Understanding Hizbullah’s power play [Excerpts]
It only took Hizbullah a week to bring the government of Lebanon to its knees. The Saniora government’s decision Wednesday to cancel its decisions to ban Hizbullah’s independent communications system and sack Hizbullah’s agent from his position as chief of security at Beirut airport constituted its effective acceptance of Hizbullah’s preeminent role in Lebanon.
What is interesting about Hizbullah’s successful overthrow of the elected government in Lebanon is that after his forces defeated their foes, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah ordered his men to retreat to their customary shadows. Why didn’t Hizbullah just overthrow the government? Understanding why Hizbullah refused to take over Lebanon is key not only for understanding Hizbullah but also for understanding Hamas, Fatah and the insurgency in Iraq.
A compelling answer to this question is found in David Galula’s classic work, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice . . . . based largely on the French experience in Algeria and Indochina and on Chinese Communist revolutionary theory. In Counterinsurgency Warfare, Galula provides a clear and concise description of insurgent or revolutionary movements, their strategies and tactics. Conversely he provides clear guidance for counterinsurgents for defeating them.
As Galula explained, one of the main advantages that insurgents have over the governments they seek to overthrow is their lack of responsibility for governance. Far from seeking to govern the local population, the goal of insurgents is simply to demonstrate through sabotage, terror and guerilla operations that the government is incapable of keeping order. And it is far easier and cheaper to sow disorder and chaos than to maintain order and secure public safety.
In Hizbullah’s case, Nasrallah and his Iranian bosses have no interest in taking on responsibility for Lebanon. They don’t want to collect taxes. They don’t want to pick up the garbage or build schools and universities.
Hizbullah and its Iranian overlords wish to have full use of Lebanon as a staging area for attacks against Israel and the US. They wish to maintain and expand Hizbullah’s arsenals. For this they need unfettered access, and if necessary, control over Lebanon’s borders, its seaports and airport.
Hizbullah secured this freedom through its successful attack on the Saniora government. Today no one will utter a peep of complaint as Hizbullah imports ever more sophisticated weapons systems from Syria and Iran. No one will say a word when Hizbullah openly asserts control over the border with Israel, or places its commanders in charge of Lebanese army units along the border.
Galula argues that the primary goal of insurgents in the early stages of their long campaigns is to secure the support of the local populations. In light of this, it could be claimed that by attacking the Saniora government and its supporters, Hizbullah was acting against its interests. But we are no longer in the early stages of Hizbullah’s insurgency. At this advanced stage of its game, Hizbullah considers the sentiments of Lebanese Druse, Christians and Sunnis irrelevant. None have the power to challenge its primacy.