About Me

Posted April 21st, 2009 by Thanassis Cambanis

I’m a writer specializing in the Middle East and American foreign policy, and a fellow at The Century Foundation. I write a column for The Boston Globe Ideas section called “The Internationalist,” and I’m a correspondent for . I contribute regularly to other publications including Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.

Currently I’m working on a research project at The Century Foundation on Arab politics after the uprisings and regional security cooperation. My own research focuses on social movements and their challenge to entrenched, often authoritarian, power structures. We will publish two books that contain original research from dozens of researchers.

My most recent book is Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Storywhich chronicles the effort to build a new political order in Egypt after the January 25 uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power. My previous book, about Hezbollah, is called A Privilege to Die.

Currently I’m based in Beirut. In New York, I taught at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and at the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs.

You can reach me at tcambanis at gmail dot com.

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If you need a picture for an event, you can find high-resolution head shots here, and lower-resolution copies here; please credit Scott Nelson.

23 Responses to “About Me”

  1. Jim Comeau says:

    Just finished your book. It is a masterpiece. Hope you write more on Hizballah. best regards! Jim

  2. Louis says:

    Your writings appear to frame everything in the tired and disproven language of US diplomacy. Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Taliban are “terrorists” rather than organic resistance movements. Hezbollah is pitched for “perpectual war,” and waiting for a “propitious moment,” but nothing of Israeli aggression, nothing of “Erezt Israel,” nothing of Israel’s regional ambitions.

    It would appear to me that given conditions of late in Tunisia and Egypt and Lebanon, the moniker “Middle East Expert” applied to most any American, particulary those toeing the party line, is much overrated. I also noted the favorable reviews your book received from the typical CFR crowd and Israel Firsters.

    How about some honesty and balance? That’s one of the reasons so many “experts” were caught off guard, their inability to muster honesty and balance.

  3. Daniel says:

    You were a great guest on Fresh Air, February 2011. Thank you.

  4. Mary Betancourt says:

    A fascinating interview which i have forwarded to friends.

  5. Alex says:

    I heard you on Fresh Air yesterday, and I was curious what your background was (which is why I came here). You did an excellent job, and I found your interview INCREDIBLY informative. It really helped put the events in Egypt in context for me. Thanks for making my hour in traffic less boring!

  6. Louise says:

    Loved your interview on NPR’s Fresh Air Program. You were articulate, informative and your experience in the Middle East shed some light on the history and potential direction of Egypt and the players involved. Thank you.

  7. Maggi Carter says:

    I have to agree with Louis. I just saw part of your interview on PressTV, and after reading about your book, I was disappointed to see that you still see Hezbollah as the threat to Israel, when they are resisting the advances of Israel. Israel is pushing the Mubarak regime to violence, dragging America along, despite polls showing most Americans support the people of Egypt. No one wants to live under a dictatorship, under occupation or under constant threat. Despite the fact that you have met so many who want to just live their lives and raise their children in peace, with justice, you still do not seem to understand that Israel’s bullying behavior is the source of the problem, is “old school” and the future lies in justice and cooperation, as the Egyptian protesters are showing us. Sad that your conclusions are just the more of the same old Lies.

  8. Derek says:

    Heard you on a replay of Fresh Air. Very interesting and articulate analysis. I plan to follow more of your reporting.

    Ignore Louis. Clearly, anyone that doesn’t just unequivocally and ourightly bash Israel or US diplomacy efforts doesn’t meet his view of being “balanced.”

    The air of disdain and contempt with which he writes only serves to underscore and highlight the hypocrisy of his accusations regarding the need to show a “balanced viewpoint.”

  9. G-man says:

    Interesting commentary on the Fresh Air Program. By the way, I disagree with the first commenter’s statements above.

  10. MAK says:

    Dear Thanassis,

    You are doing a GREAT JOB! Keep it up..

    Ignore Louis, your comments are FAIR and BALANCED.. It seems like Louis has momentarily forgotten that “Israel” is an illegal state given to the Jews by another person (British) that had no rights to it… and ever since then, the Zionist (not necessarily Jews) have been reigning terror and ethnically cleansing the Palestinians (over half a Century).

    Take care

  11. Casey says:

    I just finished reading this book and found it very informative.

    For those of you who have negative things to say about Israel: try living in the northern part of the country and fear rockets landing on your house or on your children as they walk home from school. Israel never targets civilians (even dropping leaflets to warn them of COIN bombings). Hezbollah, on the other hand, applauds killing civilians.

  12. Larry says:

    Because I just finished your book I found this site looking for a place to share my appreciation. At no time during the reading of this book did I know your opinion of Hisbullah. The fragments of information learned over the years were woven into a cohesive and comprehensive guide. Not a fun read, but well worthwhile. As for the comments above, MAK, Casey, and Maggi are all reciting the sames rhetoric that prevents any progress.

  13. […] Thanassis Cambanis,  Adjunct Professor at Columbia University->School of International and Public Affairs gave a detailed explanation of Hezbollah and how their movement evolved and now flourishes as a political and military force. […]

  14. Said Ghazali says:

    I think journalists and writers should look at our region through the lenses of the vast majority of people in the Middle East, who can’t raise their children and live normally under occupation and dictatorship. But I do not put the full blame on occupation and dictatorship, I blame the people too, for letting occupation and dictatorship rule the region for long time. The key issue is not the ideology of Hizbollah, or the extreme fundamentalists, it is the combination of many factors which helped creating these extreme forces. We add to this the hypocrisy of the West and the unnecessary wars the United States waged in the Middle East, the 65 year old unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict.

  15. Edward Field says:

    thanks for your excellent review of Yannous’ play in Beirut. Why is it not possible to have such plays staged in New York City, where there is supposed to be cultural and political freedom? There is another form of censorship here that is never talked about.

  16. Marwan Khattab says:

    Hi Thanassis, I read what you wrote in the Times about Egyptian political changes “Wrong Man, Wrong Battle” but I want to tell you that Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won’t be the only man who will make changes, because Egyptians will be a single man to fight everything wrong…not just in Egypt, but in the Middle East…
    And Israeli occupation in Palestine fears this, because Egyptian revival means a crisis for Israelis. I’m not talking about a gun or a bomb or a F26 fighter (things that Israelis believe in for their existence), but I’m talking about the promise that was mentioned in the holy book for Israelis to fear.

  17. Christopher Hughes says:

    I Just read your article in the globe “How democracy really spreads” and I would like to comment on it. Regardless of what you actually said, which was not much- (is promoting social welfare in another country really that much of an idea? let alone something new?)Their seems to be an intrinsic link between decent social indicators (wealth) and democracy, which- I guess might have been useful 20 years ago.
    The main theme that for democracy to happen, wealth has to be culturally more pervasive than it was during the time of the Arab Spring. The title and that main theme leads one to instantly believe that more economic growth and democracy are attached, so this makes the conversation for a stable, and may I say ecological(?) future, impossible.
    What of the possibility of any other indicators that are not focused on the individualistic factors- like maybe the growth in desertification in the region? more difficulties in oil extraction to name a few, that more likely than the horrid dictators, were the impetus for the largest social upheavals since the beginning of this century.
    I really could not care less about the tired foreign policy debate about if we should or should not provide aid.
    What I do care about and what I do know as a fact is that there is not a word in your article about the larger implications that climate change is having on foreign affairs.
    The recent unrest in the soon to be three Sudans can be attributed to climate as well as the genocide 20 years ago, Syria in 2008, the many skirmishes between India and Pakistan etc. (Eaarth, Mckibben 83)

    ( I’m a college student I just read eaarth by Bill Mckibben- and with that, can Harvard political scientists really be contarians?)

    I doubt that, if democracy is to be spread, that old models that make climate change worse are going to provide stability. This is a contradiction.

    Lastly, what happened in Bahrain was the biggest single happening during the spring that received next to no news coverage. It has all but faded into obscurity and your article upholds this by mentioning it off hand at the tail end of your article.

    thank you for your time.

  18. Tom says:

    Don’t forget that Pericles appropriated funds from the Delian League (the NATO of its time) to rebuild Athens especially the monuments on the Acropolis.

    A pet theory is that the Greeks brought the concept of the mafia to Sicily during the Age of Colonization 1200 – 700 BC

  19. Javed Mohammed says:

    Dear Thanassis
    I heard you and Anne on NPR yesterday. It was a great interview and I was touched by your humanity and your work. Especially the question relating to children and how your outlook changed on reporting once you had your own.
    Please help keep the world spinning, sane, and for sharing.
    Milpitas, CA

  20. Bruno says:

    Are you aware that Russia has S400s and S300s in Syria? and that a regime change, military intervention would require the presences of 70k American ground troops?

    And whose going to replace Assad after the regime change? an puppet state led government whom would be more tolerated to the Gulf States and their interests?

    No one wants a war with Russia over Syria and let me remind you.

    American meddling in affairs of the middle east recently has created a major blow back. And Libya is still a failed state. Replacing governments who have more tolerated view of the gulf states are not going to bring stability or peace to the region in the middle east.

  21. David says:

    Dear Sir:
    I appreciated your very objective article today in the BG.

    I dubbed Dubya’s campaign after 9/11 “SCARE AMERICA.” I see this has also become a principal force in The Donald’s war on reason. So convenient, so functional…
    Just waiting for the next attack to get a bump. Envy London…

  22. Rona W Goodman says:

    Thank you for your article in the Boston Globe, The Internationalist. Time American quit its foreign wars which make it less secure and cause immoral harm to others.

  23. […] Cambanis is a journalist specializing in the Middle East and American foreign policy, and a fellow at The Century […]

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