cover image The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya

The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya

Frederic Wehrey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-27824-3

Wehrey, a specialist in postconflict transition with the Carnegie Endowment who has reported widely from the Middle East, guides readers through the militias, fragile tribal allegiances, and armed neighborhood gangs that make up Libya’s polity. While he knows many of the players personally, his unparalleled access does not always lead to greater insight; one guerrilla leader, worried that the recruits nominally under his control are loyal to a rival, ruefully admits, “We don’t know who’s who.” Far from the hopeful attitude of the Arab Spring, Wehrey calls what is emerging in Libya and elsewhere “a type of upgraded authoritarianism that is spreading across the Arab world, in a time of unprecedented conflict.” Covering the period from the defeat of the regime in 2011 to the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the rise of the enigmatic and brutal General Hifter, and a protracted civil war, Wehrey recounts the fates of his many acquaintances and correspondents, including doctors and journalists, feminists and Islamists, those who have died in the chaos and those who have survived. Impartial and engrossing, this is one of the few accessible introductions to the contours of a conflict that the West has chosen almost entirely to ignore. (Apr.)