The editor of one of Beirut’s English-language newspapers, the Daily Star, suggests that Hizbullah has some important lessons to teach Lebanon, the Arab world, and all those who are interested in helping build a stable and happy future in the Middle East. Such advice certainly seems less than intuitively obvious since it has largely been the actions of Hizbullah that sparked the invasion of Lebanon last month, and the very existence of Hizbullah as a political and military organization in Lebanon has undermined the power and legitimacy of the Lebanese people, through their government, to control and pursue their destiny as a united nation.
However, the Daily Star would have us push these rather glaring tactical missteps aside and focus on the positive lessons of Hizbullah, namely it’s professionalism and entrepreneurial vision.
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.
Granted, insofar as one abides by the natural law of our cosmos and follows (at the very least) such basic principles of business as identifying a need, and strategically planning how to fulfill that need, one will see some sort of result (dependent on a variety of factors including the degree to which one properly identified the need and solution). However, I suggest that the editor of the Daily Star makes no great contribution to solving the issues at stake in Lebanon by pointing this out, and only muddies the clear nature of the issue at hand by suggesting that “bad guys” (as perceived at least by the West, and by a number of Lebanese of all religious affiliation as well as moderate Muslims world-wide) are actually, somehow, good. Surely the Lebanese government has well-trained men and women who are acquainted with the basic principles of business and government and I doubt the editor truly means to suggest otherwise. Certainly the U.N., the U.S., the E.U., and the Arab League all possess men and women who are at least as well-educated in these principles as the leaders of Hizbollah. However, we see all these groups and nations unable to sufficiently solve the problems currently destroying Lebanese civilization.
I suggest that the editor of the Daily Star completely misses the root of the issue. At stake is not the professionalism of any particular group as they seek to alleviate and ameliorate the present crisis (although they must be professional if they are to do anything worthwhile). Rather, the theory, the ideals and the perceived need of the Lebanese people is what must be addressed. Hizbullah is not successful because it is professional; it is successful because it promotes a cause that (apparently) many Lebanese and other Arab people find important. The destruction of Israel is a theme that rings true in the hearts of many and so the group that is able to unify this ideal into a focused cause and cement its passion into action will be successful, especially if they carry out their goals professionally (as defined by the Daily Star).
If Lebanon is to rise out of the mess it finds itself in, the very ideals and heartcry of the people must be addressed and changed. If Hizbullah is to be defeated, if the destruction of Lebanses society is to be averted, the people must have a change of heart and must commit themselves to justice and mercy, under the rule of law if they are to avoid devolving into a vigilante society with a vendetta for revenge and penchant for anarchy and tyranny.
My dear Editor, the discussion of the root issues in Lebanon, though perhaps at times nothing but the “rhetoric and cliches of idealouges,” is the discussion that must take place before any practical application can be made. Hizbullah has not won popular support because it is professional, it has won popular support because it appeals to the ideals of a lot of people. It has been successful because it has professionally worked out goals to realize those ideals. Thus, for the peacemakers to be successful they must first capture the imagination and ideals of the Lebanese people. This must take place in the marketplace of ideas, in which that which is good, right, and just must make its voice heard. Perhaps this process will simply sound like sloganeering and rhetoric, however, the ideas underlying the slogans and rhetoric are those that must be examined and accepted or rejected before any real work can be done.