Thursday, August 17, 2006

The enemy's playbook

I doubt we can count on the administration to wage this campaign successfully. In fact, they neglect to account for the deeply felt anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment in the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.

Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate U.S. commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that Washington believes is bankrolled by Iran.


A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
Compare this to "Haj's" story in the London Times:
THE Hezbollah commander emerged from the shadows of a destroyed building with the calm confidence of a man in charge. “Haj” (pilgrim), as local people called him with respect, did not carry a gun and the only hints that he belonged to Lebanon’s most powerful military force were his trademark close-cropped beard, baseball cap and a two-way radio that crackled quietly on his belt.
As thousands of Lebanese army soldiers and foreign troops prepare to deploy under French command in the hills of southern Lebanon, people such as Haj and his fighters pose the greatest challenge to the success of the mission.
The administration deserves a little credit for (finally) realizing how Hezbollah has built their popularity. Of course this is too little, too late and too daft. Hezbollah has worked in this Shiite/Lebanese community from the ground-up. The administration is likely to attempt a top-down approach in this effort. They will peg an "ally" (unfortunate for him or her) and try to allocate funds without much on-the-ground knowledge.

Brian Humphreys, a Marine officer in OIF, wrote recently in the Washington Post:
The lessons should be clear. To engage in insurgency or counterinsurgency -- fancy terms for grass-roots politics by other means -- one must be willing and, most of all, able to work in the underbelly of local politics, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon. It is the politics of getting people jobs, picking up trash and getting relatives out of jail. Engaging in this politics has the potential to do much more than merely ingratiate an armed force with a local population. It gives that force a mental map of local pressure points and the knowledge of how to press them -- benignly or otherwise -- to get desired results.
John Robb has written in his Global Guerillas blog:
There is an important cycle that inverts legitimacy at work here:
In order to fight a non-state enemy, other states hollowed out a state. Whether Hezbollah is at fault or not is a non-issue.

The non-state enemy proves (through 4GW) it is the only force capable of defending the people.

the non-state builds alliances with other non-states and states to gather essential support.

The non-state provides services (political goods) at a higher level of efficiency and value than the state (sys-admin).

In short, Hezbollah gains legitimacy at the expense of the state. Expect to see this cycle again and again from 4GW groups (in contrast, networked non-states like al Qaeda operate in a different way entirely -- although many conflate the two approaches).
We can view this as subverting the legitimacy of the Lebanese government by plying state-craft at a regionalized level. Or, we can call this the construction of a state in increasingly larger scope. This, it seems, would be one of the strategic goals of Nasrallah. The highest form of generalship is to attack your enemy's plans, not his or her army. The war on Hezbollah did not attack their plans. The United States efforts at construction will not undermine the grass roots effort of Hezbollah in the region.


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