Interesting stuff from Prof. Juan Cole, a Middle Eastern expert at the University of Michigan. Full Article Linked Above And At The Bottom
Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement.
Al-Qaeda is some 5,000 multinational volunteers organized in tiny cells.
Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area.
I take sub-nationalism as a concept from Anthony D. Smith. It would be most familiar to Western readers under the rubric of the Irish Catholics of North Ireland, or even the Scots of the UK. Subnationalism, like the larger, over-arching nationalism, is a mass movement.
Thus, a very large number of the Pushtuns in Afghanistan are sub-nationalists with a commitment to Pushtun dominance. They deeply resent the victory of the Northern Alliance (i.e. Tajiks, Hazara Shiites, and Uzbeks) in 2001-2002. A lot of what our press calls resurgent "Taliban" activity is just Pushtun irredentism. There are approximately 14 million Pushtuns in Afghanistan and another 14 million or so in Pakistan.
Social and Politically Mobilized Shiites
The Shiites of southern Lebanon are compact enough to likewise offer a subnationalism. Note that this is a new phenomenon. The Shiite masses were not socially and politically mobilized until at least the 1970s, and probably it is more accurate to say the 1980s. ("Social mobilization" refers to literacy, access to media, urbanization, industrialization and so forth; isolated small villages have difficulty organizing big movements.)
The main factor in causing these peasant sharecroppers to become politically aware and mobilized was the Arab Israeli conflict. The Israelis stole some of their land in 1948 and expelled 100,000 Palestinians north into south Lebanon, where they competed for resources with local Lebanese Shiites. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Palestinians became politically and militarily organized by the PLO. The Shiites' conflict with the PLO in the southern camps in the 1970s was probably a key beginning, but from 1982 it was primarily their conflict with the Israeli Occupation army that spurred them on.
Processes of integration into the world market and increased mechanization of south Lebanon agriculture, as well as urbanization (Tyre, south Beirut) provided a *social* mobilization substrate that enabled but did not cause their *political mobilization*