Open a newspaper or turn on your favorite television news channel and you’re sure to be confronted with the latest wave of protests in Syria, Bahrain or Yemen. Given the violent uprisings across the region and the radical transformation of governments in key states, the New Middle East is undergoing a change like no other in recent history. In some areas, governments have toppled and dictators have fled, while in others dissent has led to massive crackdowns and human rights violations.
Called everything from an uprising to a revolution, the unprecedented and often bloody events of the past year and a half have upended foreign policy and forever shattered the status quo. Thanks to a rising generation committed to the prospect of change and interconnected by social media and common goals, once disparate Arab nations are now connected as never before. What began as a single protest by a Tunisian fruit seller in December 2010 soon raced across the region like wildfire. Mass protests became the norm as long-oppressed populations rose up in unified dissent.
Foreign policy analyst Marc Lynch does an admirable job of putting it all into perspective in his latest book, “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East.” Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University and editor of the Middle East Channel on ForeignPolicy.com, Lynch provides a context for understanding what is happening, how key players are reacting and what it means for American policy.
Billed as an “insider’s primer on the Arab Spring,” the book starts with a history of the Arab Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s, explaining in detail how those earlier uprisings resulted in oppressive and brutal autocracies. Lynch contrasts this with the Black September crisis of 1970, the wars in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
He goes on to outline how the current rebellion differs from earlier conflicts, the role played by Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations, and the likelihood that Islamists may win offices in the new order. Most importantly, he provides common-sense advice for how America must fundamentally change how we do business with our Arab partners.
“The Arab Uprising” is a compelling book informed by first-hand, insider knowledge and a deep understanding of and respect for the region and its people. It is also essential reading for those who want a better understanding of what they can expect from a newly empowered Arab public.