Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria

Joshua Stacher, Author
Joshua Stacher. Stanford Univ., $24.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8047-8063-6
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-8047-8062-9
Ebook - 241 pages - 978-0-8047-8209-8
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Divergent upheavals yield counterintuitive insights in this rickety academic study of the 2011 Arab Spring. Kent State University political scientist Stacher explains both the peaceful fall of Mubarak in Egypt—replaced by a military council that, he contends, replicated the old regime with new faces—and the bloody crackdown in Syria with a convoluted theory of state structure. Egypt’s smooth transition, he argues, owes much to a strong, centralized government in which all power flowed from the president’s office; once the generals supplanted Mubarak as the executive authority, they could swiftly remake the regime to placate Tahrir Square. Syria was less adaptable because it is a decentralized state where the dictator Assad shares power with the Ba’ath party, the military, and government ministries, making top-down revampings to appease discontent impossible; paradoxically, this fragmented structure caused Syria’s rulers to unite to violently suppress the uprising. Like much political science, Stacher’s treatise is really political journalism—his methodology is “formal and informal interviews”—overlaid with theory. Though dry and repetitive, his discussion of Syrian and Egyptian elites is well-informed and savvy. Still, the concepts with which Stacher maps this terrain feel too abstract, narrow, and inconsistent to make a compelling account of the Arab political earthquake. (May)
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