Natural Experiment in Lebanon
Dan Drezner notes that the clash between democracy protestors and Hezbollah over the fate of Syrian troops in Lebanon provides what social scientists refer to as a “natural experiment.”
Many commentators question whether democratization in Lebanon necessarily advance U.S. interests in the region if all it does is empower groups in Hezbollah. I’ve maintained in the past that even if that short-run effect takes place, democratization remains the proper long-term strategy. However, Tuesday will provide fresh evidence of whether even the short-run costs are as great as many people fear. If Hezbollah musters fewer people than expected in counter-demonstrations, then it suggests the fear of radicalism in a democratizing Middle East might be misplaced. [And if there are huge counter-demonstrations?–ed. Hey, then I’m wrong. But the social scientist in me is more excited about the prospect that there will soon be data to examine the hypothesis than worried about being wrong.]
Thankfully, as I observed yesterday, Hezbollah seems to be on the wrong side of history.
Still, case studies have the N=1 problem. . . .