Before September 11, 2001 we Americans did not think much about freedom or democracy in the Middle East. U.S. policy toward the region aimed to assure a reliable flow of oil, to encourage peace between the Arabs and Israel, and above all, during the Cold War, to prevent our rival from gaining any strategic advantage over us. 9/11 impelled us to reconsider.
Now, as we are entangled in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan the Mid-East’s political and social quandaries lie at the very core of our foreign policy objectives. And yet, after years of blood and fortune spent on the democratization of the Middle East, the most identifiable personalities in the region are notorious terrorists, backwards autocrats and fanatical preachers. As Joshua Muravchik demonstrates in Trailblazers of the Arab Spring, there are in fact also heroic democrats and liberals in these lands of anti-democratic fanaticism, and the fight they are fighting is also our fight.
Muravchik brings to light the stories of seven remarkable people, six Arabs and an Iranian. Five are men; two, women. Four are Sunnis, two are Shiites, and the seventh is mixed. All are devoted passionately to a cause, and, while the angles from which they attack it are varied, the larger goal is the same for all seven—to make their countries more open and democratic. Trailblazers of the Arab Spring reminds us that freedom is a prize that must be won through struggle and sacrifice, and it introduces us to our anonymous friends who have consecrated their lives to the birth of free societies in the Middle East.