In This Review

The Middle East Crisis Factory: Tyranny, Resilience, and Resistance
The Middle East Crisis Factory: Tyranny, Resilience, and Resistance
By Iyad El-Baghdadi and Ahmed Gatnash
Hurst, 2021, 242 pp

This book by two self-described activists—a stateless Palestinian now based in Oslo and a British Libyan citizen—is an effort “to get through to the average Westerner” and insist on a more complicated story of the Middle East. The authors are frustrated by analyses that attribute the region’s myriad problems to single causes—despotism, say, or Western intervention—and seek solutions in simple remedies, such as elections or, indeed, Western intervention. Decades of broken promises from post-independence governments laid the groundwork for the Middle East to be dominated by tyranny, terrorism, and foreign influence, forces that reinforce and perpetuate one another. In the authors’ telling, the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria and the later rebellions in Algeria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Sudan were attempts to break this triangular stranglehold. They argue that the counterrevolutionary efforts by local autocrats and their international supporters, however formidable they seem now, will ultimately prove fruitless. Like many activists, they are congenital optimists, but they are also clear-eyed about the obstacles. The book’s scholarly references are untidy, and its casual tone is sometimes jarringly conversational; in discussing their recommendations at one point, the authors ask, “Are we for real?” But this informality may beguile the wider audience to which the book is addressed.