Robert F. Worth

A Rage for Order

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A Rage for Order Summary

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A Rage for Order is a non-fiction book by Robert F. Worth, published in 2016. In it, Worth examines the so-called Arab Spring, tracing its origins through its encouraging beginnings through its disappointing end.

Worth begins with a brief introduction in which he recounts some of his experience covering the Arab Spring in Egypt in 2011. He expresses his surprise that Egypt had erupted into revolution, a surprise that gave way to an optimistic sense that perhaps he was witnessing history changing the world in real time. Then he reflects on how the movement fell apart, leading to many of the young rebels he met and spoke with turning on each other and abandoning the revolution they had sparked.

Worth begins by examining Egypt, which remains one of the most important Arab nations with 80 million people. He traces the various groups within Egypt who were dissatisfied with the current state of Egyptian society, beginning with the way disparate groups that had been oppressed and smothered by the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak gathered at ‛the house of revolution’ in Tahrir Square. The revolution in Egypt quickly overwhelmed Mubarak, who was arrested and charged with several crimes. But Worth then traces how many of the groups that had been pressed together in hatred of the government found themselves fundamentally divided when the restraint of that government was removed. When the conservative Muslim Brotherhood threatened to seize power, the revolution crumbled and a secular dictatorship was seen as preferable.

In Libya, Worth explores the destabilizing effect of revenge as many people imprisoned and tortured under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi are set free in the wake of his execution and his government’s collapse. The psychological and physical relationships between captors and prisoners are flipped suddenly, and Worth is disturbed at how quickly those who were oppressed eagerly seek to use the same techniques against their captors.

In Syria, Worth notes that prior to the Arab Spring it was a country where different groups had traditionally co-existed in peace. He follows the stories of two women who had been close friends since childhood despite one being a Sunni and one being an Alawite. As Syria descends into civil war and chaos, they try to honor their friendship, but are slowly pulled apart as each chooses to stand with their specific group, until at the end they are enemies, blaming each other for past crimes and seeking to destroy each other.

In Yemen, Worth explores the effects of the Arab Spring in the poorest country involved, a place where life was already pretty terrible under the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The revolt in Yemen manifests as the continuation of ancient feuds between different tribes that had been held in check by the ruling government. The result is fighting without any larger strategic purpose, and the poor suffer even more—especially as Saleh returns to join forces with Shiite rebel groups, adding to the chaos and suffering.

Worth moves past the actual revolutions to examine the events that followed. Back in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood leverages its sophisticated organization to win elections under the leadership of Muhammad Morsi. The Brotherhood alarmed the secular population of Egypt, however, who saw a bleak future under a repressive religious order despite the efforts of a man named Mohamed Beltagy, who attempts to push the Brotherhood towards compromise and moderation; he is arrested by hard-liners and put in jail. The Brotherhood attempted to cultivate an alliance with the Egyptian military, but General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a coup in 2013, removing Morsi.

In Syria, the Arab Spring led directly to the formation of the Islamic State (ISIS), a new kind of terrorist group that actively sought to hold territory and reestablish a ‛caliphate.’ As a result, ISIS attempted to manage and govern in addition to fighting, and appeals to many revolutionaries disappointed in the results of the Arab Spring, who flock into Syria to join the call. Worth focuses on a government official who works for ISIS but finds himself forced to pick up a gun and fight, much to his desperation and horror.

In Tunisia, two major powers fill the power vacuum, the secular Nida Tounes (led by Beji Caid Essebsi) and the Islamist group Ennahda (led by Rachid Ghannouchi). The two men leading each of these groups have very different visions of the future of their country, but they are painfully aware of the failures of other Arab nations to build stable, prosperous nations in the wake of revolution. Worth details their attempts to put these differences aside and avoid the mistakes of other such groups throughout the Arab world. As Tunisia struggles with chaos, terrorism, and a ruined economy, each group balances the need to cooperate to make progress with their natural enmity, in a low-key note of optimism.