the Syrian, Saudi Arabian and Sudanese occupation troops.
"I was driving home alone from a friends house at 11 p.m. the other night," an attractive Moslem woman said," and the Syrian soldier who stopped me at the checkpoint called me a shameless whore for being without a man and wearing a decollete."
Across town a Christian dismissed suggestions that the cholera epidemic could spread to the Christian neighborhoods. "Only Moslems catch it," he said.