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He lays his politics out (left wing), he does not demonize anyone, and he tells the truth about what happened during the Arab Spring. So even though I disagree his stance on Israel, I can read him without feeling he lets his bias lead him into falsehoods. As the author relates, the Arab spring fell apart because it could not agree on what to do next. The revolutionaries including the Islamist groups fought among themselves so much that they could not cooperate. There are identity divisions in the Arab world (and this is not counting christians, non arabs, such as blacks, and other oppressed minorities). The author notes that past popular democratic movements all came to the same ends, anarchy followed by urgent calls for stability and order so that ordinary life could continue, leading to more authoritarianism. For instance, Mubarak liberalized the political realm in Egypt in the 1980s, which resulted in movements to overthrow the government, which led to Mubarak cracking down. More lately, people supported the movement that brought down Mubarak but then got fed up with unending upheaval. As the author writes, neighborhoods and villages were happy when the army moved in to stop the demonstrations and rallies.
Since this book, things have changed in Egypt. A military leader has been elected president. The people did not want disorder and apparently they did not want an Islamic government that would impose strict religiosity on them. (That does not mean that they want western style liberalism). The author praises President Obama for how he dealt with Egypt, yet now many there hate him for supporting an Islamist government.
The author is very unfair to President Bush and implies he should have done something to make things good in Iraq. Like what? The US got rid of the tyrant, supported elections, and gave money, the same as in Germany or Japan at the end of WWII. That the Iraqis could not obtain what everyone says they want is not the fault of Bush. While the author faults Bush for the war he ignores the thousands of civilians killed by drones under President Obama.
The author says that Bush strengthened al quada by fighting it, which is nonsense, but is common liberal talk. The liberal theme is that if you ignore al quada (and now ISIS), they will be rendered harmless.
The author opines that America has been too comfortable dealing with dictators. Everyone has, because dictators is all there is. America at least has tried to encourage regimes that were not as harsh as the regimes supported by other nations. Authoritarianism, yes, because there is nothing else, but not totalitarianism. Given that efforts at democracy often lead to anarchy, when the US pressures an authoritarian government to become more democratic, the result is often anarchy followed by worse tyranny.
The harshest tyrants like Ghadaffi or Assad in Syria have not been US friends but enemies. We did not support them and, in fact, there was the time when they were very popular with their populations and with the western left because of their vehement opposition to the US.
Under Obama, the US tried supporting what seemed to be the Egyptian people’s choice, and infuriated them by supporting an Islamist government. It is not so easy to know what people want. The US was in favor of the change in Libya and the moment it succeeded, the rebels filled mass graves with black Africans or forced them out the country. The violence now in Libya, the difficulty of buying food and fuel, the crime, the suffering are worse than in the time of Ghadaffi. It is not easy to predict all the effects of one’s actions.
The author stresses the praiseworthy ethnic and religious unity of Arabs, which exists despite their differences. Unfortunately, like other western liberals, the author seems to believe that Arab or Muslim identity is superior and more deserved than the identity of other groups. He believes that the US should not value its identity which, thus far anyway, is based on western culture, christianity, and judaism. The author does not mention the negative effects of identities in the Middle East, which is disdain for other groups, racism, religious bigotry. If he was writing about the west, he would point out the negative aspects. The author points out that the west does not like democracy when Islamists win. He is right. After all, Muslims would not like it if radical christians took over the US government. The US is afraid of Islamists because they are the most hostile to the west or at least they most embody the hostility. The author says that the US should make Arabs like it by supporting interests that are against US interests, which is unreasonable. No one demands that Russia or China or any nation do the same.