Friday, July 21, 2006

Globalization: Hizbullah The Other Side of Global Competition

Competition Makes You More Efficient

In a Globalized economy, only the most efficient and flexible businesses survive and thrive, particularly in the toughest markets where they face the best of local and foreign competition. Companies learn the best particular methods through their own experiences and those of global and local competitors.

Hizbullah proves that this also applies to asymetrical warfare. They are to put it bluntly, the best at what they do. To snatch Israeli soldiers right in Israel, is the result of careful planning and operational silence. They quietly built up a huge array of weapons right on the Israeli border, under the noses of some of the most sophisticated surveillance in the world. They have dispersed their command and control, hidden within largely civilian areas.

Lebanon's history the past 35 years is one of armed factions, representing not only the religious and ethnic divide of the state, but also those of extra-territorial actors, and foreign armies. In this all-against-all environment, only the toughest and the most brutal survived. The P.L.O., one of the largest non-Lebanese faction, ended up becoming a conventional army with a lazy bureaucratic political wing, alientated the locals, and caused just enough trouble to Israel to provoke an invasion.

Hizbullah purposefully avoided that example. They raised hundreds of millions of dollars from Iran, and from a sophisticated, worldwide funding network, and unlike the PLO, Maronites, and other militias, they spent it effectively. Part of that is due to Shiite fundamentalist beliefs, as effective to keep discipline as Leninism. But, the other part is due to human capital, many in their base and networks, have lived, studied, and done legal (and illegal) business in the West. They are thoroughly familiar with modern management techniques, international finance, modern electoral politics, marketing and advertising, and information technology systems. When you have people who started and ran succesful businesses in major U.S. cities, have engineering degrees from top schools, worked in international trade and banking in Lebanon, or who wrote code for software companies, you have folks who can run things as well as anyone in the world can.

Take public relations, they have a Satellite T.V. station, it is so well hidden that the Israeli's haven't been able to take it out. They spread their Jihadist message all over the Middle East and the World, arguably encouraging wanna-be suicide bombers. But they also produce game shows, political in content, but entertaining. On Western TV their spokesman stay on message, and always appear close shaven and wearing button down shirts and chinos to not look like stereotypical fundamentalists. They manage to transmit on the one hand a hateful messages to one audience, entertain, and keep some semblance of proper appearances to the other.

This is an insurgent army that has trained and fought for decades - Lebanon was one giant university and grad school for war and terror. Just surviving Israel is a feat considering the awesome conventional and unconventional capabilities of the Israeli Defence Forces and its Intelligence services. Not only have they been able to fight Israel, they were credited with forcing Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the buffer zone in Lebanon. That has gained them popularity after decades of Lebanese watching every group that tried fail miserably.

Along with the military wing, Hizbullah created a civilian wing which gained electoral power, and rules as a state entire pieces of Lebanese territory in the South, Southern Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. They are effective at the nuts and bolts of government, providing a police force, building schools, and providing social services. The Lebanese state never had enough control over its own territory to even try this in those areas, other armed factions like the P.L.O. never really bothered. A population tired of constant war and lack of basic services, basically voted in fundamentalist fanatics intent on destroying Israel, because they do the basics of running government better than anyone else has.

The organization has thoroughly blended the political and the military, keeping the fiction that they are separate and independent, while dispersing their weaponry among the civilian population. Their political-military leadership is decentralized and maintain a strict code of silence. Attacking them, involves attacking that same civilian population that elected them. The Lebanese central government has a serious disincentive to even try asserting control over areas such as South Beirut and the border area, they are thoroughly under the political and military control of Hizbullah.

In the end, this is the essence of "bad" globalization: you adapt to the rules of the international marketplace, using up to date methods, while maintaining your unique character. They learned to fight the Israeli's by adapting the Israeli's methods, and seeing what worked and didn't work from everyone else in Lebanon. They fundraised using sophisticated and decentralized methods, pooled their resources effectively to get their military and civilian operations running smoothly. Both political and military wings seem to run independent of each other - while responding to central direction. They have a "lean" and "muscular" military, effectively de-concentrated to enable it to be difficult to destroy in one blow. Using modern day political campaigning and modern management techniques they have created "customers" whom they deliver basic services to, and who owe them loyalty. They spread their anti-Israel hate via sophisticated modern technology. Basically, they are pretty scary.

Sources and Further Reading: Jeffrey Goldberg's excellent set of articles on Hizzbulah that appeared in the New Yorker in 2002
Part 1
Part 2


SOD said...

very good assessment there Boli.

eerily reminiscint of Sinn Fein here in Ireland. Sinn Fein put ion a lot of hard work in appealing to working class voters over the past decade and they're on the cusp of retrieving the electoral awards for that hard work.

Sinn Fein/IRA popularity always increased when the Brits did some stupid move. fallujah in 2003 when 17 civilians were shot dead during a protest mirrors Bloody Sunday in 1972. In the week after bloody sunday the IRA didn't enough guns to pass around to their new recruits.

British commanders in Iraq talk of the level of sophistication of the Iraqi terrorists. It took the Iraqis 2 years to develop the same types of weapons that took the IRA 30 years to develop. Unlike us irish, the Afghans, Iraqis have a historical precedent of kicking the imperialists out of their countries.

Anonopotomous said...

The US is screwed in Iraq. But this is good in that it gives Latin America some breathing room to develop an anti-colonial, more socialistic model of development.

The US should stay in Iraq, even though these assholes will never win their ignominious goals of installing a puppet state.

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