This book, by Marc Lynch, is worth reading if you are looking, as I was, for a book that puts the whole post-Arab Spring thing into perspective.
If any part of the world is misunderstood by Americans, surely it is the Middle East. It’s a very complex part of the world, made infinitely more complex by the confluence of religions, cultures, and continents. There is not one single book that puts it all in perspective, but this one by Marc Lynch will go a long way toward giving you a basic literacy of the issues. Here are some things you need to know to understand why Libya failed, why Syria is in constant civil war, why Egypt’s experiment in democracy failed, why Saudi Arabia hates the Muslim Brotherhood, why Qatar hates Saudi Arabia, why Turkey wants its foot back in its old stomping grounds, and why France is universally hated in Syria and Lebanon. And why America’s best shot at improving things there is to stay the hell out.
Well, you have to read some of Salim Yaqub’s work; Margaret McMillan’s 1919 would be good; a history of the Ottoman Empire would also contribute to this background.
Yes, it takes that much reading to make sense of it all. The value of this book is that it ties all the loose threads together and makes the whole shebang finally comprehensible, in an eminently readable style.