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The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid

by Walid Phares

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I am currently on deployment and will review this book upon my return. Additional details forthcoming!
  RhodestoRome | Apr 20, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
THE SUBJECT:
The Lost Spring recounts the many failures of American policy in the Middle East by examining the Arab Spring, the Islamist threat, and the policy options available for US foreign relations.

THE SCRIBE:
Walid Phares is a leading expert on the Middle East and terrorism studies, serving as a consultant to government agencies as well as a current affairs analyst for Fox News and MSNBC. He has authored four other books and numerous articles for The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

THE STYLE:
The book starts off as a harsh "I told you so." The reader can feel the Phares' frustration as hints and clues of massive upheaval fall on the deaf ears of think tanks, decision makers, and politicians. He catalogs the flashpoints that were beginning to mobilize Middle Eastern citizens against the status quo, from the self-immolation of Bouazizi in Tunisia to rising food prices in Algeria to the protests in Tahrir Square. In turn, these flashpoints set fire to civil war in Libya and Syria and civil uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen, but the American and European response of "rushing to the rebels" did not distinguish between secularist and Islamist forces. Thus the opportunity for democratic change in the Middle East began to slip away.

THE SUBSTANCE:
"The central reason the United States, the most powerful liberal democracy in the world, made wrong and unnatural choices for the peoples oppressed by authoritarians in the Arab world and the Middle East was oil. It was all about petrodollars and their influence on the U.S. political system. (This was also true in Europe and other Western societies.)" From the oil embargo spawning from the Yom Kippur War, the weapon of oil has influenced the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafi groups, the Arab Spring, and virtually every other interaction with and within the Middle East.

THE SPECIFICS:
Phares' book as but two aims: the warn policymakers of retreat from the terrorist and Iranian threats to stability in the Middle East and to press for and support the nascent freedom movements in this region. He contends that although Washington has failed to support the first uprisings (the Green Revolution in Iran and the Arab Spring), it is not too late to recover through a drastic change in American foreign policy.

THE SCOOP:
The Lost Spring expertly documents the events, discussions, decisions, actions, and counter-actions of state and non-state actors from America to Yemen. Throughout his book, Phares traces the development of the Arab Spring, the missteps by US and European powers, and alternative policies seeking to address the current events in the Middle East. ( )
  ryven | Aug 16, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Phares has the answer for us whose heads are still spinning from the “Arab Spring” of 2011 and asking: What just happened?
In this well-reasoned and in-depth analysis, the author recaps the historical events and then goes on to discuss America’s failure to provide aid and support to those who were battling oppression and how that has led and is probably still leading to a high-jacking of their successes by Jihadists. He goes on to suggest future courses of action.
Phares describes the Arab Spring as a three way tug of war with authoritarian regimes on one end, Jihadists on another, and those striving for human rights and liberties on the third. When, as in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the mainly young and well educated liberals succeeded, the better coordinated Jihadists simply shoved them aside and took over although in all three of those countries the battle is not over.
Some American ultraconservatives might be inclined to jump to the conclusion that our lack of a proper response was due to an Islamic leaning Obama administration but Phares does not make it an ad hominem argument. He does point out in very specific terms that Islamic lobbying efforts have been intensive and effective in shaping our policies in both the Executive and the Legislative branches of government as well as the media. Phares was an advisor to Mitt Romney during his unsuccessful run for the Presidency but makes it clear in the totality of the book that the issue is not an internal American political issue but a much broader moral issue. But Phares does seem to take great pains to avoid the religious issues of not only Judaic-Christian versus Islam but Sunni versus Shia as well.
The book is not an easy read; the arguments are well reasoned but the author’s academic style and language is not conducive to a leisurely read. I do not remember running across the word ‘tergiversated’ before but he uses it twice. Maybe ‘waffled’ might have done as well. Phares seemingly knows the names of every political group, movement, sub-group and ideology in the Near East but it was difficult to keep them all straight or even to keep them in the right category of good guys or bad. A glossary would have helped.
Perhaps to make his presentation as clear as possible, Phares might have over-simplified some concepts. Rather than the three way tug of war, I might have described the players on a two dimensioned array. One axis would have the dictatorial tyrants on one end and the human rights activists on the opposite. The other axis would have Jihadist extremists on one end and secularist on the other. That model would not have a place for minority groups such as Copts and other non-Islamists but could be used to place the players as the location somewhere in one of those four quadrants our foreign policy thinks is best.
All in all, an excellent book. ( )
2 vote WCHagen | May 16, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Helpful historical information, but a difficult read for a variety of reasons. Those who enjoy the subjects of history and political philosophy may benefit from reading "The Lost Spring."
Unfortunately Phares fails, as most do, to point out that the root of terrorism and jihadism is the Quran and the heretical teachings of Muhammad.
American foreign policy would do well to revert--only in part--to the policies of John Adams in regard to Islam. ( )
  Ron_Gilbert | May 13, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Phares is one of the few analysts who remained skeptical of Obama's naivete when it came to Islamists in the Middle East. After numerous mistakes, most notably in the Benghazi cover-up, the Arab Spring has turned out to be disastrous and bodes ill for future U.S. policy in the region. Phares writes in "The Lost Spring" about how to avoid catastrophes which are sure to come in the wake of the bumbling and radical Obama administration. This is an easy read; I read it on one Sunday.

Phares points out that Obama's Muslim Brotherhood alliance has set back the hopes of secularists, liberals, Christians and other dissidents to create liberal, civil governments in the wake of the Arab Spring. The metaphor is apt: the Spring has become a Winter of discontent.
  gmicksmith | Apr 29, 2014 |
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One of the greatest unanswered questions after the massive and violent changes that hit the Middle East in 2011, known to some as the "Arab Spring" and to others as the "Islamist Winter," is how the West failed to predict both cataclysmic seasons in world affairs and to meet their challenges. Phares argues that Washington is too hesitant to take action when necessary, that US policy is highly disoriented on counter terrorism efforts, and that the effects of these errors have already proven costly. In this fascinating new book, Phares, the only expert who accurately predicted the Arab Spring, foretells a major demise in US and Western policies in the Middle East, unless a deep change in strategies and policies are made in Washington and around the world.… (more)

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