The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East

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Overview

In this book, Olivier Roy, Europe's leading scholar of political Islam, argues that the consequences of the "war on terror" have artificially conflated conflicts in the Middle East in such a way that they appear to be the expression of a widespread "Muslim anger" against the West. But in reality, there are no us and them. Instead, the West faces an array of "reverse alliances" that operate according to their own logic and dynamics.

The West supports General Musharraf in Pakistan, yet his military intelligence services are in league with the Taliban; in Iraq, the United States shores up a government that is closely linked to its archenemy, Iran; Iraqi Kurds, allies of the Americans, give sanctuary to the PKK, an adversary of a fellow NATO member, Turkey; while the Saudis support the Iraqi Sunnis who are, in turn, fighting Coalition forces. As if these issues were not complicated enough, the ever-worsening Shia-Sunni divide now threatens to disrupt any future strategic planning the West might attempt in the Middle East.

Roy unravels the complexity of these conflicts in order to better understand the political discontent that sustains them. He also emphasizes that the war on terror should not be regarded merely as a geopolitical blunder committed by a fringe group of neoconservatives. It is instead a problematic outgrowth of our deeply rooted Western perceptions of the Middle East, including the belief that Islam, rather than politics, is the overarching factor in these conflicts, thus explaining the West's support for either would-be secular democrats or (more or less) benign dictators. Roy's conclusion argues that the West has no alternative but to engage in a dialogue with the political forces that truly matter-namely the Islamo-nationalists of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review - Dexter Filkins

A concise and penetrating summation of the current scene.

Foreign Affairs - L. Carl Brown

Roy offers an ironic account worthy of Jonathan Swift.

New York Times Book Review
A concise and penetrating summation of the current scene.

— Dexter Filkins

Foreign Affairs
Roy offers an ironic account worthy of Jonathan Swift.

— L. Carl Brown

Dexter Filkins
At only 167 pages, Roy's book provides a concise and penetrating summation of the current scene; it's a fine primer for anyone trying to get a sense of just how chaotic the Middle East is. But if you are looking for a way out of the quagmire, or even ways to manage the various catastrophes, you will not find much here. Roy impressively delineates the challenges, but doesn't say much about solving them.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher

"A concise and penetrating summation of the current scene...A fine primer for anyone trying to get a sense of just how chaotic the Middle East is."--New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231700337
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Series: Columbia/Hurst Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Olivier Roy is research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). A world authority on Islam and politics, he currently lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP) in Paris and has acted as consultant to the French Foreign Ministry since 1984. His books with Columbia University Press are Secularism Confronts Islam; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah; and, with Mariam Abou Zahab, Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection.
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Table of Contents

Contents:Introduction: The War on Terror: between Fourth World War and Optical IllusionI. Who is the Enemy? Where is the Enemy? The obsession with IraqAn illusion: the weight of lobbies in the decision to invade IraqThe project to reform the greater Middle EastThe failure of the top-down democratization policy The return to a policy of containment or the eradication of Islamism

II. The Middle East: Atomization of Conflicts and New Fault LinesThe three traumas of the Arab Middle EastThe political imaginaire in crisis: between nationalism, clannism, and supranationalismFrom pan-Arabism to forms of pan-IslamismA tectonic upheaval: Shiites against Sunnis

III. Iran, Between the Bomb and BombardmentThe Ahmadinejad phenomenon, parentheses or continuity? An American bombardment?

IV. And meanwhile, Al Qaeda

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