Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hollow States: Lebanon

John Robb in Global Guerillas

May's dispute between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah is an interesting example of the contest between hollow states and virtual states over legitimacy and sovereignty. As in most conflicts between gutted nation-states and aggressive virtual states, Hezbollah's organic legitimacy trumped the state's in the contest (an interesting contrast between voluntary affiliation and default affiliation by geography). The fighting was over in six hours.

A Parallel Communications Backbone
What's more interesting than the actual fighting is what the conflict was about. In summary, the government made an attempt to slow the expansion Hezbollah's fiber optics network, which provides secure/robust communications and surveillance (via automated cameras) to the group. Specifically, the government tried to shut down surveillance nodes of the network overlooking Beirut International Airport. Hezbollah responded by defining the network as a core part of its organization and that they were willing to defend it with violence if necessary.

So, we can now conclude that in addition to a 4GW militia and social services, a parallel communications/surveillance network is a core feature set of virtual states. This tracks with our emerging experience in Sadr City. It also implies we may see interesting virtual variants of this via the parasitic piggybacking of open source insurgencies (the PCC, al Qaeda, etc.) on cell phone networks and the Internet.


1 comment:

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