I am delighted to announce the official publication of my book The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (PublicAffairs). The seeds of the book can be found in my very first response to the Tunisian protests, written on January 5, 2011, which rooted them in the "wages of Arab decay" and predicted far more unrest to come. The Arab Uprising offers a necessarily preliminary but hopefully stimulating interpretation of the meaning of the uprisings, what they have accomplished, how they have reshaped power politics and political norms in the Middle East, and their implications for American foreign policy.
Why do I term the events of the last fifteen months "The Arab Uprising"? Because that best captures what is truly unique about this period. I don’t like the term "Arab Spring" — a term I am embarrassed to have evidently coined — in part because they began in the dead of winter and arguably ended in their most potent form before the turn of the season. "Arab Revolutions" is premature, since we don’t yet know whether any of the Arab countries will manage fully successful revolutionary change. "Arab Awakening" is misleading, since Arabs were hardly sleeping — indeed, as the book details at length, the previous decade had been consumed by popular protest, rising dissent, and ever more contentious public spheres.The term "Arab uprising" captures the two most crucial dimensions of these events: "Arab" because of the intense identification across borders and diffusion effects throughout the region; and "uprising" because of the surge of popular protest across almost every country.
The Arab Uprising roots the events since December 2010 in the broader sweep of Arab political history. It looks back to the great popular mobilization and ideological conflicts of the "Arab Cold War" of the 1950s and 1960s, to economic and political protests in the early 1980s, and to the abortive democratization efforts in several Arab countries in the early 1990s. It traces the great wave of popular protest and the structural transformation of the Arab public sphere during the decade of the 2000s. And then it carefully traces the evolution of this wave of Arab uprisings, from the first few months of a tightly integrated and seemingly unstoppable regional protest wave to the March 2011 counter-attack by the forces of the status quo and the impact of the descent into horrific violence in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The book does more than retrace the political history of the uprisings, however. It attempts to offer a systematic framework for understanding the new regional politics, including a reading of the new balance of power and the long-term implications of the empowerment of publics at the domestic and regional levels. It assesses the rise of Islamist movements, the new regional struggle for Syria, the struggles of both Turkey and Iran, and the implications for Israel. And it discusses America’s options for the region, arguing that Realists, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists alike have failed to offer useful guides to the emerging regional politics.
I am very excited that The Arab Uprising has finally dropped. It wasn’t easy writing in the midst of rapidly developing events, trying to hit a moving analytical target while keeping up with events in so many different countries. I could not have done it without the steady stream of high quality analysis produced by my colleagues for The Middle East Channel, upon which I rely heavily in my narrative. I hope that
you will all buy the book the book will stimulate productive debate and discussion over the coming weeks, and I look forward to your feedback!