Little did I know when I started reading this book how it dovetailed so nicely with Friedman's book below. In fact, Neil MacFarquhar was also a journalist for The New York Times as Cairo bureau chief (2001-2005). From the age of 3, he grew up in Marsa Brega, a Mediterranean coastal Libyan oil town run by Esso. As a 7-year old he scribbled in large wobbly letters into a spiral-bound notebook on June 5, 1967 "The war started with boming in Kiro" (p. 1), spelling not yet his forte. He has fond memories of his childhood in the compound, including crusty loaves of bread, a legacy of the Italian occupation. We learn a lot about the quirky Qadhafi, including his female bodyguards (see photo). As a Deerfield Academy student, he would return home to Libya on vacations. Later, during the time he wrote this book he was hit by a bus in 1997 in Manhattan, an ironic twist of fate after dodging bullets in Iraq, Kabul, Sarajevo, and Gaza. He emerged from a coma at Bellevue (p. 67).
The existence of an impenetrable police state is the ultimate frustration in generating change to the region. The absence of civil rights: "the stifling control of the secret police; the absence of any rule of law even if the constitution guarantees it; … the inherent difficulty in working alone because organizing is mostly banned" (p. 180). In Syria, it is against the law for more than 5 people to gather without a permit (p. 328). The author had little to clue him of the coming Facebook Revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain. Moreover, the West has to learn how to speak to Islam on its own terms - to laud justice rather than "democracy," which has little respect in the Muslim world because "it elevates man's laws over those of God" (p. 271).