Summary of Fractured Lands

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Five years after the Arab Spring blossomed in 2011, much of the region lies in ruin. Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya are all engulfed in civil wars, and there is no clear sense of when they might end and what will come afterward. The moment calls for review and reflection, and in August 2016, The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to the task. This story draws in even reluctant readers with photographs, maps and an online film, along with detailed chapters that recount the lives of six people in five Middle Eastern regions. The story may lead readers, especially those with only a passing interest in the Arab Middle East, to view what is only now coming into focus as the great tragedy of the early 21st century. getAbstract recommends this opportunity to grasp the intractability of these conflicts and to understand why the Arab Middle East has become such a labyrinth of no-good options.

About the Author

Scott Anderson is an American war correspondent, author, and novelist.



No single reason accounts for the way in which the Arab Spring of 2011 blossomed and then promptly shriveled up. But it’s interesting to note that the countries left most unsettled, including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, as well as Tunisia and Yemen, are all republics – no monarchies. The French and British mapmakers who divvied up the Ottoman Empire during World War I were largely insensitive to the nuances of tribe and clan. To keep the peace, European overlords played groups off against each other. For nearly a century, the system seemed to work, until the Iraq War in 2003, when the American invasion inadvertently set up a vacuum that the Islamic State, or ISIS, would eventually fill – a vacuum that would undermine the very nature of the modern Arab state and at the same time profoundly affect security strategies in Western Europe and America. Vignettes about the lives of six citizens in five Middle Eastern regions illustrate some of the issues:

1. Egypt

Laila Soueif, the daughter of two professors, grew up in the Egypt of President Gamal Abdel Nasser who – until his 1970 assassination – presided over a country that in other hands might have collapsed under the weight...

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