After a brief overview of Egyptian political history from the British occupation in 1882 to the military coup in 1952 that overthrew King Farouk, Cook tells the story of Egypt’s last 60 years in terms of three presidential monarchs: Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled until his death in 1970; Anwar al-Sadat, who followed as president until his assassination in 1981; and Hosni Mubarak, whose reign lasted three long decades, until his overthrow last year. Under all three, Egypt remained a military regime that, despite early signs of dynamism, soon slipped into a sluggish and brutal authoritarianism. Cook stresses the Egyptian fear of domination by outsiders, rooted in a long history of foreign occupations, and reveals the smoldering Egyptian resentment of the United States, which in the 1970s replaced the Soviets as Egypt’s great-power patron. His final chapter tells of the 18 days of upheaval that ended Mubarak’s rule -- a popular revolt, but one whose coup de grâce was delivered by the military. Cook concludes that although Egypt’s future remains very much in doubt, the United States should “take a hands-off approach as Egyptians build a new political system on their own terms.”
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