The Hezbollah Model
Elder, Christopher L.
THE HEZBOLLAH MODELChristopher L. ElderMentor: Ralph Nurnberger, Ph.D.ABSTRACTOn September 6, 2006 a ceasefire was recognized by the United Nations ending a fierce battle between the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Hezbollah. For the first time, the Israelis met a force that stopped their advances and challenged conventional wisdom that the IDF was the region's superior military force. From inauspicious beginnings as a Shiite resistance group fighting for survival in the Lebanese Civil War, Hezbollah has evolved into a potent political and military force in the Middle East. Its ascension has been met with alarm in the West and their model has been studied closely by other organizations globally.This thesis explores Hezbollah's organizational model from its inception, following its evolution into a power broker in Middle East politics. Before being able to explore its organizational model, it is critical to understand its past. When observing its evolution, one must understand the Shiite tradition, and the profound effect that it had on the formation of Hezbollah's ideology. As one begins to understand its history, examining their organizational framework will begin to make sense.The second section examines how Hezbollah established and developed its robust social services infrastructure. In order to better serve their constituents and resist against their enemies, Hezbollah members recognized the significance in developing a system to take care of their own. This integrated social service apparatus filled a vacuum left by the Lebanese government and has earned them the trust and loyalty of their citizens.The third section examines how Hezbollah shapes its narrative in order to highlight its strengths and minimize its weaknesses on an international stage. Its television station, al-Manar, has afforded the group with a platform from which it can project an image that accentuates the members' good qualities while opposing any defects. In addition, the station provides them with a forum to address their constituents and encourage resistance against the Israelis and the West.The fourth section shows how Muqtada al-Sadr and his organization have loosely followed the Hezbollah model to make steady gains in Iraq. While there is not an exact correlation between the two movements, the similarities are striking; Muqtada al-Sadr has employed many Hezbollah tactics with great success.Finally, this thesis looks at how to deal with Hezbollah and organizations like it that have adopted their model. Anticipating how this model may adapt and develop over time will be essential in dealing with this issue. Whether or not Hezbollah will be an actor that America can deal with remains to be seen, but addressing the systemic issues that drive people toward Hezbollah will be critical in the future.
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