by Jonathan Spyer
The latest events in
The pro-Western March 14 movement won an unexpected victory in elections in
Supporters of March 14 had little choice but to concede to the demands of the "losing" side in the election. The violence of May 2008 proved conclusively that they are incapable of resisting the armed might of Hezbollah. Hezbollah may have paid a price in terms of its legitimacy in the eyes of non-Shi'ite Lebanese for demonstrating its power, but it acquired the ability to silence any further dissent on issues it deems of cardinal importance.
But the foundation of the new Lebanese government is ultimately only one small element within a larger process taking place in
While it is impossible to carry out accurate demographic surveys in Lebanon, Hezbollah certainly believes that the Shi'ites are on the rise demographically, due to their high birthrate and low(er) emigration rate. Senior Israeli officials who are knowledgeable about the country concur with this assessment. They also note the growing strength of Shi'ite officers in the Lebanese Armed Forces, particularly at mid-level. This development, alongside the latest political moves, is slowly blurring the borders between the official Lebanese state and the parallel state maintained by Hezbollah.
The slow, full-spectrum advance of the Shi'ite Islamist camp in
The significant differences between these rising forces and the delusional Salafi fringe has led many in the West to believe that "pragmatic," localized Islamism can be accommodated rather than confronted. Such a belief ignores a large part of the picture. Certainly in the case of the regime in
Hezbollah's new manifesto condemns the
The true balance of power is rather different, of course. And as Hezbollah slowly swallows other elements of the Lebanese system, the conclusion being reached in
The history of the region shows that anti-Western ideological waves can indeed eventually be accommodated and dealt with pragmatically - but this cannot be achieved at the moment of their rise. The examples of pan-Arabism and Palestinian nationalism suggest that only following military defeat and socioeconomic failure are flexibility and pragmatism likely to make an appearance. Political Islam has not yet reached this stage. Current events in
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center,
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