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The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era Paperback – May 7, 2013
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This accessible book explains the explosive events of the Arab Spring, assesses each country's accomplishments, and identifies the challenges Arab countries face in forging their own democracies.
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While the authors meticulously pile on the facts of each Gulf, Levantine, and North African nation affected by the Arab domino, I must take issue with a few. When, on p. 191, the authors write that Gaddafi did not deliver "good-quality housing, schools, hospitals, roads, universities, utilities and other basic public services" to the Libyan people, this is patently untrue. These public amenities were not of First World quality - which only the Gulf oil states can afford, to bribe acquiescence to their undemocratic regimes - but they were a decided step up for Libyan quality of life. Stating that "any [successor] system that fails to use oil revenues in a more efficient and distributive way than its predecessor will not last long" also has the ring of unlikelihood, if Iraq is anything to judge by. Are Libya's long-term prospects better than under Gaddafi, they ask on p. 193? Their answer is an assured "yes," adding that "a bright future is there for the taking, and it is up to Libyans alone to either seize or squander it." If only they would be left alone! Their liberation was not achieved alone, and its new regime - whatever that may be - will just as surely not be constructed alone.
As usual, Western pundits have moved forward to credit themselves with the Arab awakening, posing that the US invasion of Iraq "unlocked" the door to the uprisings across the region. But as Noueihed and Warren repeatedly demonstrate, few in the region identify with the American crusade. In the West's ganging of Iraq; torture centers in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib; its repeated shilling for Israel's treatment of Palestinians and its own coddling of Arab dictators, while preaching Sunday-morning democracy, the West has squandered most of its remaining post-colonial credibility. One can only hope that the Arab masses do find forms of government and economy that can match their aspirations for a better life. The problems are as forbidding as its terrain and demographics. The authors wisely do not see it their business to proffer solutions: that's for those within to devise, and likely in forms that will rightly "worry" Western investors and strategists.
If you are only going to read one book about the uprising in the Middle East, this is it.
The authors go into detail and explain the reasons and differences for the uprisings in all the major countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria) and they manage to intertwine detailed economic and historical data, with a well written and lively story line full of well documented information, many times lived in first person and on the ground!
All-in-all, a very enjoyable read that I am sure I will pick up again to re-read in the near future.
The book ends with a search for role models for the nations involved in the Arab Spring. The harsh words for my country got my attention quickly. Have we lost our moral authority? Our economy is on the edge of bankruptcy already. Socialism was discredited when USSR fell away. Is Capitalism dead too? Are the US and Western countries no longer viable model economies?
"It's the economy, Stupid" was a political slogan a few years ago in the USA. Economic problems are one of the primary causes of Arab Spring too. These nations have been governed by dictators and most of the money has been concentrated in the hands of the dictators' families and friends leaving the common people poor.
Aren't the state-funded bailouts of the banks and big businesses the same kind of cronyism? Many saw them as institutional fraud intended to keep the powerful financial sectors profitable while budgets for education and healthcare are slashed to pay for interest on the debt. A tiny elite - The 1% - gather greater wealth and the rest of us suffer. Is our 1% any different from the elite in Arab Spring nations?
I don't have the answer. Noueihed and Warren wrote about other countries and did not offer any solutions for my country. None of my politicians in Washington DC seem to have the answer - Their interests are only in keeping their seats and their parties in power. Maybe there are clues in the past. Railroad and Robber Barons once ruled the US and they came under some control a hundred years ago. They are out of control today - What changed?
I did learn some of what is going on in Syria. It really is confused and maybe that is why the news doesn't tell me what I wanted to know. Bashar al-Assad is Alawite. Alawite is a sect that can be traced to early years of Shi'ia Islam. Assad ruled since 2000 when he took over after his father, Hafez al-Assad, died. Since 1970 the money has been concentrated in the families of other Alawites and those of urban Sunnis. Sunni are the majority of the 24 million Syrians. Alawite, Kurd, Druze, Christian, Turkomen, and Ismaili are all substantial parts of the minority population. These all live in relative poverty compared to the urban elite. Those in rural areas are especially poorer. They all want for control and more money. But at the same time many of the minorities fear a Sunni majority particularly if Islamist factions were to rule.