, Volume 93, Number 4

Simone Tholens
International border management strategies have become the favoured practice to counter global threats, notably terrorism, migration flows and ‘weak states’. This article shows how border security assistance is translated and has political consequences in contexts where sovereignty is contested. It first offers a new conceptualization of contemporary security assistance as a form of ‘statebuilding lite’. These practices are void of comprehensive strategies for broader security governance, and are decentralized, pragmatic and ad hoc. The modus operandi is one whereby each donor develops its own niche, and directly supports specific agencies in the target state. Secondly, the article demonstrates how these tendencies play out in the one of the most important contemporary cases. Assistance to Lebanon since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war is particularly revealing, since Lebanon has received large numbers of Syrian refugees crossing its borders; witnessed rekindling of sectarian violence; and harbours Hezbollah, whose military operations in support of the Assad regime in Damascus draws Lebanon directly into the Syrian conflict. The ensuing situation, where vast amounts of security assistance reach Lebanon’s many security agencies in complex ways, can best be described as a security assistance ‘bonanza’. In a micro-study of how the Lebanese Army, police, intelligence and customs agencies have engaged with an EU border management project, the article analyses how discourses of ‘integration’ have encountered the hybrid Lebanese context. It asserts that in the absence of a domestic political strategy, the state reverts back to basic modes of securitydriven governance, aided by the readily available security assistance by actors with primarily strategic priorities. Drawing on the case of Lebanon allows us to fundamentally re-think how contemporary security assistance is practiced, and permits conceptualizations of global–local security linkages in a post-national world.

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Border management in an era of ‘statebuilding lite’: security assistance and Lebanon’s hybrid sovereignty
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