The Arab Awakening

The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East

Kenneth M. Pollack
Akram Al-Turk
Pavel K. Baev
Michael S. Doran
Khaled Elgindy
Stephen R. Grand
Shadi Hamid
Bruce Jones
Suzanne Maloney
Daniel L. Byman
Jonathan D. Pollack
Bruce O. Riedel
Ruth Hanau Santini
Salman Shaikh
Ibrahim Sharqieh
Ömer Taşpinar
Shibley Telhami
Sarah E. Yerkes
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 381
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  • Book Info
    The Arab Awakening
    Book Description:

    Even the most seasoned Middle East observers were taken aback by the events of early 2011. Protests born of oppression and socioeconomic frustration erupted throughout the streets; public unrest provoked violent police backlash; long-established dictatorships fell. How did this all happen? What might the future look like, and what are the likely ramifications for the United States and the rest of the world? InThe Arab Awakening, experts from the Brookings Institution tackle such questions to make sense of this tumultuous region that remains at the heart of U.S. national interests.

    The first portion ofThe Arab Awakeningoffers broad lessons by analyzing key aspects of the Mideast turmoil, such as public opinion trends within the "Arab Street"; the role of social media and technology; socioeconomic and demographic conditions; the influence of Islamists; and the impact of the new political order on the Arab-Israeli peace process.

    The next section looks at the countries themselves, finding commonalties and grouping them according to the political evolutions that have (or have not) occurred in each country. The section offers insight into the current situation, and possible trajectory of each group of countries, followed by individual nation studies.

    The Arab Awakeningbrings the full resources of Brookings to bear on making sense of what may turn out to be the most significant geopolitical movement of this generation. It is essential reading for anyone looking to understand these developments and their consequences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2227-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface: Why Should You Read This Book?
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: Understanding the Arab Awakening
    (pp. 1-10)
    Kenneth M. Pollack

    The events that began in Tunisia in January 2011 and spread to Egypt and then Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, and beyond, shook the political, social, and intellectual foundations of the Middle East. The tremors can still be felt, and no one is quite certain when the aftershocks will end, or when another shock wave of popular unrest might occur.

    Nevertheless, enough time has passed to try to make sense of what has happened so far and, perhaps, gain an inkling of where the region is headed. Because we are still too close to the events to understand the meaning...

  6. Part I. The Dynamics of the Arab Spring

    • 2 Arab Public Opinion: What Do They Want?
      (pp. 13-20)
      Shibley Telhami

      It was hardly surprising to discover that Arabs were angry with their rulers. In fact, every year, after conducting the Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, the question that leapt from the findings was not “When will Arabs have reason to revolt?” but “Why haven’t Arabs revolted yet?”¹

      The most striking feature of the Arab uprisings, certainly in Tunisia and Egypt, was that they were not led by major political parties or well-established leaders. This had seemed theoretically improbable. But we are in a new world where there is...

    • 3 Democratization 101: Historical Lessons for the Arab Spring
      (pp. 21-28)
      Stephen R. Grand

      More than anything else, the Arab Spring has been about a yearning for democracy. A number of Arab states have succeeded in taking a first step toward democratization, either by overthrowing an autocratic regime or by forcing it to start to change. But democratization is not easy, and it is not quick. To glimpse where the politics of the Middle East may travel, the best guide is the experience of other regions of the world that have gone down the path of democratic reform.

      In a 1991 book, the late political scientist Samuel Huntington identified three waves of democratization that...

    • 4 Islamists and the Brotherhood: Political Islam and the Arab Spring
      (pp. 29-38)
      Shadi Hamid

      For the members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—the oldest and most influential Islamist political party—the Arab Spring may not have been entirely of their making, but it surely was the answer to their prayers. As recently as December 2010, the group’s members were routinely rounded up by security forces. The regime of President Hosni Mubarak had manipulated the November 2010 elections even worse than usual, leaving the Brotherhood with zero seats in parliament (compared with their previous share of eighty-eight seats, or 20 percent). The regime seemed bent on erasing the Brotherhood from Egyptian political life altogether.

      In Tahrir...

    • 5 The Impact of New Media: The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
      (pp. 39-46)
      Michael S. Doran

      On February 11, 2011, when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak fell from power, thousands of demonstrators celebrated his departure in Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer discussed the dramatic events with an ecstatic Wael Ghonim, the Google marketing executive who had played a key role in organizing the protests against Mubarak via the Internet. Ghonim thanked the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, for transforming Egypt, and then he told Blitzer:

      This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook....

    • 6 The Impact on the Peace Process: Peacemaker or Peacebreaker?
      (pp. 47-57)
      Khaled Elgindy and Salman Shaikh

      The popular rebellions across the Middle East are rooted almost exclusively in local grievances related to decades of political, economic, and social stagnation, but they have major implications for every other aspect of international relations in the Middle East, not least of all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader quest for Arab-Israeli peace. The timing of the Arab Spring, which coincides with the collapse of U.S.-led negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, suggests that both the region and the conflict are now entering a new phase, marked by both challenges and opportunities for the pursuit of peace.

      Uncertainty over the future...

    • 7 The Arab Militaries: The Double-Edged Swords
      (pp. 58-65)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      In 1932 the British granted Iraq its (nominal) independence. Four years later, frustrated with the inequities of Britain’s continued behind-thescenes rule, the Iraqi military mounted the first coup d’état in the Middle East’s modern history. It was hardly the last, in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. Over the next forty years, coup after coup wracked Arab states. Some states experienced military takeovers on a nearly annual basis. Few escaped without a military overthrow at some point, and even those that did typically faced numerous plots and near misses.

      In the 1970s and 1980s, however, this pattern abruptly ended. The...

    • 8 The Economic Dimension: The Price of Freedom
      (pp. 66-75)
      Suzanne Maloney

      Seldom do street peddlers make history. So when Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a tragic and spectacular act of protest against the confiscation of his cart, he could have had little idea that his action would not only result in the ouster of Tunisia’s long-ruling autocrat but would also inspire a wave of protests that would reshape the entire Middle East.

      The movement that Bouazizi inspired was initially dubbed the “Dignity Revolution,” a tacit acknowledgment that his outrage transcended the simple assault on his livelihood but emanated from the sense of humiliation and indignation...

    • 9 Terrorism: Al-Qaeda and the Arab Spring
      (pp. 76-84)
      Daniel L. Byman

      Looking out from al-Qaeda’s hideouts in Pakistan, the Arab world probably appears as uncertain to the terrorist group’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as it does to many Americans. It certainly has not helped him or his far-flung minions to think about the fact that for two decades and more, separately and together, they attempted to overthrow Arab governments without a single success. Then, suddenly, crowds of peaceful (and often secularly motivated) Arabs rose up spontaneously, took to the streets, and toppled the monolithic dictatorships of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—and may yet do the same in Syria and Yemen. This...

  7. Part II. Countries in Transition

    • 10 Democratizers? The Pursuit of Pluralism
      (pp. 87-93)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      If the people of the Middle East could have their way, all of the states there would morph into democracies overnight. As Shibley Telhami makes clear in chapter 2, the Arab publics (as well as the Iranian people) have an overwhelming desire to adopt democratic forms of government.¹ They see this as both an end in itself and a means to stop the economic, social, and political stagnation of their countries. It is for this reason that, across the region, democracy has been the rallying cry for the rebellions that have rocked the lands from Marrakesh to Mashhad.

      But the...

    • 11 Iraq: The Roller-Coaster of Democracy
      (pp. 94-101)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      Iraq was arguably the first of the Arab states to begin the transition to democracy and is arguably the first modern democracy in the Arab world. At the very least, it is the Arab state that is farthest along in a transition to full-fledged pluralism. For that reason, the Obama administration has begun to hail Iraq as a model to be emulated by other nations of the region.¹ Such claims need to be taken with more than a grain of salt. Because Iraq’s transition to democracy was the result of an American military invasion that much of the Arab world...

    • 12 Egypt: The Prize
      (pp. 102-110)
      Shadi Hamid

      When Omar Suleiman announced Hosni Mubarak was stepping down from power on February 11, 2011, the world gasped. Mubarak was everywhere referred to as “pharaoh” because he ruled like a monarch and his regime seemed as immovable (in all senses of the word) as the pyramids. Until it stagnated in the last decade of his reign, Egypt was considered the Arab world’s cultural, political, and military leader. It is also the Arab world’s largest state, with more than 80 million people. This means that virtually one of every four Arabs is an Egyptian. And it was, along with Saudi Arabia,...

    • 13 Tunisia: Birthplace of the Revolution
      (pp. 111-116)
      Shadi Hamid

      One of the Middle East’s most repressive countries, Tunisia, was an unlikely candidate for revolution. There were pockets of dissent—in the trade unions, for example—but no strong, coordinated opposition. President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali seized power from the senile Habib Bourguiba, a popular Ataturk-like modernizer, in a bloodless 1987 coup. In what was known as the “Jasmine Revolution,” Ben Ali promised greater freedoms and democratic reform. Soon, however, he oversaw an unprecedented crackdown on opposition groups and civil society.¹ Unlike Bourguiba, he did not cement his rule through extensive patron-client networks or by appeasing powerful elites. A relative...

    • 14 Libya: From Revolt to State-Building
      (pp. 117-127)
      Akram Al-Turk

      Four days after the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libyans began their own struggle to topple a long-standing dictator. But whereas the authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia fell quickly, Libya’s regime did not. Muammar Qadhafi refused to step down. Instead, he rallied key supporters and defiantly launched a repressive campaign to try to quell the uprising. Within weeks, a disparate group of anti-Qadhafi revolutionaries managed to win control of most of the eastern part of the country and was making advances in the west. Qadhafi’s forces rallied, recapturing a number of opposition-controlled cities and would have likely defeated the...

    • 15 The Palestinians: Between National Liberation and Political Legitimacy
      (pp. 128-138)
      Khaled Elgindy

      There is a widespread perception that the Arab Spring has bypassed the Palestinians. This is only partly true. While events in the region have sparked a growing Palestinian protest movement, both inside and outside of Palestine, they have not reached anything close to the mass popular mobilizations witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt, or the sustained unrest seen in Yemen and Syria. Moreover, the few protests that did occur were not aimed at toppling or replacing the current Palestinian leadership. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to conclude that regional events have left Palestinians completely untouched, and even more so to view...

  8. Part III. The Imperative of Reform

    • 16 Reform: Convincing Reluctant Regimes to Change
      (pp. 141-147)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      Only a handful of regimes in the Middle East have so far fallen to the wave of popular unrest that has swept the region. Many states have found that employing massive repression can succeed in preventing revolutions from succeeding, at least in the short run. Thus, when the Arab Spring eventually ends, a number of the old regimes will likely remain.

      But it is not the case that we should necessarily wish for revolutions everywhere. Revolutions are dangerous and unpredictable events. As Americans, we tend to romanticize them because of our own history. But our revolution was something of an...

    • 17 Making Reform Credible: The Critical Piece of the Puzzle
      (pp. 148-158)
      Stephen R. Grand, Shadi Hamid, Kenneth M. Pollack and Sarah E. Yerkes

      There should be little question that reform is both more likely than and preferable to revolution as a means of bringing about necessary (and inevitable) change in the Arab world. Revolutions are violent, unpredictable, and often end very badly. Reform is gradual, mostly peaceful, and deliberate, and can correct for mistakes. Although the regimes of the region will resist addressing the problems that give rise to revolution tooth and nail, they will sometimes embrace reform readily (at least rhetorically) and perhaps can be brought around to accepting it in substance as well.

      However, as Ken Pollack notes in chapter 16,...

    • 18 Saudi Arabia: The Elephant in the Living Room
      (pp. 159-167)
      Bruce O. Riedel

      The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, was caught off guard by the unrest that began in Tunisia and then spread like a tsunami to the rest of the Arab world. To add to Saudi angst, both the king and crown prince are in poor health, and succession is a complex political process. King Abdullah returned earlier than expected from surgery and recuperation in New York and Morocco to deal with the emerging crisis.

      Since then, the kingdom has become the de facto leader of the counterrevolution in the Arab world. The Saudis...

    • 19 Jordan: An Imperfect State
      (pp. 168-175)
      Salman Shaikh

      Jordan has long been a critical partner for the United States in the Middle East. Its position as a “moderate” pro-Western monarchy has earned it a privileged place among American allies in the region. When Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, it became even more important to U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. Amman’s role as a key source of American intelligence in the region has also grown considerably over the years. Information from Jordanian intelligence agencies was reportedly crucial in aiding the U.S. forces that killed al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.¹ At...

    • 20 Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE: The Nervous Bystanders
      (pp. 176-187)
      Suzanne Maloney

      Situated on the western shores of the Persian Gulf, the smaller Arab sheikhdoms of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates have long been accustomed to the contradictions of their geostrategic fate. Distance, deserts, and eventually the discovery of epic oil and gas resources have insulated their societies and their states from encroachment and uncertainty. Yet their location at the chokepoints of the world’s foremost energy transit corridor and in the shadow of historically predatory regional and world powers cannot help but cultivate a persistent existential insecurity. Oman shared in at least a portion of the 2011 drama, but...

    • 21 Bahrain: Island of Troubles
      (pp. 188-195)
      Michael S. Doran and Salman Shaikh

      The crisis that flared up in Bahrain in February 2011 and the government’s subsequent crackdown the following month have presented challenges for the United States regarding its interests in the Gulf. For the ruling al-Khalifa family and its supporters in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), particularly Saudi Arabia, the crisis represented the latest attempt by Iran to meddle in the kingdom’s internal affairs where the majority of Bahrainis are Shi’i. For the thousands of protesters, it was the culmination of economic, social, and political grievances. Like the people of Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world, they took to...

    • 22 Morocco: The Model for Reform?
      (pp. 196-205)
      Sarah E. Yerkes

      The case of Morocco is frequently cited as a model for reform for the Arab world. This is hardly a surprise. Since he succeeded his father in 1999, King Mohammed VI has seen himself as a reformer, initiating social and political reforms exceptional to the Arab world. Particularly in the areas of economic and human rights, the king has been true to his word, carrying out reforms that have had at least a minimal impact on the lives of Moroccans. Consequently, Morocco is among the most progressive of the Arab states in regard to economic and civil rights, although the...

    • 23 Algeria: Whistling Past the Graveyard
      (pp. 206-210)
      Bruce O. Riedel

      Although the Arab Spring is typically said to have begun in Tunisia with Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in December 2010, it actually struck Algeria first. Even before demonstrations rocked Tunisia next door and toppled President Ben Ali, there were unprecedented protests in the first half of January 2011 all across Algeria. Then, just as quickly as the wave rose, it began to ebb. Fewer and fewer protesters turned out, and the regime regained the upper hand.

      The explanation for the sudden evaporation of the unrest is simple: Algeria is a haunted nation. Its people are so afraid of a return to...

  9. Part IV. States in Crisis

    • 24 States in Civil War: Challenges for the United States
      (pp. 213-220)
      Daniel L. Byman

      The Arab Spring has already produced at least one civil war, in Libya, and has exacerbated the one already burning in Yemen. As of this writing, Syria is teetering on the edge. The wave of unrest unleashed in the Maghreb in January 2011 could easily produce more, especially because civil war is no stranger to the Middle East. Since the end of the colonial period, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Syria, and Yemen have all suffered significant rebellions or civil wars that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.¹

      Unfortunately, the Arab Spring makes further civil wars more...

    • 25 Yemen: The Search for Stability and Development
      (pp. 221-229)
      Ibrahim Sharqieh

      Despite the fact that the Romans knew it as Arabia Felix, or “Happy Arabia,” Yemen has witnessed a long procession of internal conflicts, particularly in recent decades. In the twentieth century alone, Yemen experienced clashes between Nasserists and royalists in the 1960s, between nationalists and communists in the 1970s, among various political factions in South Yemen in the 1980s, and between north and south in the 1990s. The twenty-first century has been similarly turbulent, with continued strife among an array of political and religious groups. Today, Yemen is wracked with multiple internal conflicts that threaten the future stability of the...

    • 26 Syria: The Ghosts of Hama
      (pp. 230-240)
      Michael S. Doran and Salman Shaikh

      The revolutionary wave of 2011 was slow to reach Syria. Public disobedience did not show its face until mid-March, a full month after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. When demonstrations did finally emerge, they focused on the grievances of Dara’a, a middling-sized town near Syria’s Yarmuk River border with Jordan. The citizens of Dara’a were outraged over state security service atrocities so heinous as to be excessive even by Syrian standards. In early March, a group of fifteen boys, aged ten to fifteen, imitated the crowds in Tunisia and Egypt and sprayed anti-regime graffiti on the walls of public buildings....

  10. Part V. Other Regional Actors

    • 27 Regional Actors: The Changing Balance of Power in the Middle East
      (pp. 243-249)
      Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack

      The impact of the Arab Spring reaches far beyond the countries in transition, and perhaps no outside powers are more affected than those that border the Arab world. They are fast finding that—through geography, history, national interest, or ideology—the Arab Spring is reshaping the region in which they live. Of these states, Iran, Israel, and Turkey stand out: all are powerful nations, and all have fundamental interests in the Arab world and the fate of the Arab Spring.

      These countries have watched the Arab Spring unfold with a mixture of glee, opportunism, and fear. The events of 2011...

    • 28 Israel: A Frosty Response to the Arab Spring
      (pp. 250-257)
      Daniel L. Byman

      Americans took heart as they watched Egyptian demonstrators rally in Tahrir Square and topple the regime of Hosni Mubarak in a peaceful revolution.¹ Next door in Israel, however, the mood was somber. Addressing the U.S. Congress a few months later, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “These hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979.”² As unrest spread from Egypt to Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen, the gloom among Israelis only seemed to deepen.

      The new regimes and the chaotic regional situation pose a variety of political and security challenges to the Jewish state. These challenges,...

    • 29 Iran: The Bogeyman
      (pp. 258-267)
      Suzanne Maloney

      The specter of Iran looms large over the upheaval sweeping the Middle East. Although it has by and large escaped the explosion of unrest that has evicted several Arab dictators and unsettled many others, Iran is very much a central protagonist in the ongoing regional transformation and the future of American policy toward the region. Its revolutionary theocracy is the product of the first popular revolution in the Middle East, and its 1979 ouster of a pro-American monarch remains the single enduring regional experience with a peaceful mass mobilization against a seemingly stable autocracy. The outcome of that revolution also...

    • 30 Turkey: An Interested Party
      (pp. 268-274)
      Ömer Taşpinar

      The Arab Spring came at a time of significant turbulence in Turkey’s relations with the United States, Israel, and Europe. The uneasiness emanated in part from growing Western concerns about an “Islamist” turn in Ankara’s foreign policy. Tensions began mounting in 2010 with the Gaza flotilla crisis, which ended with Israeli forces killing nine Turkish citizens. Weeks later, Turkey’s “no” vote to a new round of UN sanctions against Iran triggered a heated “who lost Turkey?” debate in Washington. As relations with Israel and Washington continued to sink, Turkey appeared to find new allies in Syria, Russia, and Iran. The...

  11. Part VI. The External Powers

    • 31 External Powers: Riding the Tsunami
      (pp. 277-284)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      From late January to early April 2011, the daily newspapers, TV news shows, and Internet news sites were packed with stories about the Middle East. Even for those who did not live in the Middle East, the Arab Spring was big news. The biggest news of the year, to say the least. To some extent, that was because journalists and bloggers will chase whatever seems unusual. But to a much greater extent, the Arab Spring dominated the news all across the globe because it was, is, and will be of phenomenal importance to countries all across the globe, even countries...

    • 32 Europe: Muddling Through
      (pp. 285-290)
      Ruth Hanau Santini

      Because of its proximity, Europe has a lot at stake in the future evolution of the Arab world, particularly that of North Africa. Promoting prosperity and stability in this region has been a European foreign policy goal over the past two decades as Europe has wrestled with the issue of immigration from the southern Mediterranean coast and the integration of these and other immigrant communities from the Arab world.¹ Because of these concerns, the prevailing discourse during the Arab Spring has become suffused with security concerns, especially terrorism and illegal migration. Equally important is the fact that Europe is the...

    • 33 Russia: Moscow Does Not Believe in Change
      (pp. 291-297)
      Pavel K. Baev

      The ongoing, spectacular changes in the Middle East have Russia worried. This despite the fact that Moscow has discovered that the turmoil has created a range of new opportunities to further its interests. Where President Barack Obama finds a “historic opportunity” for advancing democratic values, the Russian leadership sees instead an opportunity to prove that revolutions are messy and futile—and to build ties with the extant ruling regimes, despotic though they may be.¹ The key words in the mainstream Russian assessments of the mass uprisings are “destabilization,” “turmoil,” and “extremism,” but a term that is practically absent is “Arab...

    • 34 China: Unease from Afar
      (pp. 298-304)
      Jonathan D. Pollack

      The political and social turbulence in the Arab world has reverberated well beyond the Middle East, with China deeply affected by the upheavals. Over the past decade, Beijing has pursued closer relations with entrenched authoritarian leaderships in the Middle East, calculating that its interests and needs in the region would be well protected by these ties. China’s increasing dependence on energy imports from the Middle East, its central role in the financing and development of major oil fields in the Persian Gulf, and the heightened investment of Chinese multinationals across the Middle East and North Africa all reflect the expanding...

    • 35 The International Order and the Emerging Powers: Implications of the Arab Awakening
      (pp. 305-310)
      Bruce Jones

      Over the past sixty years, American power has underpinned an international system that has limited global conflict and secured the global flow of trade, finance, and energy. The United States has not done this alone: U.S. power has been embedded in a series of alliances, institutions, and arrangements that have helped to mobilize broader action, promote values, and set rules of the game, thereby legitimizing and creating shared interests in the use of American power.

      That international order is already facing a series of challenges: from the economic and diplomatic rise of China, India, and Brazil, which are challenging the...

    • 36 The United States: A New American Grand Strategy for the Middle East
      (pp. 311-318)
      Kenneth M. Pollack

      Throughout this book, the United States has been a constant focus and a constant presence, implicitly or explicitly. In every chapter, we have included a variety of observations and recommendations for how the United States ought to handle the events and the long aftermath of the Arab Spring. In the issue-oriented chapters of Part I of the book, we provided ideas about how Washington could handle these matters as they pertain to a variety of countries across the region. In the overview chapters that introduced each subsequent part, we addressed the challenges that the United States would face to help...

  12. Appendix: Political, Social, and Economic Indicators of the Middle East
    (pp. 319-324)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 325-364)
  14. About the Authors
    (pp. 365-368)
  15. Index
    (pp. 369-382)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-384)