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A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel Paperback – July 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439143617
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439143612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Depressingly excellent… Lays out the near-brilliant way in which Hezbollah manages to be both the party of the downtrodden and the puppet of two of the area’s most retrograde dictatorships. Cambanis shows how the trick is pulled.”—Christopher Hitchens, Slate, author of Hitch-22 and God Is Not Great

“An indispensable guide to understanding the region’s most formidable extra-state actor. Cambanis skillfully pinpoints the reasons for Hezbollah’s political success. . . . In prose that is often eloquent yet earthy, indicative of scholarly erudition as well as a storyteller’s flair for capturing the complexities of human psychology, Cambanis describes the seemingly contradictory impulses he discovers.”
The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Thanassis a journalist specializing in the Middle East and American foreign policy, and a fellow at The Century Foundation. He writes "The Internationalist" column for The Boston GlobeIdeas and contributes to The Atlantic, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.
Currently he is writing a book about the efforts to build a new political order in Egypt after the January 25 uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power. 
He teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

More About the Author

Thanassis Cambanis's latest book chronicles the idealistic and ultimately failed efforts of Egyptian revolutionaries to build a democratic order after Mubarak. His first book, A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel, was published in 2010.

He has covered the recent Arab uprisings, wars in Lebanon and Iraq, and has closely followed the trajectory of Islamist movements. He has been writing about the Middle East since 2003, when he drove into Iraq in a rental car and camped on the side of the road to cover the impact of the US invasion on ordinary people.

He writes the Internationalist column for The Boston Globe, and is a correspondent for The Atlantic. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times and other publications. He is a fellow at The Century Foundation in New York City. He lives in Beirut, Lebanon with his wife Anne Barnard, a reporter for The New York Times, and their two children.

Customer Reviews

This well-written book gives an incisive history of Lebanon in the 21st century.
Mike B
The author tells half truths by saying that other Lebanese (Christians, Sunnis, Druze) do not approve of Hizbollah and want peace, etc.
Samir Kassir
Disclosure - I'm a friend of the author's but I've got lots of friends who've written books and I've only reviewed one other.
L. Kaplow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By L. Kaplow on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book has received plenty of praise in The New York Times and elsewhere for the author's personal and rarely seen profiles of Hezbollah activists and supporters (the book explains the differences between the two groups and it's important). But what I found even more important and relevant was the way he explains, through Hezbollah and in layman's terms, so much about how the Middle East works - winding a thread from the hijackings of the '70s to the Iranian revolution to the fighting in Lebanon, Gaza and even Iraq.
(Disclosure - I'm a friend of the author's but I've got lots of friends who've written books and I've only reviewed one other.)
This book answers the questions an American newspaper reader asks: Why do these guys think they're winning even (or especially) when the Israelis keep pounding them? Why would someone want to be a "martyr?" What are the important roles women play in Islamist movements? Why do some radical movements succeed when others fade away?
Through it all, the author paints a fascinating picture of the mechanics of a radical militant movement (in this case, Hezbollah, of course). How do they control their members and win converts? What makes a strong leader? And, what's the kind of western journalistic mistake that can really anger the relatives of a "martyr?" It's told with great analysis that fills in the spaces around the usual hard-to-penetrate propaganda these kinds of groups present.
And, of course, there are fascinating details about Hezbollah - how they decided to "double down" after the 2006 war, how Hassan Nasrallah emerged to lead, how they keep their networks intact even while under attack. While it explains Hezbollah's effectiveness, it's not a glorification of the group.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dasbeh, on August 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This would have made a great long-form magazine article, but there is not enough substance for a 300-page book.

Cambanis certainly is a great reporter. He makes his interlocutors, the places he visits, the events he witnesses truly come alive. But when it comes to interpreting and analysing the facts he observes, he becomes vague, repetitive, contradictory. He makes lots of sweeping assertions on complex social issues - often plausible, but sometimes contradictory - but doesn't reveal their analytical underpinnings. Rather than coherent lines of reasoning, these analyse often resemble politicical speeches, plausible, eloquent, but essentially a very well-worded stream-of-consciousness. I think that the author would by hard-pressed to formulate the 3-5 principal arguments he wants to make about Hizbollah.

The accounts of the author's experiences would still be immensely enjoyable, if it weren't for the fact that these "analytical" forays often take the form of extended tangents interrupting the otherwise very readable reporting.

The worst part of all is the terrible editing. I have counted almost a dozen repetitions, sometimes of sentences, in one case of an entire paragraph (not literal but almost). Many of the "analytical" tangents should have been cut, streamlined and merged.

Contrary to other critical reviewers, I don't think Cambanis is biased or unobjective.

For a good history and analysis of Hizbollah, try Richard Augustus Norton.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will just second, and not repeat , what the two reviews preceding mine have said about this book. I want to add that Cambanis meets with the people he reports of in their homes, in their cafes; shares a water pipe with while he interviews them, asks those he meets and interviews harder questions than we are used to in today's era of friendly, non-offensive reporters, and most importantly, is not afraid to challenge conclusions he had reached and published earlier upon learning new facts or discovering he made a mistake. This book is worth one thousand written by pundits, Washington based reporters, intellectuals and cubicle based think tank wonks. Hezbollah at this moment is run by unabashedly racist men who know they can ruin everything by overreaching, made up of followers who are willing to risk their and their families' lives and limbs in the belief that their reward awaits them in the next world, by fellow travelers starved for leadership and a reason to participate in the affairs of their country, and by international sponsors who think nothing of threatening the death of millions of innocents. That our government behaves the way it does in the Middle East with the knowledge that this group that encourages its followers to believe in the coming of and work to bring on an Islamic Apocalypse, leaving its friends in Lebanon in the lurch, is just one of the truly astonishing revelations and insights of this remarkable, and readable (and well-edited) book.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Schmidt on September 29, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
In his unusually clear-sighted and prescient book, Cambanis weaves the stories of everyday Lebanese who, initially caught up in the events of the 2006 war, find courage and pride in becoming members of Hezbollah, the Party of God. Hezbollah, the most powerful and influential movement to now emerge in the Middle East, is led by the charismatic and extremely popular Lebanese Shia leader Nasrallah. The indoctrination of scouts and the cult-like inner sanctum of Hezbollah read like a familiarly disturbing playbook. But it is the real stories of formerly moderate individual Lebanese and the party propaganda sophisticates that most chillingly brings home the reality of a country on Israel's northern border that, once considered a reasonably unthreatening mix of feuding parties, is now united in dedication to war without end. -from interview with Cambanis posted at the Albuquerque Judaism Examiner [...].
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