The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East essay series

Monday, June 9, 2014
The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East
The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East

The Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order is issuing a new series of long working papers under the title The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East.  This series of essays grapples with the eroding of the old Middle Eastern order of states and the sweeping changes that have hit the Greater Middle East in the past few years. 

It’s a mantra, but it is also true: the Middle East is being unmade and remade.  The autocracies that gave many of these states the appearance of stability are gone, their dreaded rulers dispatched into prison, exiled, or cut down by young people who had yearned for the end of the despotisms.  These autocracies were large prisons, and in 2011, a storm overtook that stagnant world.  The Arab rebellions that year ushered in a new order in the region, altering the landscape of the Middle East.  The very foundations of Middle Eastern states laid out a century ago in the Sykes-Picot Accords of 1916 are crumbling.

The aim of these essays is to examine the new history of the region through a searching inquiry.  The working group has enlisted six distinguished authors and analysts who will take up the great unraveling from a variety of perspectives.  The essays will appear two at a time over the next few months.  On May 1 the first two essays were released: one from the historian and diplomat Itamar Rabinovich, formerly of Tel Aviv University, former ambassador from Israel to the United States, and a scholar with decades of experience studying Syrian politics, and one from Stanford professor and Hoover senior fellow Russell Berman, a steady contributor to the working group who authored Freedom or Terror: Europe Faces Jihad for a series of books. This month, the next two essays were released, one by Lee Smith of the Weekly Standard, whose book The Strong Horse was a discerning reading of Al Qaeda, and one by Samuel Tadros, fresh off a  successful,  widely reviewed, and acclaimed book, Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity

These essays will be followed by contributions from Charles Hill, co-chair of the working group and a peerless scholar of grand strategy, who wrote Trial of a Thousand Years: World Order and Islamism for our working group; and co-chair Fouad Ajami, who added his own book, The Syrian Rebellion, to our work in 2012. 

These essays, handsomely produced by the Hoover Press, will be published throughout the summer of 2014.


Israel and the Arab Turmoil
by Itamar Rabinovich
Rabinovich examines how Israel faces a new and changing regional order in the Middle East, from the ramifications of the Arab Spring to a receding US role and beyond. The author looks specifically at Israels’s evolving relationships with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Palestinians.

In Retreat: America's Withdrawal from the Middle East
by Russell A. Berman
Berman explains how the US withdrawal from the Middle East could have long-term consequences, as other states come forward to fill the gap. He details how a great retreat has begun and how the reduction of the US commitment has, in turn, set off a wave of repercussions.

The Consequences of Syria
by Lee Smith
Smith analyzes the current US administration’s stance on Syria, questioning whether it will build the foundations of a new Middle East or usher in an era of instability that will affect the entire world. The author contends that the many apparent shifts in the administration’s Syria policy were part of a campaign to camouflage President Obama’s determination to stay out of the Syrian conflict no matter what.

Reflections on the Revolution in Egypt
by Samuel Tadros
Tadros offers insights on Egypt’s failed revolution: how it happened and why it did not succeed. The author raises long unanswered questions about Egypt’s revolutionaries: Who were they and where did they come from? What was their composition ideologically and organizationally? Why were they angry with the Mubarak regime? What were their demands and aspirations for a new Egypt? And how did they go about attempting to achieve them?

The Weaver's Lost Art
by Charles Hill
Looking beneath the surface of strategy, policy, and daily operations, Hill uses the analogy of weaving to review the United States’ historical responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. He shows why the United States must marshal all possible elements in the Middle East, and supporters from without, to defeat the enemies of order in the region.

The Struggle for Mastery in the Fertile Crescent
by Fouad Ajami
Ajami analyzes the struggle for influence along the Fertile Crescent—the stretch of land that runs from the Iran border with Iraq to the Mediterranean—among three of the regional powers who have stepped into the vacuum left by the West: Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Ajami discusses each country’s prospects for supremacy and asserts that Iran must be reckoned to be the strongest.