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The Syrian Rebellion (Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order)

The Syrian Rebellion (Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order) [Kindle Edition]

Fouad Ajami
1.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Fouad Ajami offers a detailed historical perspective on the current rebellion in Syria. Focusing on the similarities and differences in skills between former dictator Hafez al-Assad and his successor son, Bashar, Ajami explains how an irresistible force clashed with an immovable object: the regime versus people who conquered fear to challenge a despot of unspeakable cruelty.

About the Author

Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the co-chair of the Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order. From 1980 to 2011 he was director of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Arab Predicament, Beirut: City of Regrets, The Dream Palace of the Arabs, and The Foreigner's Gift. His writings also include some four hundred essays on Arab and Islamic politics, US foreign policy, and contemporary international history. Ajami has received numerous awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award for public service (2011), the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism (2011), the Bradley Prize (2006), the National Humanities Medal (2006), and the MacArthur Fellows Award (1982). His research has charted the road to 9/11, the Iraq war, and the US presence in the Arab-Islamic world.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2053 KB
  • Print Length: 261 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0817915044
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1st edition (1 Oct 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 1.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #692,082 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling and Useless 27 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If ever there was a case for giving a book zero - or even negative - stars, this was it.

This is a badly written, uninteresting account of the background for the uprising in Syria. The book is full of views, analysis and postulates, none of which are backed up by a single statistic, source material or even reference. The book is full of quotes, but none are credited or referenced to a specific author, publication or even page number. The book does contain a series of Source Notes at the back, but it is the subject of a major forensic exercise linking each to a specific passage in the main text.

As a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Fouad Ajami should have known better and he has basically produced a piece, which he has rendered completely and utterly useless for academic or research purposes.

Whether your interest in Syria is academic or lies within current affairs, I can only recommend you give this one a miss and don't waste your money. Fortunately there are far better books that cover recent events in Syria, both from an academic and current affairs perspective.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Non-academic politically-motivated garble 13 July 2012
By Kdeesh
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although Ajami sets this book up as a serious study of the causes and progress of the Syrian rebellion this is really not much more than a badly researched and uninteresting article. Ajami's style is annoyingly simplistic and anyone with a serious interest in Syria or the Middle East will be struck by the thought that they are reading the observations of a man whose narrative fundamentally lacks depth. The book fails entirely at being anything more than an amateurish synthesis of the narratives of popular media organisations.

Ajami almost ironically gives a list of authors which might be on a reading list in a "Middle East 101" class (Hourani, Seale, Khoury) and says that the works of these authors form some sort of academic foundation for his piece. The lack of footnotes or references makes it difficult to see where exactly the inspiration that these distinguished academics gave him has manifested itself. One suspects Ajami is being a bit more honest when he credits Joshua Landis' blog - Syria Comment - as a source of inspiration, though Landis' thought and writing is far superior to Ajami. But one also suspects that, were Ajami feeling completely honest, he might have had the decency to credit his two main sources of information - Wikipedia and Fox News.

Most bizarrely of all, Ajami, on several occasions, asserts that "Itamar Rabinovich" is "unrivalled among the students of Syrian political history" and is a leading authority on Syria. As a student of Syrian political history myself I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of this distinguished author, so I googled him - he is the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and a fellow member of the Hoover Institution.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Syria through a Sectarian Lens 12 July 2012
Ajami, author of `The Arab Predicament' a bombastic argument about the stalemate of political ideas in the Arab world, has written a timely and passionate account of the bloody events in Syria. The author is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution whose mandate states that "the war of ideas with radical Islamism is inescapably central to this Hoover endeavour" (XII), and the focus on religion and politics certainly underpins the central narrative of "The Syrian Rebellion". Ajami's main argument is that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is a "monstrous state" (p.70) that has manipulated the sectarian makeup of the country to ensure control, a control that would now appear to be fatally challenged. Indeed the current rebellion is described as "an irresistible force has clashed with an immovable object. The regime could not frighten the population, and the people could not dispatch the highly entrenched regime that Assad Senior had built" (p.9).

The work puts today's events into context with an abridged history of the Assad dynasty's rule over Syria. The history focuses on how the Assad family and their Alawi community would sow the seeds for a future sectarian conflict. Ajami describes them as "mountain people" without the "Diaspora that knit them into a bigger world. There was the military and, in time, the Baath Party that brought them out of their solitude" (p.14). The book quotes Martin Kramer who tellingly wrote that "the Alawis, having been denied their own state by the Sunni nationalists, had taken all of Syria instead. Arabism, once a convenient device to reconcile minorities to Sunni rule, was now used to reconcile Sunnis to the rule of minorities" (p.25).
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Petrodollar propaganda 1 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is simply al-Qaida/ Aljazeera style propaganda. It presents no facts or evidences. It provides one sided view of the complex situation in Syria. the main argument of this book is that is that the Sunnis are the majority and they are all conservatives thus the whole country should adapt Taliban laws.
The American writer attacks the Syrian government for allowing females and males to study together (see page 196). indicating that a student was "raped by a classmate" oh my god, something like that would never happen in the decent great countries such as Saudi Arabia or Taliban. This is bad and a sin, women should be kept at home or sold as wives when they are 12 years old, right???.
Moreover, the book does not contain any references or data whatsoever to support its unrealistic claims and arguments.
another appalling argument in this book/ propaganda-leaflet is that the writer is doing his best to fragment the Syrian society in a way that suits one side: Al-Qaid. He keeps indicating that the Sunnis are oppressed under the dictatorship of Alasad and the only evidence he presents, more than six times, is that the oil refinery of Baniyas has a majority of Alawis. He fails to mention that this refinery is in an area where Alawis represent a majority. Most importantly he fails time and again to mention that all the prime ministers in the past 40 years were Sunnis, over 90 percent of the ministers are Sunnis, the current minister of defence and the head of the security forces and the head of the interior minister and the information minster are all Sunnis. More than that, the Syrian dictator is married to a Sunni, like all his siblings. By the way unlike the Sheikhs of oil the Syrian dictator has one wife and 3 children. He is a Dr and was educated in London.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Syria, religion plays a role 6 Sep 2012
By Douglas T. Hawes - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author admits to a bias for the rebellion and appears to write as a Shia or one from a Shia family. I don't feel his bias or religious background were a problem in his interpretation of what has and is happening in Syria. But, be aware that the Shias are a minor player in the Islamic dominated structure of Syria. The Alawis may be an even smaller minor player when looking at population size but their control of the country up till now has been strong. It is basicly a Sunni country with Alawis control. The Assads have, according to the author, controlled the country by playing one religion against another. The influence and actions of the various religious groups dominate the book. After reading the book you are left with the feeling that the future for this country looks bleak regardless of who wins this rebellion.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars With impeccable credentials, Ajami explains why more spilled blood is inevitable 30 Dec 2012
By Ruben Misrahi - Published on
There is a known story about a man that finds a magic lamp, from which a genie comes out ready to grant him a single wish. The man asks for a bridge from San Francisco to Hawaii. The genie tries to reason with him regarding the structural problems, maintenance, etc. The man relents and then asks for peace in the Middle East, to which the genie responds: "Let's review your first wish. How many lanes do you need in it?"
Ajami is not the genie, but he tells this story a lot better and in great detail.

Nobody can doubt Ajami's impeccable credentials when reading this still evolving conflict. But to cut to the chase, I'll quote a very candid admission in the afterword, where he states: "To state the obvious, I did not hide my sympathies in this book." And to state the obvious, his sympathies don't rest with the Assad dynasty or the Alawites, for that matter.

The book is easy to read and engaging, although he sometimes dwells on too many details. Statements made by Assad and others, banners seen on demonstrations, etc.

There is a very interesting analysis on the fragmentation of Syria, which curiously had a lot to do with geography: People from the mountains as opposed to urbanites. Obviously, religion and sub-religion is as usual the eternal ingredient of dispute.

Ajami explains how the Alawites came to power. Syrians saw the military as a vocation of the uneducated, the people of the mountain, a title Alawites didn't mind bearing. This position eventually became the decisive factor to power. Of course, the political skills and machinations of Hafez Assad (Bashar's father) are and have always been a material of admiration and a decisive factor as well that brought the Alawites to power for over 40 years.

Perhaps the most disturbing element in Ajami's analysis is that this conflict won't be solved without a lot more spilled blood. And consider that his last prognosis was made in April 2012, well before the rebellion metastasized and became uglier with time. Ajami clearly proved to have semi-prophetic powers.

Alawites have had the best positions in government and government-controlled industries for decades. This culture of entitlement has had the seeds of its own destruction. But the alternatives to relenting power to Sunnis are not clear, nor pretty. Alawites, representing 10% of the population, won't go back to the mountains, and the resentment fermented through decades won't fade away. This perhaps explains the tenacity with which the regime is holding to power. They simply don't have another place to go.

The other minorities see with justified apprehension the course of this rebellion. Despite all evil that came with despotism, minorities have had some protection. Now this protection is anything but guaranteed.

Regarding the rebels themselves, Ajami describes some interviews he had with some charismatic leaders living in exile. I wish Ajami analyzed and/or spent more time describing the nature of the rebellion, its leaders, who among those groups is likely to succeed the Alawites and what he thinks a new government will look like.

Most if not all Muslim rebellions have ended very bad. I wish he had added a chapter, despite his stated loyalty, regarding the outlook once Assad leaves, but I guess this is too much to ask, even of a prophet.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A family affair 21 Sep 2012
By Sinohey - Published on
Professor Ajami ( born in Lebanon, in a Shia Muslim family of Iranian origin) has presented an honest, non-biased elucidation of a complex conflict within a multi-ethnic country. His frank description of the different ethnic and religious participants in the turmoil that now grips Syria, including the Assad dynasty, is a good primer to begin to understand the genesis of the hostilities.
The tyrannical grip and brutality of the minority Alawites, a sect of Shia Muslims, is described without any whitewash or apology. The work is presented with impartiality and even handedness, even though a reader with an innate bias might perceive favoritism to one group or another.
I congratulate Professor Ajami on tackling this difficult and volatile issue and presenting it to interested reader in a concise, but not simplistic, way.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Syrian Rebellion 31 July 2013
By Charles Ginsburg - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book. Fouad Ajami is able to present all the parties in the Syrian conflict from their own point of view. That means you get to learn what each side wants and why they want it. You also get this same analysis from all the parties that are not fighting in the conflict but are hoping a particular side will win. I came away with a lot of sympathy for the Syrian people and a feeling that the Free Syrian Army needs to be armed and armed well so that they can destroy the Syrian Regime.

Charlie Ginsburg
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy on history and sectarianism, light on hope 28 May 2013
By C P Slayton - Published on
With thousands of youtube clips and facebook comments, dozens of "top" stories daily and the impossible quagmire of media coverage the Syrian uprising desparately requires an expert "data sorting". I'm one of those who follows the youtube clips (Arabic and English) associated with news outlets, Syrian rebel units and other organizations. I skim the facebook sites and I read all I can from Crisis Group, Small Wars Journal, Institute for the Study of War (ISWJ) journal on the Syrian conflict. It's nice to have a book to consolidate a little more of the information.

Fouad Ajami doesn't claim to be an expert on Syria but he provides an easy to read account from his own viewpoint. Fouad spends four chapters to describe the Baathist regime rise to power, the political and religious history of the Alawites and how the two (Baath and Alawi) came to dominate Syria's government for the past 40 years. The historical account is necessary and informative but it also plays in to the author's thesis.

According to Fouad Ajami, the unleashing of sectarian violence in Syria was inevitable given the minority Alawi strangle-hold on power and the Assad means of repression. The Alawis are already considered heterodox if not heretics in Islam due to their fringe beliefs. Fouad records that even though Hafez al-Assad, Bashir al-Assad's father, obtained a ruling by an Iranian Shi'a cleric citing Alawi's as mainstream Islam, the "act" was never going to last. Fast forward through the 1982 slaughter in Hama, the death of Hafez, the succession of Bashir, the hope for political reform in 2001 and then the violent suppression again in 2011.

Did the Alawi domination determine Syria's future as early as 1970? "The Syrian Rebellion" describes Syria as hopelessly sectarian. Fouad quotes the Salafist preachers like Adnan Arour who accented the line between Shi'a and Sunni. Since the publication of this book, many more Salafist leaders have cried for resistance and Muslim defense against the Hezbollah and Iranian alliance with Assad.

But was the sectarian explosion inevitable? From the start, the Syrian people tried hard to avoid sectarian language. As demonstrations turned to insurgency, many Salafist fighters and preachers were to blame for the sectarian divide. There are more facebook sites with the title "Jabhat al-Nusra does not represent us" than for the Al-Qaida affiliated rebel group itself. As Fouad explains, these dreams of Syrian nationalism were doomed to failure from the beginning.

A whole year has passed since the publication of this book. What Fouad described has only come more and more true. I would like to think that Syria can be stronger than the sectarian monster. But Syria is the epicenter of all that makes the Middle East boil: chemical weapons, sectarianism, violent extremist groups, radicalized rebels, massive forced migrations, Israeli intervention and Iranian power projection. Syria must conquor more than the sectarian threat on its way to future stability.

I'd say read this book... but don't forget youtube and ISWJ.
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