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Remote crisis management: Australia's 2006 rescue of citizens trapped in Lebanon

Schwarz, Y. and McConnell, Allan (2009) Remote crisis management: Australia's 2006 rescue of citizens trapped in Lebanon. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 63 (2). pp. 233-248. ISSN 1035-7718

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On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah's kidnapping of two young Israeli soldiers was the catalyst for a sudden escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanon was host to more citizens and permanent residents from Australia than any other country in the world. This article examines the monumental challenge faced by the Australian authorities in rescuing and repatriating its citizens who were caught up in the conflict. It does so through the conceptual lens of 'remote crisis management' i.e. episodes where one country's traditional crisis management challenges of rapid threats, uncertainty and the need for swift decision making are compounded by 'political remoteness'. In other words, it lacks both political sovereignty and local infrastructure capacity for crisis resolution in a faraway county. The article focuses particularly on the remote crisis management challenges of making sense of the crisis, communication with a range of interests, and the logistical challenges of arranging and installing rescue and evacuation procedures. It also addresses the significance of Australia's prior evacuation experiences, as well as the capacity it had built in local and international networks. The article draws on a range of primary and secondary sources, including interviews with public servants and community representatives.