Summary of False Dawn

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  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening


Hailed as a gateway to a new era of democracy in the Middle East, the Arab Spring has proved to be a grave disappointment. Since the fall of strongmen Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, violence and chaos have reigned in the region. Middle East scholar Steven A. Cook probes the promise and harsh reality of the change convulsing the Arab world. He focuses on four nations. Egypt remains as authoritarian as ever, Cook concludes, while Libya has become a shambles. Turkey has regressed since its experiment with democracy, and Tunisia – despite promising feints toward an open society – has clamped down on dissent. Cook, an astute observer of Middle Eastern society, offers an analysis as sound as it is sober. His pessimistic title accurately conveys his sentiments. Though this study may not contribute a dramatic viewpoint or groundbreaking research to the debate, Cook compiles a wealth of information and provides an in-depth reportorial look at the developments in the region since the Arab Spring. getAbstract recommends his book to all readers engaged in Middle East politics.

About the Author

Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, also wrote The Struggle for Egypt and Ruling But Not Governing.



Promise, Then Disappointment

Observers in Washington and elsewhere have long envisioned a democratic future for the Middle East. The United States meant for its 2003 invasion of Iraq to topple a dictator and create a free, open society. This hope comprised pure fantasy, but the notion endures. Despite the failure of the United States’ nation building in Iraq, many American officials and commentators believe that with the proper policy prescription, the Middle East can transform itself into a bastion of US-style democracy. These observers greeted the Arab Spring of early 2011 with great optimism. They viewed popular protests as the vanguard of the democracy sweep that eluded the region after the Iraq War.

Washington’s neoconservatives quickly embraced street protests as a culmination of former US president George W. Bush’s policy of promoting democracy. In 2003, Bush had touted a “forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.” As the Arab Spring bloomed and Arabs outside the power structure seemingly lost their fear of publicly protesting against ironfisted regimes, Bush’s supporters drew far-fetched connections between the US invasion of Iraq and...

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