In This Review

The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East (Saban Center at the Brookings Institution Books)
The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East (Saban Center at the Brookings Institution Books)
By Kenneth M. Pollack, Daniel L. Byman, et al.
Brookings Institution Press, 2011, 381 pp

Eighteen authors cover the events that have roiled the Arab World since December 2010, when a despairing peddler from a town in the Tunisian hinterland set himself aflame to protest his treatment at the hands of an oppressive government. Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation ignited a chain reaction of challenges by hitherto seemingly acquiescent Arab societies to their authoritarian states. Some dominoes have fallen, others are atilt, and all have been shaken. This well-integrated account of a regionwide revolutionary year -- matching, if not exceeding, in importance Europe in 1848 or 1989 -- includes chapters on all but two Arab states (Lebanon and Sudan) and one on the Palestinians. Other chapters treat the reactions of the non-Arab Middle Eastern states -- Iran, Israel, and Turkey -- and those of China, the European Union, Russia, and, most of all, the United States. The contributors examine a wide range of factors that influenced the revolts: new media technologies, economic development, powerful militaries, democratization efforts, and ascendant Islamist parties. This volume weaves together those disparate elements, justifying its claim to constitute not just a string of separate entries but a genuine “collaborative work.”