Hezbollah: Organizational development, ideological evolution, and a relevant threat model

by Jackson, Michael T., M.A.L.S., GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, 2009, 132 pages; 1470585


As a movement and as an organization, Hezbollah represents an emerging model of oppositional contention in which a group is capable of coordinating the use of violence, social services, and legitimate political discourse in a coherent campaign of resistance. While the use of violence as a mode of contention within political discourse is not a novel concept, its manifestation in groups such as Hezbollah presents an intellectual challenge to the current conceptualization of terrorism and state security. Namely, Hezbollah is not using violence to pursue social or political change as an alternative to the existing political system in Lebanon; Hezbollah is using violence as a complement to its participation in the Lebanese sectarian system, effectively translating the use of violence into sufficient political capital to compel change from within the system. This dynamic presents a unique set of theoretical and practical challenges: will a group's participation in legitimate political discourse necessitate the group's moderation (e.g. will the group abandon the use of violence)? And perhaps more importantly, what are the risks involved in the process of moderation (e.g. what threat does a group pose as it participates in political discourse while it remains committed to the use of violence as a mode of contention)?

To assess Hezbollah's potential for moderation, this thesis presents case studies of the organizational development and ideological evolution that enabled Hezbollah to accommodate political discourse into its broader campaign of resistance and subsequently maintain a coordinated campaign of violence, social services, and legitimate participation in the Lebanese sectarian system. The case study findings indicate that there are significant organizational and ideological constraints to moderation: rather than compelling moderation, Hezbollah's political success is largely dependant on its effective use of violence and thus encourages it to continue an active campaign of armed resistance to maintain structural integrity and ideological resonance.

To assess the threat implications of Hezbollah's organizational and ideological constraints to moderation and its continued use of violence as a complement to political discourse, this thesis evaluates Hezbollah's role as a destabilizing force in Lebanon within an extending model of state security and stability. Extending the concept of state security beyond the traditional defense model (e.g. security as a measure of how effectively a state can defend its territorial integrity or national interests from external attack) to include the conceptualization of the security-stability model (e.g. security as a measure of the internal and external vulnerabilities that threaten governing regimes institutionally) indicates that Hezbollah has a destabilizing effect on Lebanon which makes it more susceptible to external influence from regional powers and more vulnerable to escalating interstate conflict, as evident by the Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006.

AdviserJohn Voll
Source TypeThesis
SubjectsInternational relations; Political Science
Publication Number1470585

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