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False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East

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Nearly half a decade after Arabs poured into the streets to demand change, hope that the Middle Eastern version of people power would augur democratic change has disappeared in a maelstrom of violence and renewed state repression. Egypt remains an authoritarian state, Syria and Yemen are experiencing civil wars, Libya has descended into anarchy, the self-declared Islamic Nearly half a decade after Arabs poured into the streets to demand change, hope that the Middle Eastern version of people power would augur democratic change has disappeared in a maelstrom of violence and renewed state repression. Egypt remains an authoritarian state, Syria and Yemen are experiencing civil wars, Libya has descended into anarchy, the self-declared Islamic State rules a large chunk of territory, and Tunisia, while enjoying some progress, is plagued by violent Islamism that may yet unravel the reforms of 2011. And Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, which was supposed to be a "model" for its Arab neighbors looks less like a European democracy than a Middle Eastern autocracy. How did things go so wrong so quickly across a wide range of regimes? In Thwarted Dreams, noted Middle East regional expert Steven A. Cook offers a sweeping narrative account of the past five years, moving from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya to Turkey and beyond, yet also offers a powerful analysis of why the Arab Spring failed. In truth, there were no revolutions in the Middle East five years ago, but what was left behind after dictators were chased from power has had profound effects on the politics and economics of the region. The Egyptian political system may be in the hands of its new leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, but it very much remains Mubarak's Egypt. Even in Tunisia, the one supposed "success" of the Arab Spring, defenders of the old regime have come to power and used the institutions of the state to damage the prospects for a genuine transition to democracy. The one state that came closest to a revolution, Libya, has fragmented. Turkey's allure and the lessons it once may have provided to Arab liberals and Islamists alike have disappeared as Turkish leaders have resorted increasingly to authoritarian tactics to maintain their rule. After taking stock of how and why the uprisings failed to become revolutions, Cook considers the role of the United States in the region. What Washington cannot do, Cook argues, is shape the politics of the Middle East going forward. While many in the policymaking community believe that the United States must "get the Middle East right," American influence is actually quite limited; the future of the region lies in the hands of the people who live there. Authoritative, powerfully argued, and featuring a crisp narrative approach, Thwarted Dreams promises to be a major work on one of the most important historical events of the past quarter century.


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Nearly half a decade after Arabs poured into the streets to demand change, hope that the Middle Eastern version of people power would augur democratic change has disappeared in a maelstrom of violence and renewed state repression. Egypt remains an authoritarian state, Syria and Yemen are experiencing civil wars, Libya has descended into anarchy, the self-declared Islamic Nearly half a decade after Arabs poured into the streets to demand change, hope that the Middle Eastern version of people power would augur democratic change has disappeared in a maelstrom of violence and renewed state repression. Egypt remains an authoritarian state, Syria and Yemen are experiencing civil wars, Libya has descended into anarchy, the self-declared Islamic State rules a large chunk of territory, and Tunisia, while enjoying some progress, is plagued by violent Islamism that may yet unravel the reforms of 2011. And Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, which was supposed to be a "model" for its Arab neighbors looks less like a European democracy than a Middle Eastern autocracy. How did things go so wrong so quickly across a wide range of regimes? In Thwarted Dreams, noted Middle East regional expert Steven A. Cook offers a sweeping narrative account of the past five years, moving from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya to Turkey and beyond, yet also offers a powerful analysis of why the Arab Spring failed. In truth, there were no revolutions in the Middle East five years ago, but what was left behind after dictators were chased from power has had profound effects on the politics and economics of the region. The Egyptian political system may be in the hands of its new leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, but it very much remains Mubarak's Egypt. Even in Tunisia, the one supposed "success" of the Arab Spring, defenders of the old regime have come to power and used the institutions of the state to damage the prospects for a genuine transition to democracy. The one state that came closest to a revolution, Libya, has fragmented. Turkey's allure and the lessons it once may have provided to Arab liberals and Islamists alike have disappeared as Turkish leaders have resorted increasingly to authoritarian tactics to maintain their rule. After taking stock of how and why the uprisings failed to become revolutions, Cook considers the role of the United States in the region. What Washington cannot do, Cook argues, is shape the politics of the Middle East going forward. While many in the policymaking community believe that the United States must "get the Middle East right," American influence is actually quite limited; the future of the region lies in the hands of the people who live there. Authoritative, powerfully argued, and featuring a crisp narrative approach, Thwarted Dreams promises to be a major work on one of the most important historical events of the past quarter century.

30 review for False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    LuAnne Feik

    This is an academic text not meant as a popular read for those with a casual interest in the Benghazi hearings. In great detail, Steven A. Cook does two things extremely well. He describes the forces at work in the 2011-2013 uprisings and their aftermath in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Turkey. He also describes how U.S. policymakers tried to respond to the rapidly changing environment by altering their traditional backing for the area's "stable" authoritarian regimes and by attempting to support a This is an academic text not meant as a popular read for those with a casual interest in the Benghazi hearings. In great detail, Steven A. Cook does two things extremely well. He describes the forces at work in the 2011-2013 uprisings and their aftermath in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Turkey. He also describes how U.S. policymakers tried to respond to the rapidly changing environment by altering their traditional backing for the area's "stable" authoritarian regimes and by attempting to support a transition to democracy. But FALSE DAWN ends in frustration. There is no U.S. solution in a region that has more problems than countries. Washington, D.C. supports Israel, Iran's Muslim Shia rankle Muslim Sunnis, neither Iraq nor Turkey welcomes Kurds, and religious terrorists attack secular regimes. Cook suggests the U.S. think small in the Middle East and invest in agricultural, education, public health, and administrative programs that improve daily lives while patiently waiting for the world to turn again. He quotes the message of the region's activists, democrats, and liberals. "Don't give up on us; the revolution is not over."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    False Dawn covers the events that occurred in the ill-fated Arab Spring that did not usher in the democracy that was hoped across the middle east. Following events in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey as well as Iraq Steven Cook takes the reader through the events of various revolutions and tries to put them into context of what happened at the local level that was not appreciated by those on the world stage. The dichotomy of the hope for freedom and the naivete of the Western powers is on full False Dawn covers the events that occurred in the ill-fated Arab Spring that did not usher in the democracy that was hoped across the middle east. Following events in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey as well as Iraq Steven Cook takes the reader through the events of various revolutions and tries to put them into context of what happened at the local level that was not appreciated by those on the world stage. The dichotomy of the hope for freedom and the naivete of the Western powers is on full display in this book. For those interested in what the future of the Middle East will hold this is an excellent way to get an overview of the four countries mentioned above. The author does a great job of providing background material on the people involved, copious maps and a timeline of events that is succinct and purposeful in its narrative. Overall a solid read and a good start to understanding why the Arab Spring did not result in the democracy that many believed it would.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This book looks at the Arab uprisings in various countries in the early 2010s and discusses why they were largely unsuccessful. It is a good premise, but the author doesn't get much beyond the standard accounts of these events. He spends a lot of time talking about how people in Washington DC reacted to them, but he doesn't talk to any of the people who were involved directly, which seems strange, because he claims to have been in Egypt during the revolt. He also spends a lot of time talking This book looks at the Arab uprisings in various countries in the early 2010s and discusses why they were largely unsuccessful. It is a good premise, but the author doesn't get much beyond the standard accounts of these events. He spends a lot of time talking about how people in Washington DC reacted to them, but he doesn't talk to any of the people who were involved directly, which seems strange, because he claims to have been in Egypt during the revolt. He also spends a lot of time talking about Turkey, but mostly its experiences with democracy and autocracy, and very limited discussion of its role in the uprisings. The narrative seems confused overall, and I'm not sure what point he is trying to make.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter Henne

    This is a good overview of the "Arab Spring" a few years out. It highlights the way the protests fell apart, and suggests some reasons why. The book includes a lot of interesting anecdotes alongside academic discussion, so it should be accessible to non-academics. One issue I had was the focus on a few countries (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey) rather than a broader survey of protests across the region.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sami

    Comprehensive but academic. His previous book "The Struggle for Egypt" is better and more readable. I now think that David Kirkpatrick's "Into the hands of soldiers" is the best about Egypt's uprising and the current status.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joe Bartlett

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carter

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary F. Christ

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Gonzalez

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cara Stevens

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maro Youssef

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leila

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I'm having a hard time getting through this book. I guess I thought it was going to be a people-level look at why the various Arab countries had uprisings and why things didn't turn out as hopeful as it once looked. Instead, it seems to be a head-of-state, political look at things. For example, we're told W. Bush's and Obama's foreign policy about spreading democracy, though it doesn't directly link in to the uprisings. When talking about what might have started the uprising in Egypt or why this I'm having a hard time getting through this book. I guess I thought it was going to be a people-level look at why the various Arab countries had uprisings and why things didn't turn out as hopeful as it once looked. Instead, it seems to be a head-of-state, political look at things. For example, we're told W. Bush's and Obama's foreign policy about spreading democracy, though it doesn't directly link in to the uprisings. When talking about what might have started the uprising in Egypt or why this uprising removed the Egyptian leader when previous ones didn't, he basically says he doesn't know. However, he does know that the lack of successful democracy after the revolutions and uprising isn't surprising! Anyway, it's like reading a textbook for a politics class. Turns out I'm just not that interested in the same aspects as he is. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt Mainzer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  17. 4 out of 5

    Moira Goff-Taylor

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mia

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katie Gallagher

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ting

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jaylani Adam

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edwin Franzen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Boyd McCamish

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan Davis

  28. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Giampapa

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ileana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andy

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