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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (PublicAffairs), by Marc Lynch

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History seldom repeats itself but often offers a guide to what might happen next. Given the media's general incomprehension over the “Arab Spring,” the analysis by Marc Lynch, director of George Washington University's Institute for Middle East Studies (and foreign policy insider) is useful. The Arab Uprising shows how new media, including Al Jazeera and smartphones, have exposed the brutal folly of corrupt regimes more vividly than was possible in the past. But in most places, the usual state actors remain in charge. Lynch carefully explicates the region's thorny politics, including the campaign by conservative pro-Western dictators to destroy Libya's Qaddafi (who they personally hated) and undermine Syria's Assad while keeping thumbs on their own people. And as Lynch points out, there are precedents in the 20th century for the Arab Spring, which usually ended in renewed authoritarianism. Arab public opinion has always been important and, although it is now subject to a wider array of influences, the issue of Palestine will not, to Israel's dismay, go away. At least in the near future, the United States will not find an easy way to balance ideals of democracy with economic reality. Oil still counts.