In a cynical jeremiad, Bradley finds the pre–Arab Spring dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt less pernicious than what he sees in the coming Islamist counterrevolution.
Having boldly predicted the revolution in Egypt in his book Inside Egypt and warned of the “saving graces” of Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dictatorship before the advent of the Jasmine Revolution in Behind the Veil of Vice, the author sends out another cry of alarm—this time at the democratic fallout that is benefiting the strident Islamist parties mainly because they are organized and their supporters vote. The Jasmine Revolution brought down Ben Ali’s two-decade autocratic regime, riddled with corruption and cronyism, despite his constructing the most secular, liberal and frankly pro-women state in the Arab world. What have replaced it are roving gangs of bearded Islamist and Salafis (adherents of the reactionary, anti-modern Salafism) calling for an Islamic state, and an Islamist party called Ennahda, led by the newly returned exile Rachid Ghannouchi. Likewise in Egypt, writes Bradley, the revolutionaries were not demanding democratic reforms so much as economic: jobs and opportunity. In a conservative country like Egypt, where nearly half the population is illiterate, the military rules and women do not have the freedoms as in Tunisia, Islamist groups sprouted overnight and the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood have neatly consolidated their political power. To succeed in advancing their aims of “cultural tyranny,” they do not need majority support. Bradley looks at the resurgence of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism and other forms of tribalism since the revolutions in Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. He also considers the “Shia Axis” and bitter lessons gained from Islamist incursions in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and he chides both the revolutionaries and the Western pragmatists for not learning from history.
A deeply alarmist, precipitous look at recent Arab developments—or lack of developments.