Pub. Date:
Columbia University Press
The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East / Edition 1

The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East / Edition 1

by Olivier Roy, Ros Schwartz


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231700320
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 04/11/2008
Series: Columbia/Hurst Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The War on Terror: between Fourth World War and Optical Illusion

1. Who is the Enemy? Where is the Enemy?

2. The obsession with Iraq

3. An illusion: the weight of lobbies in the decision to invade Iraq

4. The project to reform the greater Middle East

5. The failure of the top-down democratisation policy

6. The return to a policy of containment or the eradication of Islamism

7. The Middle East: Atomisation of Conflicts and New Fault Lines

8. The three traumas of the Arab Middle East

9. The political imaginaire in crisis: between nationalism, clannism and supranationalism

10. From pan-Arabism to forms of pan-Islamism

11. A tectonic upheaval: Shiites against Sunnis

12. Iran, Between the Bomb and Bombardment

13. The Ahmadinejad phenomenon, parentheses or continuity? An American bombardment?

Conclusion: And Meanwhile, Al Qaeda

What People are Saying About This

Faisal Devji

In this small but powerful book, Olivier Roy has discovered the Archimedean point from which all existing narratives of Muslim politics in the Middle East may be overthrown. This point is a simple one: that the Middle East has no political integrity of its own but is defined rather by its relationship with the West. Having dispensed with the old-fashioned narratives that still structure Leftist accounts of neo-colonialism (with their fetishism of Captain Cook-like moments of first contact between peoples), Roy is able to write a trenchant account showing how the Middle East has quite transformed the political categories of Left and Right, particularly in the United States. This has allowed him to write what is perhaps the first combined history of political thought in the West and the Middle East.

Faisal Devji, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, and author of Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity

Barnett R. Rubin

Olivier Roy has been a confidante of leading U.S. neo-conservative strategists since his work on the Afghan resistance in the 1980s. He now delivers a lucid and decisive dismemberment of these same individuals (and their interventionist Republican allies, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney) during the regime of George W. Bush. He calmly explains how their misunderstanding of the threat posed by the attacks of September 11, combined with their reality-free conception of U.S. government, have needlessly created a disaster. His critique extends even further to include the shallow critiques deployed by the opposition, showing how many of the liberal and leftist ideas about promotion of democracy, civil society, or self-determination are based on kindred illusions. Anyone concerned about the extrication of the U.S. and the world from this disaster should read, re-read, think about, and discuss this book.

Barnett R. Rubin, director of Studies and senior fellow, Center on International Cooperation, New York University

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