Thursday, August 17, 2006
In the past month, and for some time before that, we have heard just about every possible suggestion about how to deal with Hizbullah: Attack it, degrade it, disarm it, wean it away from its friends in Syria and Iran, engage it politically, bring it into the Lebanese government in a bigger way, pressure it to show its real aims, drive it away from the border, or incorporate its military wing into the Lebanese national armed forces. One piece of advice that has not been heard sufficiently, and that strikes us as eminently sensible and relevant, is to learn from Hizbullah’s history and to emulate those aspects of its ways that could help the people of this region live more productive, peaceful lives.
Hizbullah did not suddenly materialize magically on a Persian carpet or a divine edict. The organization methodically built itself up and sharpened its capabilities in all fields over a period of years. The core of its success is its capacity to identify the real needs of its constituents, meet those needs systematically through an efficient network of staff and managers, and not to waste time bragging about the fact in public.
Whether you approve or disapprove of Hizbullah, you cannot simply ignore it, or wish it away. Debate about its tactics, goals, values, allies, and place in Lebanon and the region will go on for a long time. Such discussion should not merely parrot the rhetoric and cliches of ideologues who love it or hate it, making it a one-dimensional phenomenon that belies its complex multiple roles. We would suggest, rather, that the enormous physical and political reconstruction demands of Lebanon in the months ahead would benefit from the sort of efficiency, focus, strategic planning, diligence and follow-up that have characterized Hizbullah’s efforts in all the fields it has entered.
Others in Lebanon have achieved similar success, in fields such as medicine, engineering, the arts, banking and many others. This is not a story of particularly Shiite values or religious motivation. It is a narrative of professionalism and its consequences – of individuals who collectively identify a need, define a goal, plan a strategy and get the job done. Hizbullah happens to be the Lebanese organization that has taken this degree of professionalism to the highest degree of impact on the public – good or bad impact, depending on your perspective. Politically, Hizbullah will be challenged, engaged, opposed and long debated.
Organizationally and logistically, it has historic lessons to teach all other Arabs in the country and the region. Those Arabs, including the Lebanese, should be alert enough to recognize the rare capacity for efficacy that Hizbullah has developed, and apply it in those crucial fields of public life and national development that have suffered so much mediocrity in the recent past.