cover image A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS

A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS

Robert F. Worth. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (258p) ISBN 978-0-374-25294-6

Veteran correspondent Worth traces the “Arab Spring” through five countries, from the heady idealism of 2011 to the largely grim aftermath. Significantly, he does so through the stories of individuals rather than groups or sects, challenging simplistic, monolithic conceptions of rival factions. Through this approach, readers can better understand, for example, why a charismatic Egyptian doctor remained a loyal member of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood even after its crude efforts to theocratize the country prompted a military coup backed by secular liberals. Elsewhere, Worth interviews Libyan militiamen who dream of a nation of laws while rounding up former Gadhafi loyalists at gunpoint. He tracks former best friends in Syria—one Alawi, one Sunni—as violence and fear undercut efforts to straddle sectarian divides. Worth recounts the story of Yemen, a failed state where decades of bitter local clashes presaged the region’s current agonies, through a longtime dissident’s eyes. Finally, he shows Islamist and secular Tunisian politicians haltingly attempt to compromise and avoid the upheavals afflicting other Arab states. Worth provides no easy path forward. Instead, he skillfully presents the competing perspectives in play to explain the daunting impediments to stable states in the present-day Middle East. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (May)