Hezbollah Winning Hearts and Minds

Brown University political scientist Melani Cammett has just returned from Lebanon and reports that Hezbollah is further increasing its standing by taking a major role in helping rebuild the country.

After a month of war, Israel and Lebanon have finally agreed to hold their fire. With the dust settling, the reconstruction of Lebanon has begun and Hezbollah is positioning itself to become indispensable in the effort. Part military force, part political party, and part organized social movement, Hezbollah will now shift gears and capitalize on its nonmilitary skills. Whatever strength the movement lost during the fighting, it may recover quickly as Lebanon rebuilds.

Hezbollah, it should be recalled, emerged during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and gained legitimacy not only through military feats but also through reconstruction and development work. It emerged as the premier advocate and provider for poor and middle class Shia in a society that had long marginalized them. Over time, the organization took on schooling, healthcare, loans, and other forms of social assistance. Since 1988, Hezbollah has implemented more than 10,000 projects to promote agricultural development, build homes and businesses, and provide water, sewage, and electricity. Supporters and critics alike have long acknowledged that Hezbollah is the most effective welfare provider in Lebanon—far more effective than the state.

Now, I’d argue Hezbollah is “Part military force, part political party, and part organized social movement” and all terrorist group. Like all successful guerrilla movements, its strength is in exploiting the ineffectiveness of the state to ingratiate themselves with the people. The fact that Hezbollah is “part organized social movement” is precisely why they are able to hide amongst the civilian population so effectively, making it very costly for Israel to root them out.

Hat tip: Carolyn O’Hara

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Is Hezbollah “exploiting the ineffectiveness of the state” or is it hollowing out the state to provide a congenial home? Both, I suppose, but I think we do well to remember the threat that non-state actors can present to states especially the states that play host to them.

  2. Christopher says:

    If the Lebanese like Hezbollah and support them, then they are f’ing idiots and deserve what they get. Maybe its time for Israel to pave over the country, plus Syria.

  3. It also helps to have a deep pocket friend in Iran who has a fair amount of spare change in their pocket thanks to higher gas prices.

  4. Anderson says:

    How does Hezbollah compare to the IRA/Sinn Fein in the respect described in this post?

    No snark intended–I’m genuinely curious.