“Hezbollah (meaning Party of God) is a political and military party in Lebanon founded in 1982 to fight the Israel occupation in southern Lebanon. It is regarded by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate militant Shia political party in Lebanon. In addition to its military wing, Hezbollah maintains a civilian arm, which runs hospitals, various news services, and educational facilities.” Aljazeera 01/01/2003, reprinted 09/15/2006 http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=10029.
Before we answer that question, we must first understand how a clearly terrorist organization (to most of the western world) can win such an accepted strong hold in Lebanon and much of the Middle East in the first place. On Monday June 06, 2005 the world woke up to learn that Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies won control over Southern Lebanon Parliament. The entire free world was in shock. But should we have been?
Tuesday March 01, 2005 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls for fair and free elections in Southern Lebanon. (Source: Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer. 03/01/2005). The hopes were that free elections would usher in a new government and weaken the strong hold of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. These were good intentions, but with one fatal flaw. We assumed that the people of Lebanon viewed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Remember Hezbollah denounced the terrorist bombing of the United States on September 11, 2001.
When we think of free elections we think of American Democracy. At the very least we think of the Parliamentary system. What we don’t think about is the reality of life in the Middle East. Most of the Middle East is run in accordance with Islamic Religious Laws. Not many are willing to depart from these standards. In Iraq, they are willing to give rights to women in their Constitution as long as Islamic Law is not violated. Islamic Laws give men a clear advantage over women. We must also consider the standard of living is low compared to U.S standards. Lebanon has an 18% unemployment rate. The United States has a 5.6% unemployment rate. 28% of the population of Lebanon lives below the poverty level, as compared to 12% in the United States. Lebanon has a population of 3,874,050, as compared to the United States’ 298,444,215. (Source: CIA Fact World Book, current as of September 07, 2006. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html).
This means that approximately 1,084,734 of Lebanon’s 3,874,050 population lives below the poverty level. Now add in that through out much of the Islamic world women are forbidden to work outside of the home. Hezbollah feeds the hungry and gives shelter to the homeless. After the July 2006 Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers Hezbollah blamed Israeli for the soon to follow war. When the Israeli troops pulled out Hezbollah moved back in with a promise to rebuild the homes Israel destroyed in the unprovoked attack against Lebanon. Hezbollah provides economic support to nearly one third of Lebanon’s population. Are you still surprise they won the open and free elections?
Despite the fact that Lebanon was on an economic come back, before Hezbollah set in motion the events which lead to the Israeli military response many Lebanon citizens blamed Israel for the Lebanon – Israeli war of July 2006. It’s easy to blame some one else for our problems. That isn’t a Lebanon problem that is a human problem. We all do it.
Why would anyone blow themselves up? I’m going to give you the extremely simplified answer. With 18% an unemployment rate and a 28% poverty rate do you still need to ask that question? Well let’s add in the extreme religious leaders teaching that if you don’t follow the teachings of Islam, you are evil and deserve death. Now add that if you are willing to take a stand for your God and country we will reward you in Heaven and your family here on Earth. Suicide bomber’s families are rewarded for the actions of their family members who commit an act of suicide bombing against their enemies. It’s more likely that many suicide bombers are motivated by economic needs rather then purely political or religious beliefs. None of these conditions alone will spur the any rational person to acts of terrorism. But if you combined them it may give insight as to why young men and recently young women are so willing to commit acts of suicide bombings against people who has done them no direct harm.
Now I’m not saying that this explains all or even the majority of the reasons why people are willing to commit acts of terrorism. But it does give insight into the complexity of the problem. So how do we combat terrorism when the enemy has no country of origin? Although Hezbollah operates in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, it is funded almost solely by Iran.
Weather or not the United States can ever win the war on terrorism depends on weather or not the American people and our elected officials are truly willing to go after terrorism in the same fashion the Israeli do. Are we willing to invade Lebanon? Are we willing to risk an all out Jihad? Are we willing to risk the outrage of the International Islamic community? Are we willing to risk an all out war with Iran? It is one thing to invade a weaken Iraq, but are we willing to commit to an all out war against Iraq? Are we prepared to fight a war on our own soil when our own citizens decide they identify or sympathize with the terrorist? Since 911 both the United States and England has had its share of citizens committing acts of violence against our nations. In the case of England in early 2006 English citizens committed an unspeakable act of terrorism when they bombed the transportation system.
I served in the United States Marine Corps under President Regan from 1980 until 1986. I was a Military Police Officer attached to the 4th Marine Air Wing (4th MAW), Marine Air Group 46 (MAG 46), Marine Corp Air Station 46 (MCAS 46). My primary duty was to protect air bases against terrorist attacks. No matter what your feelings are about the late President Reagan, he is responsible for our military being able to respond to the treat of 911. He mandated that our military be able to respond anywhere in the world within 72 hours. Not only did the military meet these requirements in many areas they exceeded them. Now I wasn’t Special Forces or anything. My job was simple. My job was to hold my position until support arrived. I was just one small part of a larger plan.
To defeat terrorism we as Americans must realize that there is no one front when it comes to fighting terrorism. If we aren’t willing to commit fully to defeating terrorism, we will never win the war on terrorism. Unless we are willing to fight the long fight and with the same commitment as the terrorist and yes, even on U.S. soil we will never win the war on terrorism. I fear that until America wake up to routine suicide bombings of our local Starbucks we will never fully understand how important it is to combat terrorism. When it gets to that point it will be too late. Once we are in fear of walking our streets, we have already lost and we will be fighting from a defensive position rather then an offensive position.