For those who want to simply characterize Hezbollah as a “terrorist group,” it’s clear that it is something far different to the people of Lebanon.

Hezbollah has been the fastest and, without a doubt, most effective organization doling out aid to the shattered towns and villages of southern Lebanon. Aid groups like Mercy Corps — which generally work through local intermediaries — have sometimes struggled to find other ways of helping, and even then, they cannot be sure their aid is not going through Hezbollah.

“You can make a separation between what we do and Hezbollah,” said Khiam’s deputy mayor, Muhammed Abdullah, 45, who is organizing the local efforts, including donations of food and water from Mercy. “But of course there is coordination.”

On Mr. Abdullah’s desk is a paperweight with the logo of “Construction Jihad,” Hezbollah’s building company, and in his anteroom are two posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

..As an example of Hezbollah’s hold on everyday life in southern Lebanon, Ali Bazzi, the mayor of Bint Jbail, outlined his big dreams for his half-demolished town as workmen raced past and tractors rumbled.

“We are going to turn this city into a model city,” Mr. Bazzi said, his arm clutching a trademark Hezbollah two-way radio. “There will be streets organized in grids, parks in every neighborhood and apartment blocks.”

Bint Jbail, the main Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon, saw some of the worst bombing and fighting during the monthlong war, in which Hezbollah, which is integrated with the general population, was Israel’s target. But Mr. Bazzi intends to complete the reconstruction without using a single cent from the Lebanese government, much less the United States or the West.

Instead, Mr. Bazzi is counting on Construction Jihad. Just a day after the fighting stopped, Construction Jihad enlisted the volunteer services of 1,700 engineers, electricians, plumbers, architects and geologists who have cleared streets, dug ditches and built temporary bridges.

While the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has just begun organizing committees to study the reconstruction of the country, Construction Jihad has all but completed surveys of southern Lebanese towns.

They say that the best way to combat your enemy is to co-opt him. Maybe we should give Hezbollah the contract for cleaning up New Orleans.