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After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked The Middle East Revolts Hardcover – January 3, 2012
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"Back in 2008, John R. Bradley was dubbed an alarmist for uniquely -- yet at the same time accurately -- predicting an Egyptian uprising. But he was right, and his publications were banned by Hosni Mubarak's regime. In his new book, After the Arab Spring, his message is a simple one: everything we've been told about the Arab spring is wrong. In his view, political Islam has hijacked the revolutions across the Middle East."-Sir David Frost, on Al-Jazeera English
About the Author
JOHN R. BRADLEY (johnrbradley.wordpress.com) was born in England and was educated at University College London, Dartmouth College in the United States, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is the author of four non-fiction books on the contemporary Arab world published by Palgrave Macmillan that draw heavily on his personal experience: Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005); Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution (2008; updated edition 2012); Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East (2010); and After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts (2012). Bradley has been covering the Middle East for almost two decades. He has written essays, dispatches, reviews, and op-eds for numerous publications, including: The Washington Quarterly, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, Salon, The London Telegraph, The Forward, The London Evening Standard, The New York Post, The London Sunday Times, Foreign Affairs, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Jewish Chronicle, The Washington Times, Newsweek, Asia Times, Prospect, and The Economist. He has been interviewed about the Middle East by CNN, the BBC, PBS, NPR, CBS, Fox News, Al-Jazeera English, Sky News, Russia Today, Channel 4 News, Bloomberg TV, and many other media outlets. Bradley's public lectures have most recently taken place at The Pacific Council for International Affairs in Los Angeles, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, London's Intelligence Squared, and The Athenaeum in Claremont, California.
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In my view he's absolutely right when he says: "Yet all the while these same liberals were calling for more uprisings in the Arab world, more bravery from the protestors, more upheavals, more violence and chaos, anywhere except outside their own front door. In a sense, the liberals in the West are even more objectionable than the neoconservatives. Both, of course, are armchair generals, sipping on their claret and puffing on their cigars as they send thousands out of the trenches to certain death. As George Orwell famously said: "All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting." But at least the neoconservatives are honest: more power for America, more security for Israel, and bombs for anyone who stands in the way. The liberals, cowering under the banner of "humane interventionism," are no less imperialistic than before. As they sit in America and Britain repeating their democracy mantra, how hard they must have to work to blind themselve s to the bankruptcy of their own political systems, to the extraordinary social decay and poverty in their own midst, to their economies on the precipice of collapse, to their bought-and-paid-for politicians, and to their increasingly timid and shallow corporate media. How self-deluded they must be to sing the praises of political systems, and even suggest them as models for others, when they have brought to power, through democratic elections, such scoundrels as...."
After the stupid euphoria of Western media and after so many moronic and irresponsible statements from Western politicians of all colours about the "Arab Spring", it's been intellectually comforting to read this critical and lucid analysis. Essential reading to anyone interested in reality in the Middle East, beyond the official senseless media discourse.
1) knowledge of Arabic--apparently Bradley has that, at least Egyptian dialect. Can he read newspapers? We don't know.
2) many years of living in the region--check
3) academic study of Islam and the history of the countries involved--apparently not
Academics who know Arabic and have a specialized knowledge of the region write book after book from their desks in London, Paris, or Washington. In general (there are exceptions--Bernard Lewis, for example), they have visited the Middle East for short periods, but have never lived there for years at a time. Journalists (most of the "experts" you see on Sunday morning TV) may have lived there, but without a knowledge of Arabic or in-depth study of the region, they are dependent on natives to tell them what's what, and their interpretations are based on hearsay.
Why does knowledge of Arabic matter? For example, when I lived in Egypt in 1969, I taught at the American U. in Cairo, then located on Midan al-Tahrir. Nasser was opening Parliament (a couple blocks away) one day. An American colleague--who did NOT know Arabic--looked at all the people lining the streets with signs and said, "Oh, look! Protesters!!!" The signs said, in fact, "Long live Nasser." Another example is from when I lived in Saudi Arabia: Western colleagues would come back from town (Khobar) and say, "Oh, the people are so friendly! They greet me in the street!" In fact, what the people were saying in the street was obscenities (both men and veiled women). So residence without knowing the language is worse than useless--you can be misled 180 degrees.
Bradley seems to have two of the three requirements: according to the blurb on the book, he speaks Egyptian Arabic (which hints that he picked it up on his own rather than studied it formally) and he lived in Egypt for years. But apparently he lacks the academic background on the region (I can't find anything out about what he studied in university). As other reviewers have noted, on p. 99 he calls Ali the grandson of Muhammad and Hussain the son-in-law of Muhammad. These relationships should be flipped: Ali is a son-in-law and first cousin; Hussain was a grandson (Ali's son). This is basic, so getting it wrong is along the lines of saying that General Washington fought for the British in the Revolution. And it calls into question his other statements, which is unfortunate.
However, this is about the only time Bradley strays into the past. This book is about the present. The first few chapters, on Tunisia and Egypt, are the best. The end of the book, where he strays into areas (Indonesia, Malaysia) that he knows little about firsthand, disintegrate into a diatribe against Islamism. Of course since writing the book, things have taken a different turn, with Morsi being overthrown by the army, and Sissi being elected president. But I don't think that diminishes Bradley's argument that in the midst of political chaos, the Islamist parties, focused and organized, have gained power everywhere the Arab Spring appeared, pretty much the same way the Bolsheviks took advantage of the chaos and petty bickering among liberal parties in Russia in 1917. Remember that Morsi only got elected because of a split vote, and in the runoff was pitted against someone who was widely seen as a stooge of Mubarak. Hitler was elected in a similar way, and like Morsi, his first order of business was to dismantle the democratic system that put him into power. These are not good people.
In summary, there is a lot in this book, whether you agree or disagree with Bradley's opinions. It's well worth reading.