>By Don White, July 11, 2008
Over the past decade, a former terrorist group has basically hijacked and changed Lebanon forever. The news today reports that a very divided Lebanon has given this militia-driven group veto power, outmaneuvering Israel and the West.
Become somewhat of an expert, reading the book Hezbollah: A Short History by Augustus Richard Norton, Professor of International Relations and Anthropology at Boston University. Norton was a military observer for the United Nations in southern Lebanon when Hezbollah and rival Shi’i parties were taking form there in the early 1980s.
A former U.S. Army officer and West Point professor, he has conducted research in Lebanon for close to three decades, and his book Amal and the Shi’a is widely considered to be a classic account of the political mobilization of Lebanon’s Shi’i Muslims.
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.
Hezbollah evolved from a one-dimensional terrorist group into a “janus-faced” organization, two-faced, with great power and persuasion. No one knows what its outcome will be, as it is in the middle of an incomplete metamorphosis from extremism to mundane politics where it finds itself today.
Could This Happen In America? Better Question: Is This Happening in America?
If we could not stop Hezbollah in its infancy, how can we avoid having a militant group take over our government? There are signs of militancy on both the left and the right and from without today. The September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington were the most destructive ever on U.S. soil. But law-enforcement officials have also long struggled with a range of U.S.-based terrorist groups.
Domestic extremists include hate groups motivated by ultra-conservative ideals that are often anti-Semitic and racially motivated; ecoterrorists who use violence to campaign for greater environmental responsibility; and socialist groups who oppose the World Trade Organization.
While homegrown Muslim extremists have proven more lethal in Europe than in the United States, U.S. authorities continue to worry about the prospect of attacks by militant Muslims who are American citizens.