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The Arab Spring Cover

The Arab Spring

The Failure of the Obama Doctrine

Edward A Lynch

Praeger Security International, Westport, Connecticut, 2021, 270 pages

Book Review published on: March 11, 2022

The Arab Spring: The Failure of the Obama Doctrine examines the phenomenon of the revolution that swept across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions starting in 2010, referred to as the Arab Spring, that led to long-time presidents’ removal from office, and the after effects that have resulted.

The author, Edward A Lynch, is a professor of political science at Hollins University, and he is the author of numerous other works on U.S. foreign policy in the developing world. His main thesis in this book is that the United States, under President Barack Obama, misjudged the uprisings and issued conflicting and contradictory guidance on how the United States should interact with each of the six countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions. The countries involved in the revolutions were Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.

Lynch argues that Obama’s approach to foreign policy was such a departure from the range of previous presidents that he did not appreciate how his actions, or lack thereof, would create a negative image of the United States’ international leadership and result in much less influence in the MENA region and its surrounding countries. Lynch specifically identifies inconsistencies and contradictions on how Obama wanted to approach each country on a case-by-case basis, but who yet made decisions that contradicted what he identified as the overarching problem and was inconsistent with the policy he originally stated.

The book examines each country one by one, examining the conditions that led to the uprisings, the posture and image of the sitting head of state, and how they responded to the so-called color revolution. Lynch then cites speeches and comments made by Obama and his administration with respect to the sitting head of state and about the protestors’ demands for change. He makes a case that Obama’s comments and decisions had a negative influence that resulted in a loss of respect and confidence for U.S. leadership not just in that county but in countries with which the United States had long-time traditional alliances, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel. Lynch goes on to state that this loss of confidence resulted in opportunities for Russia and Iran to extend their influence in the region which further contributed to a loss of U.S. influence in the region. He goes on to describe how the Arab Spring revolutions have given rise to extremist groups and have recently spread into other countries such as Sudan, Mali, Morocco, and Algeria. Though several of the original six countries survived the revolution and have new governments, several such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen descended into civil war and have become unstable areas in the MENA region, thus presenting new foreign policy issues for subsequent administrations.

The book is well written and very easy to read. Lynch does an excellent job in his analysis of each country and makes a good case for the failures of the Obama administration and the loss of U.S. influence and confidence in the region. I recommend this book for anyone interested in international relations and foreign policy especially in the MENA region.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. George Hodge, U.S. Army, Retired, Olathe, Kansas