June 28, 2011

Back in the USSA, Part I: Dissertation

As some of you know, I have been traveling for the past 10 days in Europe. My wife and I celebrated two weddings, one in London and one in Milan. The London wedding celebrated the marriage of longtime blog contributor Amil "Londonstani" Khan and his lovely wife, so be sure to leave your best wishes in the comments section. My wife and I then spent a few days trekking in the Val d'Ayas, but not before I defended my doctoral dissertation in London. Since the subject of the doctoral dissertation might be of interest to the kind of people who read this blog, I will copy and paste the abstract below:

The way in which the existing social science literature measures military capability does not explain how Hizballah, a small Lebanese militant group, has managed to defeat the Israel Defense Forces and its allies throughout the 1990s and in 2006. Conventional approaches measuring numerical preponderance, technological advantages or the way in which actors employ force cannot explain conflicts in 1993, 1996 and 2006 – in which a smaller, technologically inferior adversary using only basic light infantry tactics managed to deny victory to the most powerful military actor in the region.


This study, by contrast, demonstrates the way in which Hizballah has developed a ‘comprehensive’ approach to warfare incorporating both kinetic and non-kinetic lines of operation. Not only combat operations but also propaganda campaigns and the provision of social services have enabled Hizballah to consistently realize political objectives on the battlefield. Only by expanding the definition of what constitutes military power and operations can victory and defeat in southern Lebanon be explained.

As you might imagine, then, in light of my own research, I am very much looking forward to the publication of two books, one of which I have already read in draft form and one of which was waiting for me on my desk when I arrived back in Washington. The former is Nick Blanford's Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel. The unedited, unabridged version of this book was both majesterial and fascinating, and I can only assume the finished product is also great. The latter book is Daniel Byman's A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism. I had known Byman was working on this book and now have high expectations about it after reading an excellent, glowing review in the Economist. I suspect that these two books are best read in tandem with one another, so order both and let me know how busy it keeps you through the fall. 

Meanwhile, let me thank you the readers of this blog for often providing interesting articles and others sources that I incorporated into my dissertation. I should also thank, in addition to my long-suffering wife, my supervisor, Yezid Sayigh, who sets the standard for anyone writing on security issues in the Arabic-speaking world. I also got a nice grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation to carry out my field work, and my bosses at the Center for a New American Security gave me plenty of time off to tackle my dissertation while working at CNAS. There are many, many other people to thank, but they are, as you might imagine, all listed in the acknowledgements.