It is hard to identify the exact moment that the Muslim world cracked, provoking talk of a third world war. The exact date can range from December 2010, when a Tunisian fruit seller set himself on fire, igniting first a people’s rebellion and hope around the Arab world, then violent counter-reaction and armed conflict to March 2003, when American tanks cranked north toward Baghdad, starting a war that was not well thought out and spawning an insurgency that consumed first Iraq and later Syria.
The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East is a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the causes of the Arab uprisings. Marc Lynch, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University assesses the popular movements in the Arab world and the international response, both as it was and it should have been. This book ranges widely over the greater Middle East, from the tortured transitions in Egypt and Tunisia to the wars of Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. The author provides a framework for understanding the new politics of the region, explaining what went wrong and suggesting what to expect, rather than offering deeply detailed narratives of each individual country. He argues that these countries have become the central site of a regional proxy war. Those proxy wars and interventions have manifestly changed the dynamics of regional international relations, mostly in destructive and counterproductive ways.