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Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution Hardcover – October 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Dirk Vandewalle, professor of government at Dartmouth College and author of A History of Modern Libya
"Of all the accounts written so far about Libya's revolution, none can match Chorin's sophisticated and penetrating analysis of the country and of its former quixotic ruler.  An insider's account, Exit the Colonel details the events leading up to the revolution, and reveals the larger context within which Libya's uprising eventually took shape.  Relying on an unmatched variety of sources and on extensive in-country experience, Chorin's book will undoubtedly remain the best analytical work on Libya and its revolution for a very long time."

Retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, author of The Politics of Truth
“Ethan Chorin brings a unique perspective to his riveting tale of the rise and fall of Muammar Gaddafi: Exit the Colonel.  Having served as a diplomat in Tripoli at the time of Gaddafi rapprochement with the West, Chorin tells the story of how the West wound up allied to the ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and facilitated Gaddafi's rehabilitation, which was key to his fall.  This is an exquisite and scary story of greed, intrigue, and political corruption at the highest levels of several nations, including the US and the UK.  For anybody interested in international relations, or for anybody whose paths, like mine, crossed Gaddafi's several times, this is a must-read."

The National“What caused such radical policy changes in the region? This is the intriguing question the Middle East scholar Ethan Chorin tackles in his detail-rich book Exit the Colonel.”  
Libya Index “A concise analysis of past, present and future effects of Gaddafi’s regime.”

Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)“Chorin offers a plausible portrait of the capricious, violent ruler who improved the lives of his people before veering on an unstable course of brutal repression, insane economics and global provocation.”

Boston Globe“The best recent book, I think, to go beyond the cult of personality to the traumatized but brave Libyans themselves… He met many countrymen, learned much, and all this adds grit and gravitas to his later ‘Exit the Colonel.’ I felt especially enlightened, for instance, by his coverage of the country’s east-west split.”
Journal of North African Studies
“Organised chronologically, Chorin combines diplomatic memoir, political history and shrewd analysis to offer what is arguably the most detailed account to date of the regime’s final years… Chorin’s account is highly informative, his observations are sensible, and his diplomatic experiences are fascinating. ..This book sheds unveils the workings of the regime during its final years, and reveals its internal tensions and power struggles (particularly among his sons), reforms and brutalities, and western sycophancy in equal measure. Even for Libya specialists, it is highly informative and provides what is thus far the definitive account of the West’s reconciliation with and re-alienation from the regime and provides immediate context to its downfall.”

Montreal Gazette
“Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution is a timely, if rushed, affair…For me, it is Gadhafi’s erstwhile rehabilitation that is the most intriguing part of the book.”

Middle East
“This book demonstrates how Gaddafi was soon to reap the whirlwind, as his feints toward reform actually engendered a revolutionary movement that proved all too real and powerful to be put down.  Ethan Chorin provides a look into the near and long-term roots of the Libyan uprising and explains why the revolution happened as it did before exploring the longer-term consequences for Libya and the West.”

International Affairs
“The information taken from personal interviews with key Libyan and non-Libyan players occasionally provides new insight and fresh perspective to policies and events in this period… Chorin provides the most authoritative and detailed analysis of the February 17 Revolution published to date.”

Sugar Street Review“Chorin had plenty of first-hand insights into the workings of the previous regime, and gives a highly readable and accurate account of what lead Libyans to rise up in February 2011. Crucially, Chorin is also an aficionado of Libyan literature, and he illustrates his account with excerpts from the country’s finest writers.”

The Middle East Journal
“Chorin presents a detailed, readable, and informed blow-by-blow account of the events of 2011. He elegantly frames the narrative with morsels of Libyan fiction which confer an epic, fable-like quality to the events of the revolution. Furthermore, Chorin expertly peppers the text with an insider's anecdotes about Libya's key personalities. Both literary devises give the reader a taste of Libyan culture and an appreciation for developments on the ground. He utilizes interviews with high ranking officials to dissect both how the Qadhafiregime attempted to combat the uprisings and how the rebel movement evolved over time... a valuable contribution to the emerging scholarship.”

Middle East Policy Council
"Exit the Colonel provides an excellent account, not just of the historical evolution of Qadhafi's long dictatorship, but also of Libya's future political prospects. .. this book is the best insider's account of the revolution so far published in English."

About the Author

Ethan Chorin was U.S. economic/commercial attaché in Tripoli from 2004-2006. He has continued to work on Libyan issues as business developer for a multinational company based in Dubai and as cofounder of the Avicenna Group, an NGO helping to build a trauma center in Benghazi. The author of Translating Libya: The Modern Libyan Short Story, he is currently a Social Enterprise Fellow at the Yale School of Management. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391713
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391719
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By lit-in-the-last-frontier on January 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
After my review of Tamim Ansary's Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan (If you haven't read it yet, you really, really must-it was my number two nonfiction book for 2012.), the publisher gave me the opportunity to review this work on Libya. One would think that given the amount of media attention that Libya gets there would be a plethora of books on the subject, but as I began this book I realized that despite having read well in excess of a hundred books over the years on the Middle East and political Islam, a good history of Libya had slipped through the cracks of my reading list.

Ethan Chorin explained why. Western journalists had always been rather thin on the ground in Libya during the Gaddafi regime, and therefore, modern histories of Libya are a very new literary phenomenon-literally since the fall of Gaddafi. Chorin's book, which came out in late October of 2012, and covers material he gathered as late as that summer, gives some of the most up-to-date information that readers can find in book form.

There are other books out there that will give you a more comprehensive history of Libya-that is not his intent. Chorin does give some history-essentially what you need to know to understand how Gaddafi was able to maneuver himself into power from a cultural standpoint. He does an excellent job explaining the duality of Libya as a country, the divisiveness that those of the eastern half and those of the western half have always felt towards one another, and the powerful effect that this has in her politics (not to mention her soccer matches-we are not talking friendly rivalries here!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan J. Kuperman, Ph.D. on April 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As a professor who’s been researching Libya’s revolution for the past 3 years, I found this the best book so far on the roots and domestic dynamics of Libya’s 2011 revolution. In particular, Chapter 9 on the first 5 days of the revolution in Benghazi explains the tipping point that led to all the rest. Chorin knows many of the key players personally and has read the local Arabic literature. I just wish the author/publisher would issue a revised and updated version, ideally in paperback, to provide Chorin’s take on subsequent events, including the tragic killing of 4 Americans in Benghazi in September 2012 and the ongoing struggles between local militias, Libya's government, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Alan J. Kuperman -- U.S. Institute of Peace / University of Texas at Austin
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Huff on December 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The result is more broken eggs than omelette. This is again the case as demonstrated in Ethan Chorin's take on Libya. Chorin, a policy wonk in the Obama State Department, is an ongoing US point man in Libya's evolving (or dissolving) re-emergence into the world. Chorin's expertise on Libya and the Middle East makes him an excellent go-between. But as to be expected, he firmly backs the US rationalizations for intervention and investment in "nation-building."

One is simply incredulous at reading on p. 214 that a "pre-cooked American plan" to topple Qaddafi was "unlikely and unmotivated." This statement is belied not only by a long history of US interventions, overt and otherwise; but Chorin's whole presentation of the Qaddafi-US rapprochement over the prior decade. This may not mean the US conspired to get rid of him immediately in 2004, but Libya's opening to "reform" laid the groundwork for 2011. As Chorin outlines in several chapters, Qaddafi and the West dealt with each other only because they had to. The West held the key to the goodies of globalism; Qaddafi was the door to Libyan oil. Growing outside involvement exposed the regime's dry rot to only weaken it further; and revolution, we're told, is merely kicking down a rotten door. "American interests" saw their chance in the Arab Spring to cut out a long-despised, odious middleman whose hand few relished shaking.

Libya was a Bay of Pigs that succeeded, following a long line of such scenarios that CIA powder burns and fingerprints scream for due forensic attention. None can doubt the hatred of Qaddafi was real, as Chorin reiterates the Colonel's bloody deeds old and new. One doesn't stay king of the mountain 42 years without a firm grip of terror at its base.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John D. Sherwood on December 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ethan Chorin has written the best account of the Libyan Revolution to date. Using a wide-range of Arab language sources and author interviews, Chorin's account not only covers the revolution itself but the historical context behind the event. As a historian, I was particularly impressed with Chorin's ability to synthesize and explain the period between the Gaddafi coup in 1969 until the onset of revolution in the spring of 2011in a lively, though-provoking, and accessible narrative. I also agree with Chorin's fundamental argument--that the international coalition and NATO's intervention in the Revolution was the right thing to do given Gaddafi's track record, and that the previous policy of rapprochement created more problems for the international community than it solved. Anyone seeking a more comprehensive understanding of the plight of Libya and America's tortuous relationship with this troubled country would benefit from reading the book.

John Darrell Sherwood, Ph.D.
Author of Black Sailor, White Navy
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