Though the vast majority of former Earthbound nations and polities have been integrated into the USRE or Laniakea one way or the other, there are a few notable exceptions -- a handful of countries that retained a form of independence through the Low Age. Lebanon is one of them. Left exhausted and battered by the thermal-industrial era, it became a trade hub during the early nomadic era of the Low Age. Lebanon slowly rose to become a multicultural regional power in the mid-Low Age, backing its trade-based soft power by the threat of nuclear fire -- it was one of the first polities to re-acquire nuclear weapons, through means best left for historians to assess. Finding itself in the occidental marches of what was yet to become the USRE, Lebanon managed to retain its independence through careful political manoeuvres and a hefty dose of thinly veiled nuclear threats. Playing the Moon Communes against the USRE, and later the Giants' Collective against Laniakea, Lebanon managed to remain relevant during the interplanetary age, despite being industrially and technologically outmatched by the superpowers. Through its close ties with the Moon, Lebanon was one of the first Earthbound polities to plant and harvest geometry crystal flowers and put them to actual use, thus becoming an unlikely interstellar power.
Modern Lebanon is one of the strangest Earthbound policies. While it is a multicultural social democracy, not unlike the average USRE Republic, it also possesses a much stronger national identity than its federalized counterparts. Whereas its demographics and economy are a mere fraction of what the USRE or Laniakea can output, it is not burdened by the need to (quite literally) carry the Earth on its shoulders. Lebanon is sometimes described as a "miniature superpower". It maintains an organized space military, a capacity for deep space expeditions, a space colonization program, various off-world stations and a trade fleet...all at a fraction of the scale the USRE or Laniakea operates on, but with the same goals and cohesion.
Many off-world polities have grown wary of Earthbound federations and their seemingly endless supply of people and resources that even nascent superpowers such as the Eloran Ekumen have no hope of matching. In this context, a nation such as Lebanon often appears as an interesting alternative for bilateral partnerships and joint ventures -- though it leverages the Earth's technology and facilities, it operates on a much smaller scale, more as an equal than a towering rival.
Illustration: own creation.
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