A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel

In This Review

A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel
by Thanassis Cambanis
Free Press, 2010
336 pp. $27.00
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In the summer of 2006, Israel launched a devastating incursion into Lebanon that badly mauled, but failed to knock out, Hezbollah. In the last days of 2008 and early 2009, Israel moved with equal fury against Hamas in Gaza, in a short war that Hezbollah opted to stay out of. Cambanis' intimate account of this recent history, enhanced by stories of a handful of Hezbollah's true believers and sympathizers, paints a gripping portrait of this radical religio-political movement. In an often discursive, largely first-person narrative, Cambanis presents an impressive organization, bearing the awesome title "Party of God," that is virtually a state within the state of Lebanon. Hezbollah provides social services. Its leaders live modestly and level with their followers, thereby earning the group tactical flexibility. Hezbollah proudly acknowledges receiving support from Iran and Syria and would be weaker without it, but the group is too deeply rooted in Lebanon to be the tool of any outsider. Cambanis stresses equally Hezbollah's radical militancy, which makes a more accommodating arrangement within Lebanon or vis-à-vis Israel unlikely to emerge. Indeed, a depressing theme of A Privilege to Die is the way that less organized, less fervent, and more corrupt moderates have lost out to radicals since the 1970s.