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. . . .

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Middle East, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. It will certainly be interesting to see who will turn out on the side of Syria and Hezbollah at tomorrow’s rally. Syria will pour gasoline on the slightest spark in order to gain a legitimate reason to keep a military presence in Lebanon.

    As for US benefits from the Lebanese popular uprising, read this:

  2. r says:

    You observed nothing, Mr Joyner, you stated without any supporting evidence. Perhaps we are all supposed to know that perhaps your God will smite Hezbollah, perhaps. Is it in Revelations? The Hezbollah rally will prove to the world that the malcontents in the square do not represent the Lebanese people or Lebanon as has been falsely claimed by those who want to bring back the New Order scheme that Israel tried to implement in 1982.

    Syria was invited by the Lebanese government and the Lebanese governments and leaders in general continue to support the presence. This is a matter of Lebanon’s choice of friends which is none of the business of predatory outsiders. This move to force people to ditch friends unfriendly to Israel and to become unequal “partners” of that predatory state shows the hostile intentions towards Lebanon which must be rejected by Lebanon’s people and authorities.

  3. McGehee says:

    Syria was invited by the Lebanese government…

    Just like the Soviets were “invited” into Afghanistan in 1979.

  4. Ralph says:

    No. I don’t think that Revelations is the place to start. I would suggest The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690) by John Locke. It’s a bit “thick” but hey if you can dig Revelations, Locke should be a snap. And don’t overlook Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes. This is more likely what is meant by “the wrong side of history.” Nazi Germany was done along the lines of the Hobbesian model, the liberal republics of the west are based more on the Lockean – you know: Life, Libery, and so on. — Enjoy! And keep smiling!

  5. Ralph says:

    Erratum: That’s Liberty, not Libery.