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October 19 2012

Syria's future lies in ruins

Few forms of conflict are so damaging to a country or its people as a prolonged civil war. By 1939, when Franco's forces had finished mopping up the last Republican resistance in Spain, more than half a million lay dead and some of the most beautiful city centres in Europe had been destroyed.

A similar pattern played out in 1970s Lebanon, which saw 150,000 casualties and the almost complete destruction of the elegant villas of Ottoman Beirut. In Afghanistan it was not Soviet invasion or occupation that killed most people or wrecked Kabul, but the internecine street fighting that followed in the early 1990s. In a few years, as Masood's rockets fell on Pashtun neighbourhoods of Kabul, and Hekmatyar's forces emptied the Tajik suburbs, palaces and museums were looted; while in the Shomali plain, Gandharan Buddhist sites were serially plundered of their treasure.

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