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Hezbollah: a Short History by Augustus…
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Hezbollah has been one of the most well-known terrorist/Islamic-militant organizations on the planet since it came to prominence in the 1980s by attacking Israeli and American targets during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. It is a Shiite religious group that seeks two things: 1) the expulsion of all Israeli forces from Lebanese soil (Israel and Hezbollah disagree over whether Israel has in fact done this) and 2) a "fair" distribution of political power within Lebanon, where Shiites have often been excluded from power by Christians and Sunnis.

In Hezbollah: A Short History Augustus Richard Norton attempts to dispel the notion that Hezbollah is an organization that commits acts of terror for terror's sake and that it seeks perpetual war against the West. In other words, Norton tries to dispel the notion that Hezbollah is basically a Shiite version of al Qaeda. He largely succeeds at this effort.

Instead, Norton positions Hezbollah as a religious/nationalist movement that would probably refrain from undertaking attacks on Israel if the Israelis evacuated all Lebanese territory and engaged it in negotiations, as part of a nationwide Lebanese team, to end Israeli-Lebanese conflict. In essence, Norton believes that Israel could make peace with Hezbollah before settling the dispute with the Palestinians.

While I think that is being optimistic on Norton's part, I do buy into his position that Hezbollah is looking to get out of the violent militia racket and into the governing one. Furthermore, Norton also effectively positions Hezbollah as a nationalist movement, and not a pan-Arab or pan-Islamic, or even a pan-Shiite one. In other words, there is a possibility of splitting Hezbollah from its Syrian and Iranian sponsors if a deal can be worked out that leaves Hezbollah with a strong position within Lebanese politics. Whether or not Israel can take such a leap of faith remains to be seen. Since 1980, Israel's most difficult military encounters have been with Hezbollah, not the PLO or Hamas or any Arab state. Letting Hezbollah get control of Lebanon's military may be expecting too much of Israel despite the signs of Hezbollah's willingness to live and let live.

Interestingly, Norton claims that while Hezbollah claimed victory in the 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah's leaders privately admitted that Israel inflicted a lot of damage on the organization, both physically and psychologically. This may well have been a turning point in Hezbollah's history that caused it to decide once and for all to try and live peacefully with Israel. If so, this in itself would be reason to call Israel's invasion of Lebanon a success. Of course, only time will tell. ( )
  Bretzky1 | Aug 9, 2011 |
I wish other scholars could right like this guy. He knows his stuff but he shares it in a way we can all understand. ( )
  psdln | Aug 17, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0691131244, Hardcover)

Most policymakers in the United States and Israel have it wrong. Hezbollah isn't a simple terrorist organization--nor is it likely to disappear soon. Following Israel's war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the Shi'i group--which combines the functions of a militia, a social service and public works provider, and a political party--is more popular than ever in the Middle East while retaining its strong base of support in Lebanon. And Hezbollah didn't merely confront Israel and withstand its military onslaught. Hezbollah's postwar reconstruction efforts were judged better than the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina--not by al-Jazeera, but by an American TV journalist. In Hezbollah, one of the world's leading experts on Hezbollah has written the essential guide to understanding the complexities and paradoxes of a group that remains entrenched at the heart of Middle East politics.

With unmatched clarity and authority, Augustus Richard Norton tells how Hezbollah developed, how it has evolved, and what direction it might take in the future. Far from being a one-dimensional terrorist group, Norton explains, Hezbollah is a "janus-faced" organization in the middle of an incomplete metamorphosis from extremism to mundane politics, an evolution whose outcome is far from certain. Beginning as a terrorist cat's-paw of Iran, Hezbollah has since transformed itself into an impressive political party with an admiring Lebanese constituency, but it has also insisted on maintaining the potent militia that forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 after almost two decades of occupation.

The most accessible, informed, and balanced analysis of the group yet written, Hezbollah is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:53 -0400)

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"Most policymakers in the United States and Israel have it wrong. Hezbollah isn't a simple terrorist organisation - nor is it likely to disappear soon." "The most accessible, informed, and balanced analysis of the group yet written, Hezbollah is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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