People versus power: This is how most of us remember Egypt’s 2011-13 upheavals. Crowds fight the police under clouds of tear gas on a Nile bridge, bringing down the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Later, they rise to challenge his replacement, the Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, but are ultimately betrayed and crushed by a revived military regime ... David D. Kirkpatrick’s engrossing account of his time as the New York Times Cairo bureau chief covering the Egyptian revolution...he brings two new contributions to his retelling. One is The Times’s extraordinary access to decision makers. Kirkpatrick gives an unmatched blow-by-blow of the Obama administration’s Egypt diplomacy, with the Americans’ mixed signals undercutting its impact. Of greater general interest in understanding the final outcome are Kirkpatrick’s extensive interviews with Egyptian officials and with Morsi’s aides. Kirkpatrick’s other key contribution is 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 ... Into the Hands of the Soldiers is a journalist’s eye view, but not a comprehensive history.
Successful uprisings tend to have two parties—the state and the people. Egypt, to its great misfortune, had at least four: the state, the liberal opposition, the Islamists and powerful outsiders, above all the U.S. and the Persian Gulf countries. Each seems to have taken a turn slamming the doors shut just as the light of democracy began to shine through. It’s no secret that Egypt’s permanent state apparatus—its army, police, intelligence service and judiciary—never accepted the legitimacy of the popular movement and actively undermined Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood official who in 2012 won Egypt’s first free presidential election. What Mr. Kirkpatrick captures is the utter contempt among these powerful actors for the idea of popular sovereignty.
In December 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze. His death sparked a conflagration that raged from North Africa to the Levant and all the way to the Gulf. On 11 February 2011, mass demonstrations and the collapse of US support forced Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, out of office. After nearly 30 years, a pharaoh had fallen ... David Kirkpatrick's book, Into the Hands of the Soldiers, gives a first-hand account of the failure of democracy to take root in Egypt and the region. Kirkpatrick meticulously chronicles Mubarak’s downfall and the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi ... Kirkpatrick grapples thoughtfully with events he witnessed. At one point he writes: 'We set ourselves up for disappointment … Who stole the revolution? That image of the revolution was as much about western narcissism as it was about Egypt.'