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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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“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
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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
(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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cambanis makes the case that this Shiite reawakening in Lebanon sets the stage for another round of do or die matches with Israel and the Shiites led by Iran and the Party of God. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Kevin M Quigg
Helpful in understanding Hezbola. However, he presents the differences between Hezbola and Israel with too much moral equalivancy. Read morePublished on January 12, 2013 by Sam Tekoa
This well-written book gives an incisive history of Lebanon in the 21st century. It also provides a very human portrayal of Hezbollah; by human I do not necessarily imply... Read morePublished on August 22, 2011 by Mike B
I give the author 2 stars because there is big effort in this book through on-site reporting and some homework to explain phenomenon. Read morePublished on August 20, 2011 by Samir Kassir
This author is strong with personal portraits but weak in analysis. Constantly accusing the Hizb of fear mongering, he engages in the same tactic. Read morePublished on July 30, 2011 by John L. Nelson
As much as such liberal writers try to be evenhanded, they ultimately betray their sympathy for those who oppose America and/or Israel. Such is the case with this book. Read morePublished on July 30, 2011 by Abe Krieger
Probably the best terrorist organization book I've read this year. Thanassis Cambanis presents a very complex, sometimes mystifying look inside Hezbollah and the citizens of... Read morePublished on April 25, 2011 by Michael Griswold
I've never felt compelled to write a review of a book before, but this book was such a disappointing blend of opinion, superficial analysis, and inaccurate trash masquerading as... Read morePublished on April 14, 2011 by smartcookie