Monday, May 12, 2008

Hezbollah in Context

Hezbollah / Hizballah / Hizbollah / Hizbullah / Party of God: They're sort of like the American Amish only armed with machine guns, Islamic, and strident as Puritans, Mormons, Southern Baptists, or Pentecostals. They are key players in Lebanon, a small country about the size of Connecticut with a population of 4.2 million people (Connecticut has 3.4 million). Labelled "terrorist" by a handful of governments (most pointedly, by the US and Israeli governments), Hezbollah cannot and will not be magically excised or dismissed from the scene.

A useful primer that could be read beneficially -- by any literate person -- is Augustus Richard Norton's Hezbollah: A Short History (2007). It's only 167 pages and much more interesting than passive intake of news snippets and government spin. One quickly comes to understand why Hezbollah is popular in some spheres, an angle rarely glimpsed in "mainstream American media."

On the one hand, the Lebanese socio-cultural and political landscape is complicated, with various shifting roles taken by the army and competing coalitions that include Shi'ites, Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. On the other hand, some of the conflict can be boiled down to one sentence: "The ascendancy of the Shi'ia is being fought by the Sunnis." (Norton, p. 155, quoting Sofia Saadeh in 2006).

The situation in Iraq is also complex, and in Iraq there's a population pushing 30 million people. Iran, by the way, has 71.2 million people. Simple facts, but important ones to keep in mind when these countries and their various groups are twirled about in the news as if they're all undifferentiated.

Today's Rune: Harvest. Yesterday's: Wholeness.


Charles Gramlich said...

Makes me want to escape into the simpler political world of Talera, where you have to worry primarily about witches and warlocks and such

Erik Donald France said...

Charles, you are a brave man. Most may fear tarring and feathering by the Dept. of whatever it's called, just for commenting here ;->

Imed Chihi عماد الشيحي said...


I stopped by your blog because you picked the same theme, but I realised that we have also covered the same subject.

Here is my post about Hisbollah: