Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hezbollah Offers Islamic World a Plan

Hezbollah challenges the West with a "strategy of liberation"

On the 26th, Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah gave a speech in which he laid out Hezbollah’s position on Lebanese domestic politics and its fundamental strategic calculus on foreign affairs. Whether or not you agree with the speech, whether or not you choose to take Nasrallah at his word or not, he spoke clearly and laid out a viewpoint that will surely resonate throughout the Islamic world. For that reason, this is a speech that those interested in the confrontation between Islam and the West will ignore at their peril. (Here, I will comment only on his foreign policy remarks, as reported by al Manar; if he had other significant foreign policy remarks that al Manar omitted from its English report, please send me comments.)

I would very much like to hear who those who understand both Arabic and Persian think is the most effective Islamic speaker in the region today. Judging from the precision and logical clarity of this speech, Nasrallah is trying to be and, indeed, may already be that person. That he has some achievements unmatched by any other Islamic leader on his resume (2000, 2006, and the decision not to press for total control when he had the chance this month) only add to the effect. His speech represents a clear attempt to speak for all Moslems in delivering this challenge to the West.

Nasrallah’s strategic calculus:

I tell anyone whose country is under occupation: Don't wait for consensus…take up your arms and head to liberation. This is what happened in Lebanon. The resistance that constituted a part of the Lebanese people depended on its will and the strength of its fighters in the battlefield. The Arab and Islamic worlds should have helped them, but many of these governments lagged behind, however Syria and Iran spearheaded the countries that assisted the resistance and consequently the historic victory in 2000; a clear victory for Lebanon, the resistance, the Arabs and the Umma. It was also a clear defeat to Israel and its "from-Euphrates-to-Nile- Rivers" scheme in the region. The strategy of liberation adopted by the resistance was successful while the strategy of negotiations failed to gain back an inch of Lebanese land and the strategy of wait-and-see was making the enemy stronger.

Just in case anyone might miss the message, he added:

In occupied Iraq, there are those who believe in resistance and others in politics…Today, you must take the decisive position. The resistance has been dealing severe blows to the US occupation army. Iraq is called to follow the strategy of the resistance.

I predict this is a message that will be heard loud and clear not just in Iraq but in Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, and everywhere else a Moslem population feels under attack by the West. It is of no use to debate whether or not some Moslem population in fact is under attack by the West; it is of no use to whine that the speech represents interference in someone's internal affairs. The issue here is perceptions.
To the extent that Westerners are troubled by the clearly stated challenge of this speech, they need to consider why so many Moslems share this perception. Nasrallah gave an important clue to the answer in his speech, when he noted the hope of Lebanese back during Israel’s early invasions a generation ago that the world would defend Lebanon against Israel. In the event, of course, it did not, and so Hezbollah rose to the occasion.
This is not an issue of “preventing terrorism.” To the degree that Moslems perceive themselves to be cornered by Western military and economic pressure with no choice other than resistance, they will find Nasrallah’s strategic calculus convincing. If the West does not want to face the consequences, it has a choice. Its choice is…to give Moslems a choice.
  1. For an assessment of the speech as a major strategic error because of its likely negative impact on Western ears, see this post by Abu Muqawama. In particular, Abu Muqawama asks why Nasrallah would make remarks that appear to endorse al Qua'ida's terrorism in Iraq.
  2. For an initial indication that Sunnis may respond positively to Nasrallah's call for a nonsectarian approach to resistance, see this post by Badger.

1 comment:

badger said...

I like the idea of bringing together observations about this theme in different languages and in different countries, but I don't know how you could organize such a thing...