In a US Memorial Day article, Chris Vaughn of the Star-Telegram explains to readers about 1982 Beirut:
The Marines had been sent to Beirut in September 1982 as a peacekeeping force after a long Lebanese civil war drew an Israeli invasion and even more bloodshed. When the U.S., French and Italian troops entered the city, sectarian and religious tensions were extraordinarily high as Israel, Syria, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Iran all jockeyed for influence in a power vacuum.
The city looked like Berlin in World War II. (That’s how “It looked like Beirut” became modern shorthand for a destroyed city.)
I would definitely say that it has contributed to the phrase, however, the first time “it looks like Beirut” made it into mainstream press was in 1978.
Chris will be receiving his “looks like Beirut” certificate shortly.