Kirkus Star


Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East
Email this review


A keen observer of the violent upheaval in the Middle East since the Arab Spring makes a strong assertion: there is no returning to the old autocratic ways.

Lynch (Political Science/George Washington Univ.; The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East, 2012), the director of the Project on Middle East Political Science and contributing editor to the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, posits that much of the recent events in the Middle East evolved into military crackdown and proxy wars as part of a radical regional restructuring. The Arab uprising shattered the status quo—the traditions of dictatorship and repression—and despite the enormous promise of peaceful transitions, the region has devolved into sectarian violence and Islamist radicalism. Lynch examines the hot spots—Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq—to uncover “what went wrong and what to expect,” using a combination of on-the-ground reporting and political science (“structural drivers of events”). He also draws from Arabic social media, which continues to be a potent galvanizer for change. All of the conflicts he sees as being fomented by “transnational flows of money, information, people, and guns,” especially from richer nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to polarize the conflict. Significantly, Lynch sees the Barack Obama administration’s restraint in the region—especially in not sending military assistance to the Syrian rebels, as well as in the recent nuclear deal with Iran—as provoking fundamental changes to the system of alliances while demonstrating indeed that the Americans have learned a profound lesson from the disastrous Iraq invasions. The author traces the Syrian conflict directly to the failed democratic uprising in Egypt, where the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood “removed the most powerful mainstream competitor to the jihadist trends” and unleashed a violent new strain of fighters bent on revenge.

An excellent, clear distillation of recent events in the Middle East.

Pub Date: April 26th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61039-609-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2016


NonfictionTHE WORLD THROUGH ARAB EYES by Shibley Telhami
by Shibley Telhami
NonfictionTHE NEW ARABS by Juan Cole
by Juan Cole
NonfictionTHE ARAB UPRISINGS by James L. Gelvin
by James L. Gelvin
NonfictionLIBYA by Alison Pargeter
by Alison Pargeter