Summary

In 2011, Egyptians of all sects, ages, and social classes shook off millennia of autocracy, then elected a Muslim Brother as president. The 2013 military coup replaced him with a new strongman, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has cracked down on any dissent or opposition with a degree of ferocity Mubarak never dared. New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick arrived in Egypt with his family less than six months before the uprising first broke out in 2011, looking for a change from life in Washington, D.C. As revolution and violence engulfed the country, he received an unexpected and immersive education in the Arab world.

For centuries, Egypt has set in motion every major trend in politics and culture across the Middle East, from independence and Arab nationalism to Islamic modernism, political Islam, and the jihadist thought that led to Al Qaeda and ISIS. The Arab Spring revolts of 2011 spread from Cairo, and now Americans understandably look with cynical exasperation at the disastrous Egyptian experiment with democracy. They fail to understand the dynamic of the uprising, the hidden story of its failure, and Washington's part in that tragedy. In this candid narrative, Kirkpatrick lives through Cairo's hopeful days and crushing disappointments alongside the diverse population of his new city: the liberal yuppies who first gathered in Tahrir Square; the persecuted Coptic Christians standing guard around Muslims at prayer during the protests; and the women of a grassroots feminism movement that tried to seize its moment. Juxtaposing his on-the-ground experience in Cairo with new reporting on the conflicts within the Obama administration, Kirkpatrick traces how authoritarianism was allowed to reclaim Egypt after thirty months of turmoil.

Into the Hands of the Soldiers is a heartbreaking story with a simple message: The failings of decades of autocracy are the reason for the chaos we see today across the Arab world. Because autocracy is the problem, more autocracy is unlikely to provide a durable solution. Egypt, home to one in four Arabs, is always a bellwether. Understanding its recent history is essential to understanding everything taking place across the region today--from the terrorist attacks in the North Sinai and Egypt's new partnership with Israel to the bedlam in Syria and Libya.

Chapters

Chapter One: Whoever Drinks the Water

Chapter Two: City of Contradictions

Chapter Three: Police Day

Chapter Four: "We Don't Do That Anymore"

Chapter Five: The First Lady and the Blue Bra

Chapter Six: The Theban Legion

Chapter Seven: "How the Downfall of a State Can Happen"

Chapter Eight: Forefathers

Chapter Nine: Parliment Grows a Beard

Chapter Ten: Thug versus Thug

Chapter Eleven: The Judges Club

Chapter Twelve: The Night of Power

Chapter Thirteen: A Day in Court

Chapter Fourteen: President and Mrs. Morsi

Chapter Fifteen: Under the Cloak

Chapter Sixteen: A Rumble at the Palace

Chapter Seventeen: Murder, Rape, Christians, and Spies

Chapter Eighteen: The View from the West

Chapter Nineteen: A New Front

Chapter Twenty: A Dutiful Son

Chapter Twenty-one: June 30

Chapter Twenty-two: Coup d'Etat

Chapter Twenty-three: Killing Themselves

Chapter Twenty-four: A Lion

Chapter Twenty-five: Clearing the Square

Chapter Twenty-six: Jihadis in the White House

Chapter Twenty-seven: Retribution

Chapter Twenty-eight: Deep State

Reviews

“[An] engrossing account of [Kirkpatrick’s] time as the New York Times Cairo bureau chief covering the Egyptian revolution...He brings two new contributions to his retelling...The Times’s extraordinary access to decision makers...[and] his willingness to plunge into the messy, sprawling street violence, and show how each side could perceive itself a victim and step up its own provocative tactics in response.”
—The New York Times Book Review

"This street-level account of the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath combines memoir, reportage, and analysis...Kirkpatrick’s most valuable insights come from interviews given, years later, by Obama Administration officials."
—The New Yorker

"What [Kirkpatrick] has written is a tragedy, not only in the sense of a dreadful mishap, but in the Greek sense of a terrible fate that the hero has provoked yet cannot or will not see--though we in the audience can. It's an account that fills us with terror and pity."
The Wall Street Journal

"This new book by David Kirkpatrick is the best account I have read of what happened in Egypt from Mubarak to Sisi."
—Ben Rhodes (via Twitter)

“A first-hand account of the failure of democracy to take root in Egypt and the region . . . Kirkpatrick grapples thoughtfully with events he witnessed . . . [and] meticulously chronicles Mubarak’s downfall and the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected leader and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – barely a year after he took office in 2012."
The Guardian

"Kirkpatrick describes these tumultuous times in compelling detail. The author is honest about how hard it was to interpret events, grasp the motives of people such as Sisi and Morsi and predict the direction in which Egypt was heading...But Kirkpatrick, who dodged bullets and official harassment, deciphered the mystery."
The Economist

"An eye-opening account of the most tumultuous years in the modern history of Egypt. It is not easy to write current history as dispassionately as Kirkpatrick has done. It will change the way you think about Egypt and the Arab world."
The Washington BookReview

About the Author
David Kirkpatrick

David D. Kirkpatrick is an international correspondent based in London for the New York Times. From 2011 through 2015 he was the Cairo bureau chief. He has also been a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and a contributing editor for New York magazine. Into the Hands of the Soldiers is his first book, which he worked on while at the Wilson Center. Read More