Birth Pains of a New Middle-East?

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Robert Pape recently had an op-ed in NYT about the war in middle-east (via Alan Miron);

“Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Hezbollah is principally neither a political party nor an Islamist militia. It is a broad movement that evolved in reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. At first it consisted of a small number of Shiites supported by Iran. But as more and more Lebanese came to resent Israel’s occupation, Hezbollah - never tight-knit - expanded into an umbrella organization that tacitly coordinated the resistance operations of a loose collection of groups with a variety of religious and secular aims.

In terms of structure and hierarchy, it is less comparable to, say, a religious cult like the Taliban than to the multidimensional American civil-rights movement of the 1960’s. What made its rise so rapid, and will make it impossible to defeat militarily, was not its international support but the fact that it evolved from a reorientation of pre-existing Lebanese social groups.

Evidence of the broad nature of Hezbollah’s resistance to Israeli occupation can be seen in the identity of its suicide attackers. Hezbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986. Altogether, these attacks - which included the infamous bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983 - involved 41 suicide terrorists.

In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

What these suicide attackers - and their heirs today - shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.”

As I’ve commented earlier organizations like Al Qaida do misuse religion and literalist religious interpretations do play a part in the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. With the current policies of the actors and stakeholders, one thing is certain; the future of middle-east is very bleak.


Blowing Up an Assumption

Tierney and Pape on the 'War' on Terror

Richard Holbrooke op-ed;

“Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaeda and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Bombay bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.”

The Age of Post-National Warfare

Tom Palmer suggests Jordan’s King Hussain’s interview whereas one could say the Arab public’s view is more correctly depicted by George Galloway.

Israel Asks U.S. to Ship Rockets With Wide Blast

The logic of suicide terrorism- post by Daniel Drezner

Multimedia; Robert Pape interview by UCTV, at NPR, ScottHorton Show, book discussion.

The Daily Show’s new Middle Eastern correspondent- hilarious

1 Comment

Pape's scrupulous analysis helps to pierce through the pea-soup of flasehoods that obscure the Midldle East conflict. I touch on some other similar issues in my article "We Will Not Accept Absurdities as an Excuse for Carnage" (


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on August 11, 2006 1:13 AM.

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