Faced with a slow death, many Lebanese today are in immediate need of help regardless of its origin, and they feel the West and Arab world has more or less left them at the mercy of Iran and Hezbollah. Still, Lebanese themselves must understand that dealing with Hezbollah without addressing the historical flaws of their society—the country’s weak state, feudal political leadership, and contested national identity, which invite foreign meddling in Lebanon’s affairs and the emergence of powerful non-state actors—is tantamount to treating the symptoms rather than the roots of the disease afflicting Lebanon. Consequently, it’s hardly possible to eliminate Hezbollah as a hybrid non-state actor without plunging the country into civil strife.
The United States has no magic wand to rehabilitate Lebanon, but, in parallel to international efforts to help Lebanon implement UNSCR 1559 and 1701 as related to the country’s sovereignty and the disarming of all armed groups, it must recognize the urgency of helping Lebanese now. Washington should work with civil society organizations to help change the sociopolitical conditions that allowed Hezbollah and other non-state actors to thrive in the first place. Otherwise, Washington may soon be watching, in the same way, London and Paris had done during the Great War, an impending catastrophe befalling the Lebanese that is no less consequential than the mass starvation of the Great War.
Robert G. Rabil is a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University. He can be reached @robertgrabil.