By Keith Preston
Hezbollah is one of the most unique political organizations in the world and has the distinction of having forced the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to withdraw from southern Lebanon on two separate occasions. The first of these was in 2000, ending Israel’s 18-year occupation of the region. The second was during the 2006 Lebanon War following a renewed assault on Lebanon by the IDF. Hezbollah is also considered to be a model “fourth generation warfare” organization by theorists of generational warfare, such as William S. Lind. Fourth generation warfare theory argues that the nature of war has been transformed since the end of World War Two. Because of the invention of nuclear weapons, international warfare between states has largely become cost prohibitive. Consequently, the waging of war has become a matter of conflict between states and non-state actors primarily.
Non-state actors may include any organization that engages in armed conflict outside of the state system, such as guerrillas, insurgents, or terrorists. However, non-state actors also include organizations that provide functions usually considered to be the prerogative of states (such as the provision of social services, education, public infrastructure, or public security), or focal points of public loyalty other than states, such as movements, causes, religions, ideologies, or gangs. Fourth generation warfare theory indicates that many people around the world are transferring their primary loyalties away from traditional national patriotisms toward fourth generation forces of many kinds. For example, rather than considering themselves to be a patriotic citizen of their nation, a person may first consider themselves to be a loyal Muslim, socialist, or devotee of animal welfare. Hezbollah is considered by fourth generation warfare theorists to be the most sophisticated fourth generation model because of its ability to provide traditional state functions on a significant scale, and Hezbollah’s having superseded the Lebanese military as the “national defense” force of Lebanon.