We Are Your Soldiers: How Gamal Abdel Nasser Remade the Arab World (Hardcover)
A searing exploration of authoritarianism in the Middle East through the legacy of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s years in power in Cold War–era Egypt.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, the larger-than-life Egyptian president who ruled for eighteen years between the coup d’état he led in 1952 and his death in 1970, is best known for wresting the Suez Canal from the British and French empires and befriending such iconic revolutionaries as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Yet there is a darker side to Nasser’s regime. He was a brutal authoritarian, whose legacy, Alex Rowell argues, lies at the heart of the violent and repressive order that still prevails throughout the Arab world today.
We Are Your Soldiers examines seven countries—Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, and Libya—weaving the epic tale of Nasser’s dramatic encounters with each to reassess his impact in the Arab sphere. These engagements were often drenched in blood and destruction, leaving deep scars that endure to the present. Rowell shows how the Nasser years were crucial to the formation of regimes as varied as Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, Muammar al-Gaddafi’s Libya, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt. Crushing democracy at home while launching wars and slaying opponents abroad, Nasser ushered in the long political winter from which the region is still yet to emerge.
Drawing on a deep reading of Arabic sources, extensive interviews, and material never before published in English, Rowell offers a necessary reexamination of Nasser’s rule and a new understanding of the politics of the Middle East.
— Simon Sebag Montefiore
Rowell’s writing is at its best when he narrates the stories of lesser-known figures, allowing the cultural and political textures of these countries to shine through.
— Ben Hubbard - New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
— Tunku Varadarajan - Wall Street Journal
In 400 blood-soaked pages, [Rowell] traces Nasser’s toxic influence from one Arab capital to another, from plots in officers’ club rooms via palace coups and well-equipped torture chambers. Rowell is an eloquent writer, weaving the intrigue into the region’s wider history.
— Colin Freeman, Telegraph (UK), 5-star review
Offers an important and critical glimpse into the complex world of Nasser and Nasserism.... A fascinating and, at times, depressing but absolutely necessary read and would make for interesting discussion on the development of Arab politics.
— Usman Butt - Middle East Monitor
A gripping account of Egypt’s 1952 Revolution and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s legacy on the Arab world as a whole. Alex Rowell captures the horrors of the Nasserist police state that took root across the Middle East in the twentieth century. Essential reading to understand the roots of the 2011 Arab Spring and the conflicts that have devastated so much of the region down to the present. A brilliant book.
— Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs: A History
Gamal Abdel Nasser is the most consequential Arab leader of the twentieth century, and with every major event in the region it becomes necessary to revisit his legacy. Alex Rowell has produced an essential piece of work on Nasser’s legacy in light of the historic Arab uprisings and the advent of social media that have laid bare many of our sacred cultural icons. We Are Your Soldiers is a scholarly book written with journalistic flair, a beautiful narrative, and compelling research.
— Hassan Hassan, coauthor of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
In this richly documented book, Alex Rowell offers a fascinating account of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rise in Egypt and his decades-long influence on politics, policies, and political culture in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, and Libya. Intense and thrilling, We Are Your Soldiers is a journey through tumultuous moments and events that shaped the contemporary history of the Arab world.
— Ziad Majed, Elliott E. Burdette Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, American University of Paris
Alex Rowell takes us on a rollicking and revelatory tour of today’s Middle East, casting new light with a masterful reassessment of history. He peers beneath the familiar tumult of revolt and repression, and finds Gamal Abdel Nasser, a titanic and charismatic figure whose hand seems, from beyond the grave, to still steer events across the Arab world. This is a necessary corrective, focused not on the West’s geopolitical obsessions but on Nasser’s immense and enduring impact on the Arab world.
— Thanassis Cambanis, author of Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story
A searing indictment of Gamal Abdel Nasser.... Readers interested in the Middle East’s thorny political history will be intrigued.
— Publishers Weekly
A welcome history that helps explain the formation of the Middle East over the last half-century.
— Kirkus Reviews