Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East (Hardcover)
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A candid narrative of how and why the Arab Spring sparked, then failed, and the truth about America's role in that failure and the subsequent military coup that put Sisi in power--from the Middle East correspondent of the New York Times.
In 2011, Egyptians of all sects, ages, and social classes shook off millennia of autocracy, then elected a Muslim Brother as president. The 2013 military coup replaced him with a new strongman, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has cracked down on any dissent or opposition with a degree of ferocity Mubarak never dared. New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick arrived in Egypt with his family less than six months before the uprising first broke out in 2011, looking for a change from life in Washington, D.C. As revolution and violence engulfed the country, he received an unexpected and immersive education in the Arab world.
For centuries, Egypt has set in motion every major trend in politics and culture across the Middle East, from independence and Arab nationalism to Islamic modernism, political Islam, and the jihadist thought that led to Al Qaeda and ISIS. The Arab Spring revolts of 2011 spread from Cairo, and now Americans understandably look with cynical exasperation at the disastrous Egyptian experiment with democracy. They fail to understand the dynamic of the uprising, the hidden story of its failure, and Washington's part in that tragedy. In this candid narrative, Kirkpatrick lives through Cairo's hopeful days and crushing disappointments alongside the diverse population of his new city: the liberal yuppies who first gathered in Tahrir Square; the persecuted Coptic Christians standing guard around Muslims at prayer during the protests; and the women of a grassroots feminism movement that tried to seize its moment. Juxtaposing his on-the-ground experience in Cairo with new reporting on the conflicts within the Obama administration, Kirkpatrick traces how authoritarianism was allowed to reclaim Egypt after thirty months of turmoil.
Into the Hands of the Soldiers is a heartbreaking story with a simple message: The failings of decades of autocracy are the reason for the chaos we see today across the Arab world. Because autocracy is the problem, more autocracy is unlikely to provide a durable solution. Egypt, home to one in four Arabs, is always a bellwether. Understanding its recent history is essential to understanding everything taking place across the region today--from the terrorist attacks in the North Sinai and Egypt's new partnership with Israel to the bedlam in Syria and Libya.
About the Author
David D. Kirkpatrick is an international New York Times correspondent based in London. From 2011 through 2015 he was the Cairo bureau chief. He has also been a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and a contributing editor for New York magazine. This is his first book.
“[An] engrossing account of [Kirkpatrick’s] time as the New York Times Cairo bureau chief covering the Egyptian revolution...He brings two new contributions to his retelling...The Times’s extraordinary access to decision makers...[and] his willingness to plunge into the messy, sprawling street violence, and show how each side could perceive itself a victim and step up its own provocative tactics in response.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"This street-level account of the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath combines memoir, reportage, and analysis...Kirkpatrick’s most valuable insights come from interviews given, years later, by Obama Administration officials."
—The New Yorker
"What [Kirkpatrick] has written is a tragedy, not only in the sense of a dreadful mishap, but in the Greek sense of a terrible fate that the hero has provoked yet cannot or will not see--though we in the audience can. It's an account that fills us with terror and pity."
—The Wall Street Journal
"This new book by David Kirkpatrick is the best account I have read of what happened in Egypt from Mubarak to Sisi."
—Ben Rhodes (via Twitter)
“A first-hand account of the failure of democracy to take root in Egypt and the region . . . Kirkpatrick grapples thoughtfully with events he witnessed . . . [and] meticulously chronicles Mubarak’s downfall and the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected leader and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – barely a year after he took office in 2012."
"Kirkpatrick describes these tumultuous times in compelling detail. The author is honest about how hard it was to interpret events, grasp the motives of people such as Sisi and Morsi and predict the direction in which Egypt was heading...But Kirkpatrick, who dodged bullets and official harassment, deciphered the mystery."
"An eye-opening account of the most tumultuous years in the modern history of Egypt. It is not easy to write current history as dispassionately as Kirkpatrick has done. It will change the way you think about Egypt and the Arab world."
—The Washington BookReview
"This deftly written book captures the arc of a troubled country's heartbreaking failure to deter autocracy.”
—National Book Review
“It is rare to come across a book on Egypt that is steeped in so much knowledge, experience, and true understanding of the complex forces that led to the so-called Arab Spring, and resulted in its slow demise. David Kirkpatrick has written an extraordinary book - one that sheds much-needed light on the religious, political, and economic conflicts roiling one of the most important countries in the Middle East."
—Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human Story
"With this sweeping, passionate, street-level chronicle of Egypt's years of hopeful popular uprising and crushing betrayal by the entrenched forces of corruption and violence, and by Washington's cynical complicity, David Kirkpatrick gives us an essential work of reportage for our time.”
—Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families
“David Kirkpatrick landed in Cairo as the New York Times Bureau chief on the eve of revolution. Into the Hands of the Soldiers is his gripping narrative of the tumultuous years that followed, in which he was often in the eye of the storm. Observant, eloquent and empathetic, he's the perfect guide to the perplexing and sometimes heart-breaking events that snuffed out the democratic hopes of the Arab spring. This is the rare non-fiction book that's as entertaining as it is informative.”
—James B. Stewart, author of Tangled Webs and The Heart of a Soldier
“With compelling anecdotes, David Kirkpatrick walks us through the labyrinth of Egyptian politics, military rule, the quixotic judicial system, and grassroots feminism. This book is both astute and insightful, and often as comical as it is tragic.”
—Lynsey Addario, author of It’s What I Do
“This fast-paced account of upheaval in the Arab world reflects the depth of understanding that can only come from ground-level reporting. Kirkpatrick watched a historic popular uprising unfold. In this book, he brings the story to vivid life through the eyes of both poor and powerful.”
—Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men
"This will be the must read on the destruction of Egypt’s revolution and democratic moment."
—Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch
“A twenty-first-century successor to William Shirer's Berlin Diary: a first-rate reporter's riveting eyewitness account of the unfolding of a world-historical tragedy. Kirkpatrick has an uncanny ability to lend a sense of real-time suspense to events in the recent past, and to get to the truth of a dauntingly elusive story.”
—Nicholas Lemann, author of The Promised Land