Named Top Book of the Year by theGlobalist.com
A thousand years ago, a vast Arab empire stretched from the Asian steppe across the Mediterranean to Spain, pioneering new technologies, sciences, art, and culture. Arab traders and Arab currencies dominated the global economy in ways Western multinationals and the dollar do today. A thousand years later, Arab states are in decay. Official corruption and ineptitude have eroded state authority and created a vacuum that militant Islam has rushed to fill.
A former Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Glain takes us on a journey through the heart of what were once the great Islamic caliphates—the countries now known as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt—to illustrate how a once prosperous and enlightened civilization finds itself at the precipice of a Dark Age.
As late as a century ago, the Levant was a flourishing trading bloc. By the 1920s, the imperial powers had Balkanized and plundered the Levantine economy by carving it into a cluster of proxy states and emirates. The backlash that followed replaced Europe's lackeys with homegrown autocrats who rejected economic openness and religious tolerance, qualities that made the old Islamic caliphates great.
The Arab world has opted out of the global economy, with tragic consequences. The Bush administration's efforts to mold the Middle East into a centerpiece of democracy will fail, Glain argues, unless it first rehabilitates the Arab world's once-mighty middle class. Short of that, there is little the United States or its European partners can do to rebuild a region the West did so much to undermine.
Mullahs, Merchants, and Militants is a story of both hope and despair, an intimate account of how the Arab world—once the spearhead of what we call globalization—is torn between courageous reformers who would revive the region and a corrupt establishment that would preside over its collapse.