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An Introduction to Middle East Politics Summary

In An Introduction to Middle East Politics, Benjamin McQueen provides a brief history of the Middle East, focusing on its relationship with the West, and how this relationship has changed, and in other ways has stayed the same, from the time of the Ottomans until present day.

With this historical context, the Arab uprisings that started in 2010 in Tunisia are seen not as random events, but as the culmination of long periods of frustration from corrupt governments and closed political systems and their pathological relationship with the US, Europe, and each other.  

Chapter 1: The Ottoman Empire

The Middle East is the birthplace of three monotheistic faiths of Judaism (2000 BCE), Christianity (1st Century AD), and Islam (7th century CE).


Chapter 2: The Colonial Period in the Middle East 

The French established protectorates across North Africa but they were not all of the same kind.


Chapter 3: The Cold War

The decades after World War 2 were critical in shaping the Middle East’s political structures. After the war began, demand for oil increased – the Middle East became more valuable, as a supplier of oil, and as a strategic location.


Chapter 4: Islamism and Nationalism

Political ideology, a consistent set of ideas and visions for how society should work, is a modern phenomenon born out of the French revolution.


Chapter 5: Israel, the Palestinians, and the Peace Process

Both sides claim to fight for their identity and for their rights. The Israelis have been fighting for their self-defense, while the Palestinians have been fighting for their right to self-determination.


Chapter 6: Oil, Economy, and Development

The economics of the Middle East is a mixed picture. Some oil producing countries have seen rapid economic growth, while others like Israel, Turkey, and Tunisia have relied on strong service sectors. But inflation, unemployment, and corruption continue to undercut economic potential in the region.


Chapter 7: The Military, Security, and Politics

In recent years, The US, UK, France, China, North Korea, and Russia have been trying to publicize their nuclear threshold, but Israel have denied being the first state in the Middle East to possess nuclear capabilities despite evidence to the contrary.


Chapter 8: Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism can be defined as a small group of individuals who control the state with little popular interference or oversight, in contrast to democracies.


Chapter 9: Democratization and the Uprisings

The Arab Spring was the move towards democratization, away from authoritarianism. Since 2011, uprisings have occurred across the entire region, but the results have been mixed.


Chapter 10: US Military Intervention

The build up of tension between the US and Iraq lead to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US developed a moral argument for the invasion on the grounds that Iraq was a threat to global security.


Chapter 11: The Syrian Conflict

The Syrian uprisings started in 2011 and led to civil war that continues until today in 2019, and has been the cause of one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the century.


"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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