The Arab Uprising
The Unfinished Revolution of the Middle East
by Mark Lynch
The Arab Uprising roots the events since December 2010 in the broader sweep of Arab political history. It looks back to the great popular mobilization and ideological conflicts of the “Arab Cold War” of the 1950s and 1960s, to economic and political protests in the early 1980s, and to the abortive democratization efforts in several Arab countries in the early 1990s. It traces the great wave of popular protest and the structural transformation of the Arab public sphere during the decade of the 2000s. And then it carefully traces the evolution of this wave of Arab uprisings, from the first few months of a tightly integrated and seemingly unstoppable regional protest wave to the March 2011 counter-attack by the forces of the status quo and the impact of the descent into horrific violence in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The book does more than retrace the political history of the uprisings, however. It attempts to offer a systematic framework for understanding the new regional politics, including a reading of the new balance of power and the long-term implications of the empowerment of publics at the domestic and regional levels. It assesses the rise of Islamist movements, the new regional struggle for Syria, the struggles of both Turkey and Iran, and the implications for Israel. And it discusses America’s options for the region, arguing that Realists, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists alike have failed to offer useful guides to the emerging regional politics.
I am very excited that The Arab Uprising has finally dropped. It wasn’t easy writing in the midst of rapidly developing events, trying to hit a moving analytical target while keeping up with events in so many different countries. I could not have done it without the steady stream of high quality analysis produced by my colleagues for The Middle East Channel, upon which I rely heavily in my narrative.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. He also works on public diplomacy and strategic communications. His most recent book, Voices of the New Arab Public: Al-Jazeera, Iraq, and Middle East Politics Today, was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. His personal homepage contains information and links to these publications.
THE ARAB UPRISING
Kirkus Reviews – (reviewed on February 1, 2012)
A Middle East scholar expertly puts the recent protests in historical context.
Lynch (Political Science/George Washington Univ.; Voices of the New Arab Public, 2005, etc.), who has been following recent events closely (he suggests that he may have coined the term “Arab Spring” in a January 2011 article), reexamines important precedents in mass uprisings that took place in convulsive waves during the Arab Cold War of the 1950s, and were brutally suppressed. Before the 1967 Six-Day War ruptured Arab solidarity, the pan-Arab movement instigated by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser pushed for Arab unity, galvanizing mass demonstrations in the streets and helping to destabilize regimes in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria and Tunisia. Yet Arab unity proved intractable, and the region was soon riddled by military coups and divided loyalties between the revolutionary and the counterrevolutionary—the latter being those nations aligned with the West. The result of popular mobilization, Lynch writes, was the establishment of a system of authoritarian controls that paralyzed the Arab populace for the next 40 years and that are only now unraveling: “The tight control over information, careful management of public political opinion, and massive ‘coup-proof’ security services were all designed to blunt the power of transnational radical appeals.” Moreover, lessons then gained about intervention in regional affairs should also be heeded as today’s interested observers—e.g., the United States and Saudi Arabia, among others—choose which nations to back. Lynch also examines the key role initially played by the Al-Jazeera network in coverage of the Tunisia uprising, keenly watched by the Egyptians in convincing them their own efforts could be successful.
A timely survey of complex historical and current events.