Monday, November 14, 2011

Squaring Hezbullah's Circle - An Exercise in Futility

I've been meaning to comment about Amal Saad Ghorayeb's article, "Why Hezbullah Supports the Assad Regime" for some time now and simply never had the time. I think distinguishing Hezbullah's understanding of liberty as "positive" and the Syrian protesters understanding of liberty as "negative" doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In her conclusion she says that:

Hezbollah’s understanding of freedom as a positive freedom to control one’s destiny and to achieve self-determination, both digresses from and surpasses the liberal preoccupation with the negative freedom from external constraints and hindrances. To be free is not to be left alone but to continually struggle for justice. It is for this reason that Hezbollah is inherently antagonistic to liberal uprisings like Syria’s which focus their efforts on freeing themselves from state control at the expense of the struggle against US and Israeli colonialism.
I never liked this dichotomy (which is posited by Isaiah Berlin) and have always found it to be arbitrary, and Saad-Ghorayeb's use of this term is just as problematic. On what basis does she put the Syrian protesters in a box and label their uprising as "liberal", and what exactly makes Hezbullah so unique that its version of freedom is to control one's destiny and achieve self-determination? One could just as easily say the same about the Syrian protesters, who do not have self-determination and certainly don't have control of their own destiny. It is sad that an academic like Ghorayeb has to resort to such verbal acrobatics in order to square Hezbullah's circle.

Contrary to her idea that this dual understanding of freedom would help us understand Hezbullah's position regarding Syria, which only muddies the water, I suggest we apply Ockham's razor, and reduce this issue to its simplest. Syria is a key ally of Hezbullah, and without the Assad regime, Hezbullah's position will be very difficult to maintain and leave the group more isolated. Ergo, Hezbullah needs to support Assad and ignore the demands of the Syrian people to be free from oppression and free from the threat of oppression.

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