There was a post earlier about Hezbollah’s transmigration to the Americas. I’m glad to see mention of Hezbollah in major news sources (NBC) but of course am saddened and worried by the news of Hezbollah’s spread. The news isn’t new of course, they have had operatives in South America for a while now and even carried out an attack against the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires in 1994. Hezbollah has also been operating in the United States for some time. In 2001 the FBI broke up a Hezbollah fundraising ring as nearby as North Carolina. Former CIA Director (and newly minted author…) George Tenet once remarked that “Hezbollah, as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is [Al-Qaeda’s] equal, if not a far more capable organization. I actually think they’re a notch above in many respects.” I’m not sure the solution to the Hezbollah threat is stonger border security though.
The threat to the United States by Hezbollah is not as clear-cut as many believe. While they are a Shiite Muslim terrorist group to be sure, they are more politically viable than Al-Qaeda, with more to lose by engaging in a war with the United States. They were boosted by their summer war with Israel and have been steadily growing in power since their foundation in the 1980’s, moving from a rag-tag bunch of insurgents to a highly structured organization (though they work hard to still appear as a grassroots organization…). Hezbollah maintains relatively autonomous control over the areas of Lebanon they operate in and enjoy popular support as a result of their social programs in the suburbs of Beirut.
If Hezbollah had more incentive to become mainstream they would. While it is tempting to carpetbomb Beirut, America shouldn’t fall prey to the comforting distraction of direct action and should focus on a diplomatic response to Hezbollah. While I understand the previous post’s assertion that stronger border security is a potential solution to Hezbollah in America, it’s important to realize that there is no silver bullet solution. Hezbollah is a HUGE threat to Israel, it’s only a mild threat to us right now (and only because of our relationship with Israel). Border security on our southern border will do little to keep us from getting embroiled in a Hezbollah-Israeli War. Instead the US should (gasp!) try diplomacy. America should lean on Syria to pull its support (talk to Syria? yeah, I said it!) since they are more liable to respond to offers of legitimacy than Iran and have served as a moderating force in the past. There is evidence that Syria has been instrumental in the past with halting Hezbollah’s more radical elements, if given the right combination of sticks and carrots, Syria could help to enforce moderate aspects of Hezbollah, neutralizing the threat even if it doesn’t eliminate or terminate it.
Sydney is co-editor of www.RealityCheck08.org