WHAT IS HEZBOLLAH?...

WHAT IS HEZBOLLAH? Tim Cavanaugh's reply to Robert Pape's op-ed is interesting. Pape, the author of a book on suicide bombers, argues that Hezbollah is a territorial organization, staffed and sustained by anger over Israeli incursions. Cavanaugh, however, has done some more recent work with the organization, and found them a centrally structured, highly sophisticated group. "[W]hen I went to interview Mohammad Fneish, for example, they certainly seemed organized, requiring a battery of security checks, disclaimers to fill out, personal information, etc., and that's after you go by a bunch of hard-looking characters who patrol outside their headquarters building (or patrolled; the building is gone now). The tasks of the security people, the PR people, the politicians, and the clerical staff all seemed as well established as you'd see in a military organization, and this was just to get access to a politician."

That would suggest that Hezbollah evolved beyond their origins as an anti-Israeli resistance group, something that should be obvious given their survival after Israel's withdrawal. Indeed, as we know, they provide social services to the residents of southern Lebanon, have won parliamentary seats, and appear to be a force in their own right, not just a foil to Tel Aviv.

Evidence for this comes, as Cavanaugh says, in the simple fact that Hezbollah no longer relies on the crude-though-effective use of suicide bombing anymore. Such tactics are a hallmark of wildly asymmetric warfare, where one participant has no military answer for the other. That's not proving the case in this conflict through. As The Wall Street Journal reports today, Hezbollah bristles with conventional weaponry now, from simplistic drones to Semtex explosives to sophisticated missiles. They deploy advanced communication technology, dig into fortified regions, and rely on a system of tunnels for transportation. They are, in other words, a far more formidable foe than Israel expected to encounter, and their destruction or disarmament looks less likely by the day.

--Ezra Klein

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