Juan Cole on the folly of equating Hezbollah with Al-Qaeda

Cartoon courtesy of Max Blumenthal (and Juan Cole for the link).

Juan Cole writes: "Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement.

"Al-Qaeda is some 5,000 multinational volunteers organized in tiny cells.

"Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area....

"Where subnationalisms are organized by party-militias willing to use carbombings and other asymmetrical forms of warfare, they are extremely difficult, if not impossible to defeat militarily. It would take a World War II style crushing military defeat of these populations, with the willingness of the conqueror to suffer tens of thousands dead in troop casualties. Israel is not even in a position to risk such a thing, given its small population.

"Hizbullah is not like al-Qaeda in any way, sociologically speaking, and making such an analogy is a sure way for a general or politician to trick himself into entering the fires of hell....

"One hope the Israeli hawks appear to entertain is that they can permanently depopulate strips Lebanon south of the Litani river. Since most Shiites vote Hizbullah and offer political support and cover to it, fewer people means fewer assets for the party-militia. This project would require the total destruction of large numbers of villages and the permanent displacement of their inhabitants north to Beirut.

"That is why the massacre at Qana occurred. The Israelis had bombed Qana 80 times. They were destroying all of its buildings. Therefore, of course, they destroyed the building where dozens of children and families were hiding. This tactic is both collective punishment and ethnic cleansing all at once. It is not only a matter, as the Israelis claim, of hitting Hizbullah rocket launchers. They are destroying all of the buildings.

"The Israeli demographic project of thinning out the population of the far south of Lebanon will fail. They do not control that territory, and cannot stop people from coming back and rebuilding. The Israelis have an Orientalist myth that the Arabs are Bedouin and not attached to their ancestral villages. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon still around their camps in accordance with the geography of their former villages. The Lebanese Shiites will mostly come back.

"The Israelis cannot win this struggle against a sophisticated, highly organized and well armed subnationalism...."

Comments

Popular Posts