Cover image for The tragedy of the Middle East
The tragedy of the Middle East
Rubin, Barry M.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 287 pages ; 24 cm
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DS63.1 .R835 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Middle East has changed clearly, substantially, and dramatically during the last decade. Yet scholarly and public understanding lags far behind recent events. Barry Rubin's historical and political summation of the region shows how events and ideas have both shaped and altered its character. Three interlinked themes are crucial to the book. First, a reinterpretation of the era of recent upheaval the Middle East has just passed through, which the author calls the Era of Radical Expectations. During that period, many Arabs believed that some leader, country, or radical movement would unite the region, solving all its problems. Second, an evaluation of how the historical experience of the period between the 1940s and the 1990s undermined the old system, making change necessary. Third, an analysis of the region today that explains future developments, in what the author terms the Era of Reluctant Pragmatism, as the Middle Eastern societies determine their relationships to the West. Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herziliya, Israel, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. He is the author of 16 books on the Middle East and has edited another 17 that include the widely reviewed and acclaimed The Transformation of Palestinian Politics (Harvard, 1999) and The Israel-Arab Reader (Penguin/Putnam, 2002)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

For a brief period in the 1990s, peace in the Middle East seemed possible. Now that that's over, Rubin seeks to explain what went wrong. In his sixteenth book on the region, he argues that Arab leaders balked at peace because it presented too great a threat to their own power. Blaming external enemies Israel and the United States has long enabled Arab regimes to channel frustration away from their own failures, Rubin writes, and governments across the region reverted to this strategy when peace seemed likely to break out. This is not the first time that Rubin, who is the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, has carefully summed up very recent events. His widely acclaimed 1999 book, The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building, analyzed the inner workings of the Palestinian Authority. But while the tone of that book was cautiously hopeful, in his new work he sees no realistic path to a brighter future. This is a dense but well-argued read, and timely, too, as Westerners seek an explanation for why most if not all of the September 11th hijackers hail from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (Sept. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Drawing on his decades of researching the region and his 18 earlier books, Rubin has produced a magisterial overview of the contemporary Middle East. He argues that the last decade has seen the eclipse of reform--be it political, economic, or social--and the reassertion of the dead-end paradigm of dictatorial regimes, statist economies, and blaming outsiders for the region's problems. Rather than pragmatic adjustment to reality, public figures have emphasized loyalty to the correct political line, whether that be Arab nationalism or radical Islamism. Having presented data about the region's dismal performance from declining incomes to slipping social indicators, Rubin argues this disaster has been the price paid for success of the thuggish regimes that have relied on force and violence to retain power. His first case study is Syria, representing the triumph of dictatorship and militancy over peace and democracy; the second is Iran, showing the (at least for now) victory of rigid ideology over the popular will. Other chapters summarize the Arab-Israeli conflict, US Middle East policy, and what Rubin calls "the battle for the soul of Islam." Sorely lacking is a guide to additional readings. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduate collections and above. P. Clawson Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Table of Contents

Prefacep. viii
1 The Triumph of the "Old Middle East"p. 1
2 Paradigm Lostp. 33
3 The Regime's Success, the Nation's Disasterp. 70
4 Syria: The Test Case for Reformp. 97
5 Iran: The People versus the Will of God?p. 117
6 Force and Violence in Middle Eastern Politicsp. 138
7 The Battle for the Soul of Islamp. 168
8 The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Foundation Stone or Millstone?p. 193
9 The Truth about U.S. Middle Eastern Policyp. 227
10 The Uncivil Society and the Wall of Liesp. 258
Indexp. 281