The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

FP's new Arab revolutions ebook

Foreign Policy has published a compilation of its recent writing on the uprisings in the Arab world, including two pieces by yours truly (on Omar Suleiman and on Mubarak jokes). You can get it here in PDF or from Amazon for your Kindle (and soon other electronic readers). Full press release after the jump.

Foreign Policy Magazine Publishes eBook on the Arab Revolutions 

Foreign Policy magazine today announced the publication of Revolution in the Arab World: Tunisia, Egypt, and the Unmaking of an Era, an exclusive new ebook that offers an authoritative look at the rapid reordering of the world's most strategic region and the dilemmas it presents for American power - in real time. Revolution in the Arab World is the first major publication on the unrest that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks.


This special report from Foreign Policy, available for download directly on the Foreign Policy website and in the Amazon Kindle bookstore marks a unique effort to understand the upheaval as it's happening, featuring some of the world's leading experts, authors, and journalists offering 217 pages of news, views, and insight into the dramatic events unfolding in the Arab world.


"Publishing this ebook is a great experiment for FP," said Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy's editor in chief. "These new publishing tools give us the chance to produce a book about the revolutionary upheaval in the Middle East -- as it's still unfolding. Whether you read this on the Kindle, the iPad or download it on your computer, we're hoping that Revolution in the Arab World will add valuable context, understanding, and analysis to events as they play out, and we're looking forward to updating the ebook regularly to keep on reflecting them."


The book, edited by Glasser, FP managing editor Blake Hounshell and George Washington University professor Marc Lynch, the co-editor of The Mideast Channel on, includes all-new introductions by Lynch and Hounshell and updated contributions from authors ranging from noted Egyptian writers Issandr El Amrani and Ashraf Khalil to bestselling authors such as Robert Kaplan and leading U.S. policy experts like Aaron David Miller. Over six chapters, the book includes the prescient rumblings of revolution noted by Amrani and other writers in FP over the last year, a dramatic re-telling of the drama in Cairo's Tahrir Square, deeply reported articles on the behind the scenes players who drove the revolutions, and insights on Washington's back-stage drama over how to respond.

"What is the perfect day for Hosni Mubarak? A day when nothing happens." - Egyptian joke, December 2010

"A bunch of incognizant, ineffective young people" - Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly on the Tahrir Square protesters, Jan. 25, 2011


In just 18 short days, the young protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square upended global politics. Not even three weeks after the peaceful demonstrations began, not even two weeks after pro-government thugs charged into the square on camels and horses to force them out, one of the most entrenched leaders in the Middle East and a longtime U.S. ally, Hosni Mubarak, was gone-and autocratic leaders from Morocco to Bahrain were feeling the heat.


Where did this wave of anger come from? Why did it begin in Tunisia, and what does it mean? FP's special ebook starts with a revelatory first chapter that shows how the revolutionary rumblings were ignored, dating back to Issandr El Amrani's prescient warning to Barack Obama in January 2010: Egypt, he wrote, could be the ticking time bomb that overwhelms your international agenda. The coverage also includes a dramatic day-by-day retelling of the battle for Tahrir Square, insider accounts of Washington's flip-flopping and struggle to keep up with events, and some of the world's leading authors and experts, from James Traub to Gary Sick to Robert D. Kaplan, on where we go from here.

Consider it a guidebook for these revolutionary times.


Chapter One: Rumblings of Revolution The rumblings of revolution in the Arab world were not difficult to hear, fueled as they were by political stagnation, crumbling public services, endemic police brutality, mass unemployment, and a building sense of failure and humiliation. Across the Middle East, populations bulging with restive, angry youth dreaming of better lives were ruled by geriatric tyrants. For years, the only question had been when they would explode, not if.

And yet even those who should have known better refused to acknowledge reality. On Jan. 25, 2011, the day Egypt's revolt began, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people"-an assertion that managed to be as politically inastute as it was factually untrue.

Chapter Two: Tunisia: An Unlikely Spark
The Arab revolt began in a place nobody expected: Tunisia, a pleasant Mediterranean enclave long thought to be a model for the rest of the region, where the Islamists were kept out, unemployment was kept down, and test scores were kept up. Sure, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was brutal, but, unlike his neighbors in Algeria and Libya, he built a functioning education system, a thriving middle class, and a relatively efficient public sector. Wasn't that better than the alternative?

Chapter Three: 18 Days in Cairo
There's a joke that's been making the rounds in Egypt lately, and it goes something like this: Hosni Mubarak meets Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser, two fellow Egyptian presidents, in the afterlife. Mubarak asks Nasser how he ended up there. "Poison," Nasser says. Mubarak then turns to Sadat. "How did you end up here?" he asks. "An assassin's bullet," Sadat says. "What about you?" To which Mubarak replies: "Facebook."

Chapter Four: Revolution Makers
Every uprising has its unheralded heroes, be it the army general who refuses orders to fire on innocent civilians, the broadcaster who denounces his former puppet masters on state television, the musician who pens the anthem that awakens the masses, or the elderly grandmother who stares down the shock troops of the ancien regime and refuses to submit.

But it is the true believers, the visionaries who dare to dream in isolation and bravery of a new order, who make revolutions possible. The Arab world is no different. From youthful Facebook organizers to retired diplomats, crusading journalists to Serbian activists, these revolutions have seen their share of inspiring protagonists. And yet, in this new age of social networks, text-messaging, and satellite television, the Arab revolt is remarkable for its lack of charismatic leaders. In Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen-and wherever the revolution ultimately spreads-previously apolitical young people, not politicians, have so far been leading the way. But to where?


Chapter Five: Barack Obama and the New Mideast In August 2010, months before a streetcar vendor's cri de couer lit the flame of revolution in Tunisia, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered a secret report on the potential for instability in the Arab world. What, he wanted to know, might push these regimes over the edge?

And yet, there were few signs that the Obama administration saw the Arab revolt coming. Not only did the State Department say little at high levels about the grossly rigged Egyptian parliamentary elections of November 2010, but U.S. officials continued to insist-against all evidence to the contrary-that quiet diplomacy was bearing fruit.

And once the first inklings of revolutionary fervor hit the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, the United States was slow to realize what was happening. At a democracy conference in Doha, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned heads merely by pointing out the obvious: that Arab regimes were "sinking into the sand." Still, it was not until Jan. 14, 2011-the day Tunisia's strong-man President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Jeddah-that President Obama issued a statement on the month-long uprising in Tunisia.


Chapter Six: Now What? Revolution and Its Discontents The Arab revolutions are far from over-including those that have already toppled dictators. The mood on the streets is exuberant as a stagnant political order gives way to the first stirrings of liberty and freedom. Yet only two Arab autocrats, Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, have fallen, and the corrupt systems they left behind have not been completely dismantled. Far nastier regimes, with fewer ties to the West, are determined to avoid the same fate. They will be far less reticent to employ deadly force. And by crushing legitimate democratic yearnings, tyrants may be birthing yet more extreme movements in the future.

Then there is the vexing question of just what kinds of governments will replace those regimes that do fall. Will long-suppressed Islamist movements sweep free and fair elections, as many fear? Will labor strikes and other forms of instability make economic recovery impossible, discrediting democracy in the process? And will new strongmen emerge, promising to restore order amid the chaos?



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