Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lin Noueihed & Alex Warren's "The Battle for the Arab Spring"

Lin Noueihed is Reuters Senior Correspondent for North Africa and has spent more than a decade covering politics and economy around the Middle East. In 2011, she reported from the front lines of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya. Alex Warren is co-director of Frontier, a Libya-based business consultancy, and co-founder of The Libya Report. He has spent most of the past decade working in the region and has also lived in Lebanon, Tunisia and Dubai.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter Revolution and the Making of a New Era, and reported the following:
What happened in Egypt by the end of 2011, according to page 99 of The Battle for the Arab Spring, “had amounted not to a fully-fledged revolution but to a protest-inspired coup that had removed certain figureheads but left the reins of power in the hands of a military junta that appeared resistant to reform and keen to limit change.”

While neither page 99 nor that quote reflect the breadth of the book – which covers six countries, begins in the years leading up to the 2011 uprisings and considers where the region might go from here – they do reflect some of our broader arguments.

We argue that the Arab Spring took a different course and had different results in different countries. In Tunisia, it was a largely home-grown process that successfully, and for the most part peacefully, removed what was becoming a mafia-style regime. The uprising in Egypt, a year on, was incomplete. Protesters had notched up the enormous achievement of dislodging Hosni Mubarak – their president for some 30 years – but came face to face with the country’s underlying military power structure.

It was Libya which saw the most change in 2011, but its rebellion required a foreign intervention to succeed and left tens of thousands dead. In other countries around the region, the upheavals by the end of 2011 had elicited only half-hearted reform efforts, fuelled civil strife or prompted renewed government efforts to buy off, co-opt or suppress dissent.

What the Arab Spring did prove is that dramatic and meaningful change was possible in countries previously seen as stagnant. As our title suggests, that change also unleashed myriad battles fought by different groups scrabbling to make their fortunes in the new order.

This is just as true in Egypt as it is in other countries. As page 99 puts it:
Mubarak’s ouster released a series of other conflicts and tensions, not least between the conservative military and younger activists who struggled to maintain momentum in their push for greater freedoms, but also between those with different visions for what role Islam should play in politics and society.
The battle between arguably the two most powerful forces in Egyptian politics came to the fore in Egypt’s recent presidential election, which saw a military candidate face a Muslim Brotherhood leader in the final run-off.

And the tussle over the role of religion in state and society – unleashed by the removal of secular dictatorships – is one that the whole region faces.
Learn more about the book and authors at the official The Battle for the Arab Spring website.

--Marshal Zeringue