Thanassis Cambanis *00 (Michael Robinson Chavez)
Thanassis Cambanis *00 first went to Lebanon in 2006 as the Middle East bureau chief for The Boston Globe. After three years in Baghdad reporting on the Iraq War, Cambanis had been assigned to cover the war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Islamist political party and paramilitary group based in Lebanon that the United States lists as a terrorist organization. He had seen the influence of Hezbollah on Iraqi Islamist insurgents, and he wanted to find out what made the group tick.
In a Nov. 9 speech at the Woodrow Wilson School, Cambanis traced Hezbollah’s influence throughout the different strata of Lebanese society, from a hard-core fighter he met in the rubble of a border town to the modern “soccer mom” who felt a strong cultural link to Hezbollah.
“This connection between the constituents of Hezbollah and the party is at once political, martial, and spiritual,” Cambanis said.
Hezbollah is especial pervasive in south Lebanon, along the country’s border with Israel. Cambanis said the organization’s two primary goals – community building and “perpetual war” against Israel – had widespread appeal among the southern population, even though people varied widely in their involvement with Hezbollah. Cambanis said that the ability to effectively implement combined ideology made Hezbollah one of the most effective Islamist groups in the Middle East.
“Others have tried similar things, but without success on the battlefield and in the community,” said Cambanis.
Cambanis went back to Lebanon in September, the same month he published a new book on Hezbollah, A Privilege to Die. He said Hezbollah poses a larger military threat now than it did in 2006, and warned that the modern Middle East was not a good place for optimists.
“It’s quite obvious, to me, that there’s going to be another war between Hezbollah and Israel,” said Cambanis. “It’s not really a question of ‘whether,’ but a question of ‘when’ and ‘how’.”
WEB BONUS LINK: A video interview with Thanassis Cambanis *00, from Simon & Schuster.