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The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East Hardcover – November 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0471739012 ISBN-10: 0471739014 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471739014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471739012
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,938,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"An extremely important book. The Long War for Freedom finally presents to the Western world an in-depth portrait of those 'small voices' in the Arab world waging the most critical battle of the 21st Century--the battle for the soul of the Middle East. No one with any interest in the struggle for economic and political reform in the Arab world can afford to neglect this penetrating and provocative work, which lays bare both the importance and the great difficulty of helping the Arab world to transform itself."--Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm and The Persian Puzzle

From the Inside Flap

The United States has made the spread of democracy in the Middle East the cornerstone of its foreign policy. Though administration officials expect democratic ideals will be embraced there with enthusiasm, much of the rest of the world has greeted this strategy with enormous skepticism.

The Long War for Freedom is the first book to investigate whether a real base of support for reform, moderation, and democratization even exists in the region. Barry Rubin, one of the West's most trusted experts on Arab opinion and political culture, takes a close look at the brave, promising group of Arab liberals who have shown great personal courage and faced overwhelming odds to advocate new freedoms for their fellow citizens.

Rubin's key insight is that the dynamic isn't a simple two-way fight—as it was with democratic reformers in Communist countries whom the Arab liberals are often compared to—between hardliners and reformers. Instead, the interplay is among the rulers, the religious radicals, and the reformers, who constantly pair off in different ways in different countries.

Yet the questions remain: How receptive are Arab states to reform? What are the obstacles that stand in the way of its establishment there, and how can they be overcome? Would any further actions taken by the United States or Israel do more harm than good?

The future of the world may rest in large part on what happens to the small band of heroes celebrated in The Long War for Freedom, since they may turn out to be the only real hope for peace and progress in the Middle East.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
Rubin makes one point that I feel is overstated.
Jill Malter
Overall, Rubin's book is a valued contribution to the field of Middle Eastern studies.
Jeffrey Demers
He wrote this book when some in the Arab world were trying to leave the Dark Ages.
Bob Rothman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Fred W. Hallberg on February 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important, but depressing, book. Its 253 pages of text is one long list of examples of Islamic self-deception and lies, relieved only by the rare counter example of a dozen or so Muslim "liberals", who state plain truths but who are drowned out by the shouts of the Arab street. One cannot help but feel sympathy for these few Muslim "liberals," but it is hard to believe they will become significant voices in thier home lands anytime soon. (A significant proportion, perhaps half, of these liberals have moved to the West where they typically hold university appointments.)

What do I mean by "self-deception and lies"? Well, the lie that Jews caused the events of 9/11 for one. Despite the open admission by Osama bin Laden that his people did it, from the beginning Arab Islamists have claimed it was the Jews who did it, and that the events were just punishment for the sins of the West (p. 181). Why are the Arab nations so economically backward and militarily ineffectual compared, for example to Israel, or even to South Korea? It is all the fault of the Jews and of the West, especially the Americans (pp. 204, 236, 240).

None of this is even remotely related to the true sources of Arab backwardness and misery. It is plausible to me that even if Israel had not been created in 1948, the Arab Muslim states would would be in the same fix they are today. America had done nothing specific to harm any Arab state, until it attacked Iraq to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. Yet this act of aid to innocent Arab victims of a dictator's aggressions was what so infuriated Osama bin Laden that he plotted the attacks of 9/11. Why are these Arab Muslims so hopelessly irrational?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on August 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
You hear a lot of things about the Middle East. On the one hand, countries such as Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan hold elections, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan are monarchies. Lebanon and Tadjikistan are run by coalitions of various political parties within the country. These facts give the casual Western observer the idea (backed up by natives of the region) that the Muslim world is no different from ours, really. In reality, the similarities are at best superficial, and the differences are often profound. This book is an attempt to survey the reform movements in the region, examining the opinions of various reformers on subjects ranging from Israel and the United States on the one hand to the basic freedoms (speech, the press, courts, women, etc.) on the other.

Rubin (a columnist and university professor from Israel) looks at the whole subject topically, starting with a background chapter that examines the Arab and Muslim world's progression through the ages in terms of philosophy, culture, and religious belief. He then spends several chapters talking about such things as the struggle to define Islam in various lights. Next, he attacks a series of more specific subjects, talking in turn about Israel, the United States, the war in Iraq, and the war on terror, in each case outlining what the various players in Arab countries have said on each subject.

At times, my eyes glazed over as I read this book. Half of the arguments in each case were at least somewhat predictable. In any particular instance you can think of two or three opinions that are sure to be held by *someone* with regards to a particular subject.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Demers on January 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Rubin has written a great primer on one of the most important topics today. Today, Hamas lawfully earned the right to form a government in Palestine. Hamas is a not a group of liberal want to be democratizers, they are instead violent radical Islamists. This topic is so relevant to what is unfolding right now!

Rubin skillfully shows that there are liberals in the Broader Middle East and that they are fighting to be heard above Islamists. There is hope for Arab liberalism but the way forward is very rough indeed, as Rubin details. Anti-americanism, anti-israeli sentiment, and the war in Iraq are giving the field of discussion over to the radicals.

In the west we can not easily understand what is happening. Across the Middle East, authoritarian governments and radical islamists have created a climate that ignores the truth and history and that then propagates a twisted reality out to the masses. Conspiracy theories and finger pointing abound as the Middle East continues to seek deeper and deeper into chaos. Can we imagine a place where intellectual thought, curiosity and truth are not valued? It exists and it is the Middle East.

Overall, Rubin's book is a valued contribution to the field of Middle Eastern studies. Scholars, students and lay alike must understand the political climate of the region. Elections and democracy are good so long as usher in positive and progressive forces, and not radical Islamists.

We must do everything in our power to support the liberals - as the Islamists, born out of the repressive nature of their countries, are not a force for progressive change. In the end, the future of the region may boil down to revolutionary change or evolutionary change as the repressive governments begin to collapse. Arab liberals must be ready and supported to pick up the pieces, or else the way of Khomeini will prevail.
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The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East
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