I haven't seen any decent analysis in the western media of Nasrallah's rhetoric, his appeal and leadership qualities. You might not know him from Bin Ladin or Ahmedinijad, if you consult western media sources and don't watch Arabic TV. My brother tells me Fox described Hezbollah as "Al Qaeda with a country". The Al Qaeda part is laughable; and, in fact, if it weren't for Hezbollah, Israel would have had Al Qaeda along its northern border a long time ago. Let's not forget that Zarqawi's dying words, before he was blown to bits by F16 fighter jets and then sent to the plastic surgeon for his photo op, were that Hezbollah should be disarmed. In fact, Zarqawi (of the eminent “Mesopotamian” branch of Al Qaeda) accused Hezbollah of upholding the status quo between Israel and Lebanon on the border and condemned the group for not allowing Al Qaeda and other groups to attack Israel from Lebanese territory. There are many many fundamental differences between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, which I won't go into now.
For those of you not familiar with Nasrallah, the public persona and politician (and he is first and foremost a politician, not an armchair cleric), picture the appeal of a really articulate 12-year old genius with a lisp. Although he is in his mid-40s, and most 12-year olds don't sport full beards and turbans, he seems talented beyond his years and -- at the same time-- youthful. And he does have a bit of a speech impediment, which affects the way he pronounces "R"-- a crucial letter indeed.
Although he might be better known in the west for his firey "Death to Israel!" remarks, which make for popular cellphone ringtones here, he is very confident, calm, collected, even soft-spoken and personal when he is interviewed. And the rhetorical device he avails of most frequently is logic and rationality, as well as-- occasionally-- humorous jibes to disarm his enemies. He recently suggested that the Israelis consult the old guard, or something to that end, which is -- of course-- a reference to the comatose Ariel Sharon (who is drueling on his pillow, dreaming of Lebanese falafel, as I write).
In a very long interview on Al-Jazeera Thursday night, Nasrallah casually rattled off facts and figures regarding Israel's military performance and refuted claims that he is doing the bidding of Iran, that Hezbollah's leadership has been harmed by the Israeli military campaign, and that Hezbollah's arms and infrastructure have sustained serious losses, in a convincing manner. And indeed, unlike the other Lebanese leaders’ inflated and self-important wishful thinking vis-à-vis their foreign patrons, I get the sense that Hezbollah has realistic expectations of Iran. They have a mutually beneficiary relationship, and Nasrallah no more does the bidding of Tehran than Olmert does for the US. In fact, arguably less. Nasrallah responded to the accusation that he is doing Iran's bidding by saying something akin to, would I put my children and wife in danger and lose my home for some other country? Unlike Bin Laden, Nasrallah doesn't much like living in a cave. He's a family guy. That shit is for bachelors or polygamous Saudi weirdos.
Nasrallah also responds to every accusation of "terrorism" or "adventurism" that is leveled at him by Israel, the US, the Saudis and his internal political enemies, and he justifies every attack against civilian infrastructure in Israel as a response in the interest of balance and deterrence, rather than wrath, retaliation, anti-Semitism, etc. [And indeed, terminologically, one might excuse a "crude missile" for performing less accurately than a "smart bomb" or "precision bomb".] He also always promises "surprises", which makes every day of this war feel like Christmas! But not really.
In short, Nasrallah re-inspires confidence amongst his supporters, whenever he makes an appearance on TV; and Israel has not been able to stop him from giving interviews, even though Lebanon is not much larger than Sharon’s pre-feeding tube belly. Despite the repeated bombardment of Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV station, its still up and running (because its underground. Duh.) A friend of mine-- a secular leftist type—goes stark raving mad when he sees Nasrallah perform: "He's a political genius!" And Nasrallah also plays the anti-imperialist card, and he plays it quite well. His supporters do not think that they are dying in vain, nor do they all seek death or martyrdom. They trust that he knows what he is doing. I'm just not sure they'll be around to find out what exactly that is.