In This Review

Building Rule of Law in the Arab World: Tunisia, Egypt, and Beyond
Building Rule of Law in the Arab World: Tunisia, Egypt, and Beyond
Edited by Eva Bellin and Heidi E. Lane
Lynne Rienner, 2016, 311 pp

The contributions to this collection emerged from a conference held in November 2012. They reflect a sense of optimism that has since evaporated. During the intervening years, Egypt hasturned 180 degrees and regressed to autocracy, and Tunisia has struggled to consolidate democracy while maintaining stability and security in a dangerous neighborhood. The specialists included in this volume all assume that in both places, enough political will exists to establish independent judiciaries, rule-bound police forces, civilian-controlled militaries, and transparent, clean governments. But even in Tunisia, that is not the case. The contributors examine other countries that have clawed their way out of similar straitjackets (Chile, Indonesia, and Mexico) but do not explain what would change the incentive structures of today’s Middle Eastern autocrats such that they would sponsor reforms that would destabilize their own rule. Even in Tunisia, the deep state and former regime elements maintain the expertise and will needed to reinvent the old system. To challenge the forces of atavism, reformers in the Middle East require allies on the inside. That is Tunisia’s hope—but God help Egypt.