cover image The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

Steven A. Cook. Oxford Univ., $27.95 (424p) ISBN 978-0-19-979526-0

Jumping from the chaotic byways of Cairo to the highest reaches of international diplomacy, this providentially-timed account of modern Egyptian history combines immersion journalism with insightful policy analysis. A Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Cook (Ruling but Not Governing: The Military) translates an insider's perspective for a general readership. Tracing two trajectories%E2%80%94Egypt's uneasy foreign relations and its authoritarian domestic politics%E2%80%94he argues that the exuberant democratic uprisings of Spring 2010 had origins stretching back half a century. British colonialists "demonstrated an unwillingness to acknowledge Egypt's popular will," and their American and Soviet successors were mostly interested in the nation's strategic value in the Cold War. The worst international affronts, Cook argues, came at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces, which defeated the Egyptian army in 1956, 1967, and 1973. Domestically, a coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser wrested political power from the monarchy in 1952. Promising positive change, Nasser transformed his country into "an influential voice in the developing world." His successors, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, oversaw a steady decline from the initial euphoria of independence. By 2011, the "failure of Nasserism, with its rhetorical emphasis on social justice, income redistribution, free education, and guaranteed employment," was more or less complete, and the stage was set for Tahrir Square. (Oct.)