October 5, 2006

Dispatches from the Front Now in Print

The first project Doubleday editor Adam Bellow and I worked on together is finished. (The second will take a lot longer.) I told you the project isn’t a book. And it isn’t. But we are releasing something in print. Three things, actually. Pamphlets!

The first is a collection of essays written by me, here on the blog and elsewhere, filed from Lebanon and Israel before and during the war.

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Included is an article about my personal experience with Hezbollah that first appeared in the LA Weekly. But this is not the same version. It’s the Director’s Cut — longer, more detailed, better written, and more damning of Hezbollah than the shorter version you may have already read. The remaining pieces are published more or less as they originally appeared, but they are all collected in one place for the first time.

The second pamphlet is a collection of essays written by Lebanese and Israeli bloggers during the latest round of hostilities. This is the best of the Lebanese blogosphere and the best of the Israeli blogosphere at a time when each group of writers mattered more than ever before.

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I didn’t write this one. I edited it. And rather than summarize and explain what I hoped to accomplish, I’ll publish the short introduction.

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Introduction

by Michael J. Totten

Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon may be the most-blogged war in history.

Until now the most-blogged war was the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Thousands of self-styled “war bloggers” in the United States covered, if that is the word, the conflict from a distance. A handful of Iraqis started their own blogs in English. But blogosphere coverage of the Iraq war was overwhelmingly American and overwhelmingly written by people who were thousands of miles away from the fighting.

This time it’s different.

Israel and Lebanon are both sophisticated and well-educated countries. Each already had a large pre-existing national blogosphere of its own. Israeli bloggers and Lebanese bloggers were, for the most part, already aware of each other. Many had developed a friendly sort of rapport before hostilities broke out. Then civilians in both countries were swept up in the fighting, were traumatized, were wounded, were killed. This war wasn’t being fought far off in a distant land they could only dream of ever seeing. It was fought in their very own neighborhoods.

Foreign correspondent Michael Yon was once asked why he files combat dispatches from Iraq written in the first-person. He said everything in the Middle East is first-person. He’s right. And that’s especially true when you’re being shot at.

This pamphlet is a selection of short personal essays from the Lebanese and Israeli blogospheres that tell the story of a war one person at a time. Everything is personal. Everyone is biased. Many of these pieces are shot through with fear, depression, and rage. War does that to people. They don’t say it’s hell for no reason.

There are small glimmers of beauty and hope in these pages, too. Lebanese and Israelis still talked to each other throughout the war. Sometimes the talk was even civil and friendly. Not everyone surrenders to hatred during war, even in the Middle East.

Most of all what I wanted to capture here is the human dimension. Most Lebanese and Israelis have never met a single person from the other country. Yet they have more in common with each other than most of them know. I know because I have been to both countries, and I lived for a while in Lebanon. Israel and Lebanon are beautiful and intoxicating places, in my opinion the two best countries by far in the Middle East.

Some of the people on each side of the line who are featured here are my friends. A few of them met each other online, in the blogosphere, before this got started. A smaller number kept lines of communication open even while rockets and bombs exploded in their cities. They meet again in this collection. I sincerely hope – and I know at least some of them feel the same way – that they can one day meet in the real world, in more peaceful and less “interesting” times.

Michael J. Totten
Portland, Oregon

- - -

The third pamphlet is a collection of speeches and writings by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, edited by Stephen Schwartz.

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You can buy one for four dollars or the whole set for ten dollars. Please help support us! No one else is publishing the best of the blogosphere in print, and it’s about time somebody did.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 5, 2006 5:45 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn