The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Writing Hezbollah’s Obituary: Good Headlines Get Good Gigs, But Little Analytical Merit

Thanassis Cambanis is a good reporter and a good writer but when it comes to providing serious analysis of Hezbollah rather than journalism, he falls short unfortunately [NOTE THAT I FIRST wrote “all to often” here but I re-thought this. Thanassis is MUCH better than most writers in his sector on Hezbollah and one should not forget this critical fact… MUCH better…its just frustrating that he gets some things right and then, often on the big headlines or the big thoughts/his conclusions, he does not follow through with what is reasonable given his own evidence, observations. Of course I would rather have Thanassis communicating to a US audience, but the issue of whether he effectively drains good insights by using them to unhelpful/counter productive ends – for me the Obama Effect – is a big problem in my view] – especially when he claims deep knowledge of what his objects of study are really thinking.

There are a variety of problems in his New Republic piece here which are easily spotted by those who have a decent grasp on the history of Hezbollah… but the most troubling and embarrassing point is the one which Daniel Byman got into the other day and which so many analysts suffer from: Thanassis’s headline and lede scream with certainty… so do the first few lines… but then HE COMPLETELY UNDERCUTS the total certainty of these claims by the end!

How can the headline “How the Arab Spring Killed Hezbollah” be taken seriously as more than a NY Post style polemic when he ends by saying:

“…If history is any guide, of course, Hezbollah will be nimble and adaptive, and use any circumstances possible to turn a bleak outlook to its advantage. Some holes, however, are too deep to climb out of. The fall of the House of Assad might be one of them….”

— Really how can one get away with saying Hizbullah is DONE/finished/killed and then elsewhere say, again AT THE END:

“…For now, Hezbollah’s hard power is undiminished, but the future doesn’t look so secure for the Party of God.”

— What does this mean then?

He also writes:

“Though the message sounds militant, it was actually just a flailing attempt to catch up to developments elsewhere in the region. Hezbollah, which used to set the Arab world’s trends, now finds itself forced to opportunistically jump on the latest global Islamist bandwagon.”

— Thanassis well knows that the Pope visited Lebanon last weekend and this played a key role in the “late bandwagoning” – to not raise this obvious point lets him make a broad claim that will be interesting to his unknowing editors and readers, but it undercuts the thesis of the piece!

The most frustrating parts, however, are where he claims to know what his objects of study are really thinking, saying “…its complicity in domestic political assassinations no longer is credibly debated…”

— This claim is simply not serious.

And then he goes for broke saying: “It’s getting harder for even Hezbollah’s most committed supporter to believe that Syria’s uprising is a foreign, American-backed plot to massacre innocents, create sectarian strife, and impose Israeli hegemony over the Levant.”

— He really did not have to go that far to make the article attractive to NR, so why do it? He is literally saying that he REALLY KNOWS what Hezbollah’s MOST COMMITTED SUPPORTERS are thinking….

— Thanassis also mis-uses Nasrallah’s recent appearance to argue: “The very fact that Nasrallah felt compelled to risk emerging from his underground safe haven suggests that he fears very seriously for his organization’s future. It’s a remarkable change for a movement that was once confident in its ideological rigor and in its ability to earn unparalleled popular support in the region.”

Well we learn later – from Thanassis – that they might now be so threatened in fact, but he knows very well that one cannot seriously use Nasrallah’s appearance as a CLEAR marker of desperation/fear/impending doom.

The Party may well – and undoubtedly is – feeling pressure and has great concerns NOT UNLIKE ALMOST EVERY SINGLE ACTOR RIGHT NOW IN THE DARN REGION! But using the speech appearance as his MAIN peg is just not serious.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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