NEWPORT, R.I. – Everything political experts believed they understood about the Arab world for more than a generation has been turned on its head, Thanassis Cambanis told National Public Radio last week.
Cambanis, author of “A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel” and a veteran reporter who covered the Middle East for the New York Times and The Boston Globe, will talk about the balance of power in the region when he presents a free, public lecture at Salve Regina University on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.
Cambanis’s lecture will be presented at Bazarsky Lecture Hall, located in O’Hare Academic Center on Ochre Point Avenue. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Feb. 14 to firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-341-2927.
“What’s been happening, first in Lebanon and then in Tunisia and now in Egypt and who knows further afield, suggests that new forces have been unleashed and we have no idea where they might lead and what new dynamics they might create,” Cambanis said during an interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air program.
Hezbollah’s growing influence in the region (the group now controls the government in Lebanon) combined with the changing political landscape in the Middle East has heightened concern about new violence against Israel.
Hezbollah has two goals: to construct an Islamic resistance society and to continue a perpetual war against Israel, Cambanis said.
Hezbollah will engineer war against Israel “at the moment that is most propitious to them,” Cambanis said. But he said it's unlikely that other military forces in the Middle East will join Hezbollah in attacking Israel — at least, for the time being.
Since 2003, Cambanis covered the region as Middle East bureau chief for The Boston Globe, with a particular focus on the Lebanon war and its aftermath. Since 2007, he reported from the Middle East for The New York Times and other publications.
In “A Privilege to Die,” Cambanis offers the first detailed look at the surprising cross section of people willing to die for Hezbollah and its uncompromising agenda to remake the map of the region and destroy Israel.
He examines how Hezbollah’s widespread popularity rests on its ability to offer its followers economic reform, affordable health care, dependable electricity, efficient courts, and safe streets, as well as victory over Israel. Also unique to the party is its powerful doctrine of self-improvement, which challenges its members to fight ignorance and poverty.
With its promise of perpetual war, Hezbollah has become what the author describes as “the most dynamic force in the Middle East,” ushering in a militant renaissance and inspiring fighters in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Iraq and beyond. Whatever their differences, their hatred of Israel and the United States binds them together
While Hamas and Al Qaeda are certainly dangerous to Israel and the West, Hezbollah and its millions of foot soldiers are the premier force in the Middle East.
Cambanis teaches journalism and foreign policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York City, where he lives with his family.
He has a master’s degree in international affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.