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.