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Readings concerning U.S. foreign policy


Transforming America’s Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change by Dan Flesher (Potomac Books, Inc., 2009) Reviewed by Eli Clifton

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in their 2007 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, triggered a firestorm of controversy when they argued that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East was contrary to U.S. national interests and the trouble was due to the activities of a coalition of pro-Israel lobbies.  The authors’ portrayed the “Israel Lobby” to be largely aligned with the American and Israeli right-wing and Israel’s Likud Party and an overwhelming force for any dissenting voices to go up against.

Dan Flesher thinks the power of the Israel lobby is largely based on “smoke and mirrors.” The real question, he argues in Transforming America’s Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change, is “Why have American Jews let the lobby speak for them?” He points out that opinion polls of American Jews suggest that they are politically to the left of the stances taken by the lobby’s biggest voices. 

Arising from this gap has been a number of new, pro-Israel organizations willing to challenge the hard lined policies of the major Jewish organizations. Assessing these differing viewpoints forms the basis for Fleshler’s insightful book. He is well positioned to analyze this break-away movement, having worked with a number of left-of-center American Jewish groups including Americans for Peace Now, the Givat Haviva Educational Foundation, and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, organizations  dedicated to advancing Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Transforming America’s Israel Lobby examines the terrain of American Jewish organizations’ stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including: the “Far Left or Religious Anti-Zionist’’—which includes Jewish Voices for Peace; the “Pro-Israel Left’’—which includes J Street; the “Center Left’’—which includes the Union of Reform Judaism; the “Center’’—which includes the Anti-Defamation League; the ‘”Center Right’’—which includes AIPAC; and the ‘”Far Right’’—which includes American friends of Likud and the Zionist Organization of America.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), often seen as the figurehead of the “Israel Lobby,’’ stands to the right of most of these groups.  Fleshler explains that AIPAC’s strength lies in its ability to give American Jews a link to Israel when increasing numbers of American Jews are finding themselves detached from the narrative of Israel’s founding and the holocaust.  AIPAC and the most mainstream American Jewish organizations give their membership an opportunity to rally around Israel.  But they create for them “diaspora lag,’’ where controversial topics, such as discussions of a Palestinian state and negotiating with Hamas, often remain verboten even when they have been publicly discussed in the Israeli media.

Fleshler suggests that AIPAC’s political muscle on Capitol Hill is on account of few opposing lobbies within the Jewish community.  The mere fact that it exists and is able to muster public support when needed is motivation enough for a large number of US politicians to fall in line with AIPAC’s positions.

Fleshler also posits that AIPAC and the “Israel Lobby” have magnified their perceived influence through “smoke and mirrors” by leveraging long-held anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish control of the media and economy.  He discusses how bundled campaign contributions coming from out-of-state Jewish donors to a congressional candidate with few Jews in his or her district helps confirm the myth of Jewish money even when the total sum of money may be relatively small.

Fleshler makes a strong case that progressive American Jewish organizations can tap into a constituency willing to stand up to the mainstream “Israel Lobby.” Groups such as J Street, a recently formed progressive counter-point to AIPAC (Fleshler sits on its advisory council), should speak up and give politicians “cover” for taking stances which pressure Israel to give up its settlements and promote the formation of a viable Palestinian state, the book argues.

Fleshler’s core argument, borrowed from the former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy,  is that it is in the interests of American Jews who care about Israel to recognize that American strategic interests in the Middle East require a more active U.S.  role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That the book offers few concrete suggestions on how a center-left coalition within the American Jewish community might gain greater influence is disappointing. But that Fleshler places the ADL – whose national director, Abraham Foxman, thought talking to Muslims was “a pipe dream” because there was “no one to talk to” and opposed U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell’s Mideast tour because he was “even handed” – in the center of the Jewish political spectrum suggests that he may have a higher hill to climb than he thinks. He also fails to address a belief long held among some Washington policymakers that Israel’s role in the Arab world serves U.S. interests. Despite Fleshler’s cogent argument that the “Israel Lobby” rests on “puffery” and “smoke and mirrors,” any center-left Jewish coalition trying to bring a “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” voice to the ongoing saga of U.S.-Israel relations faces a difficult and complex challenge.

Eli Clifton writes on U.S. foreign policy issues for the Inter Press Service News Agency.

The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts. Edited by Catherine Lutz (New York: New York University Press, 2009). Reviewed by Daniel Volman.

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The contributors to this book—edited by Catherine Lutz, a professor at Brown University, examine the political, social, economic, and environmental impact of U.S. military bases and facilities throughout the world and the popular movements that campaign for their removal and to hold the U.S. government accountable for the damage they have caused.

Lutz’s introduction explores the reasons why the United States has established this global network of bases.  The following four chapters – by Joseph Gerson, John Linsay-Poland, David Heller and Hans Lammerant, and Tom Engelhardt – provide detailed studies of the U.S. military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Iraq.  These chapters are a useful introduction to the many issues raised by America’s global military activities and the reasons why successive U.S. presidential administrations have expanded this widespread network of military facilities.

Six further chapters — by Roland Simbulan, David Vine and Laura Jeffery, Katherine McCaffrey, Kozue Akibayashi and Suzuyo Takazato, Ayse Gul Altinay and Amy Holmes, and Kyle Kajihiro — discuss the development of anti-base movements in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Turkey, and Hawai’i. Of particular interest was the struggle of the Chagossian people to return to their homeland islands of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean that was converted, with the collusion of United Kingdom, into a significant U.S. base where the Pentagon can project its power into Africa and the Middle East.

According to Joe Gerson, the principal purpose of U.S. overseas bases is to support America’s “global and regional hegemonies.” Catherine Lutz shows that the bases maintain and extend America’s “indirect control over the political economy, laws, and foreign policy of other places,” in order to “provide forward defense for the homeland, supply other nations with security, and facilitate the capture and control of trade and resources.”

In his chapter on Iraq, Tom Engelhardt explains that the United States moved its existing bases out of Saudi Arabia and into Iraq and other parts of the Middle East in order to reposition itself “militarily in relation to the oil heartlands of the planet.”  Bases in Iraq, coupled with American bases in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, encircle Iran and makes the U.S. “triumphant and dominant and, with its Israeli ally, militarily beyond challenge in the region.”

Unfortunately, a number of the chapters are marred by serious factual inaccuracies.  Much of the information provided on U.S. bases and other military facilities in Africa, for example is simply inaccurate or misleading, raising questions on the correctness of the information provided on other parts of the world.

Tom Engelhardt, for example, incorrectly describes the U.S. base in Djibouti as a “lily pad,” which is a Pentagon-invented term used to describe the unimproved military bases in Africa available for U.S. use under agreements Washington signed with the host governments.  But the U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti is actually the one true U.S. base that has been established in Africa. It consists of an improved military facility constructed by the Pentagon and can host the 1,400 troops comprising the U.S. Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The base is a lease agreement that was negotiated with the government of Djibouti in 2002.

In their otherwise valuable study of Diego Garcia, David Vine and Laura Jeffery simply lump the U.S. base in Djibouti and the actual “lily pad” bases to which the United States has access in Africa under the title of “U.S. bases.”  Moreover, Vine and Jeffery include Nigeria in the list even though, to the best of my knowledge, the government of Nigeria has never signed a base access agreement with the U.S. government.  The book also reproduces a map from David Vine’s otherwise admirable book, Island of Shame:  The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, which—as far as I can determine—was originally prepared by the Global Policy Forum in New York in 2008 and which is completely unreliable.

Not only does this map conflate U.S. bases in Africa with the bases of African countries that have been made available to the U.S. government under base access agreements, it also indicates that the United States has bases in African countries that have not, to the best of my knowledge, ever signed base access agreements with the U.S. —including Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mauritania, and Chad.  The authors also omit several countries that did sign base access agreements with the U.S.

These faults may seem to some to be unimportant and pedantic issues, but these kind of factual errors make it easy for defenders of U.S. bases to discredit anti-base activism.  This book is a valuable study of an important issue and presents an inspiring look at the courageous efforts of people throughout the world to end the U.S. military presence in their countries. But readers would be well advised to check the facts for themselves.

Daniel Volman is the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and co-chair of the Political Action Committee of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars.  He is a specialist on U.S. national security policy toward Africa and U.S. military activities on the continent, and has been working on these issues for more than thirty years.

Acknowledging Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities: “Beyond Zero Enrichment: Suggestions for an Iranian Nuclear Deal,” Matthew Bunn, Belfer Center, Harvard, Kennedy School; “The Paradox of Iran’s Nuclear Consensus,” Kayhan Barzegar; World Policy Journal.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Concluding that there is “virtually no chance that Iran will agree to zero enrichment,” Matthew Bunn of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, recommends that acquiescing to a limited Iranian enrichment program is the “least bad option” for the United States.  His conclusion was based on an assessment that economic sanctions would not stop Iran’s enrichment program and that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be unproductive, and after the dust settled, probably compel Iran to develop a bomb in covert sites. He recommends agreement on a near-nuclear capability, where Iran would continue to enrich uranium but not actually build a bomb. Blunn recognizes the drawbacks in this scenario. But he believes that possessing the threat that Iran could quickly assemble a bomb if need be would satisfy significant factions within Iran’s foreign policymaking establishment. The “carrot” of expanded trade, investment and other benefits would strengthen the so-called moderates, bring other voices into Iranian decision-making (eg. finance or oil ministers), and raise the political threshold when deciding to build a bomb. Iranian hardliners would be further undermined with a U.S.-Iran agreement which reduced Iran’s perceived security threats.

Blunn’s conclusion that Iran will not give up totally its enrichment program was seconded by Kayhan Barzegar, a research fellow at the Belfer Center and an assistant professor in Tehran’s Islamic Azad University. He quickly squelches any suggestion that Iran will become more accommodating in the aftermath of its recent turbulent presidential election. Political divisions within Iran may exist on a number of foreign policy issues but they “will not,” says Barzegar, “severely impact the previous consensus around the nuclear issue as a matter of national and geostrategic pride.”  Underscoring this consensus was that Ahmadinejad’s presidential rival – Mir Hossein Moussavi – supported Iran’s nuclear development.

Recent opinion polls confirm popular support for Iran’s on-going uranium enrichment. Asked whether they would favor an agreement whereby the current sanctions would be removed and Iran would continue its nuclear energy program but agree not to enrich uranium, only 31% of those surveyed favored the idea, while 55% were opposed and 14% did not give an answer. Significantly, the poll found that two thirds of Iranians would agree not to build nuclear weapons and permit IAEA inspectors full access to nuclear facilities in exchange for lifting current sanctions – but one third would consent only if Iran’s enrichment program was permitted to continue.

Barzegar predicts that Iran’s nuclear program will progress independently of any future nuclear negotiations. He suggests that the extent of the program will significantly depend on whether Israel continues to threaten preemptive attacks and whether Washington persists in its efforts to delegitimize the regime. Barzegar offers compelling reasons why Iran’s leaders would find weaponization to be “untenable, unnecessary, and unwise.” But faced with threats from Israel and the United States, “it is hardly surprising that the Iranian government views an independent nuclear fuel cycle as interchangeable with deterrence.”

Three possible end games are envisioned: a verifiable Iranian nuclear fuel cycle subject to international monitoring following Washington’s guarantee not to disturb Tehran’s security and legitimacy; an independent nuclear capability not aspiring to weaponization resulting from the failure of negotiations to assure Iran’s security; or, development of a nuclear weapons program in the face of mounting, credible threats. Barzegar suggests that Ahmadinejad, having consolidated his power and backed by the Supreme Leader, would be willing and capable to engage in substantive negotiations with the U.S. and Western leaders, so long as Iran is treated as equal, the negotiations are devoid of threats, and accompanied by a “genuine change” in attitude toward the Islamic Republic.

Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism by Victoria Clark (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2007). 331 pages. Reviewed by Donald E. Wagner

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

British writer Victoria Clark provides a comprehensive historical overview of Christian Zionism from its origins in the British Isles to its contemporary manifestations in the United States.  Her fluid style offers the reader an informative, well documented, and easy to read narrative.

Clark begins by taking us inside a typical Christian Zionist “Holy Land tour,” in her case with a Colorado mega-church. They provide for us their home-grown version of American Christian Zionism, including a right-wing, pro-Israel, end-time belief system that typically shapes the worldviews of these true believers. Their core belief is that the in-gathering of world Jewry to Palestine will bring about the second coming of Christ, when Jesus will defeat the anti-Christ in the final Battle of Armageddon, and set up his thousand year reign.

Clark traces the historic development of Christian Zionists to sixteenth century England as exhibited in the writings of Rev. Thomas Brightman, whose monograph “The Revelation of the Revelations” dates back at least to 1585.  Similar writers inspired the Puritans, such as John Winthrop –the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – to immigrate to the New World in the belief that their settlement drive served a divine purpose. The thinking of Rev. John Nelson Darby, who many call the “Father of Christian Zionism,” merged with other early evangelical thinking to create the “restorationist” movement (“the Jews must be restored to Palestine”) which gradually became a political movement in support of the Zionist movement.

Clark’s work on the American roots of Christian Zionism focuses primarily on evangelist William E. Blackstone, who organized the first official Zionist lobby initiative in 1891, a full six years before the founding of Herzl’s World Zionist Congress. Financing Blackstone’s petition drive was J.P.Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and publisher Charles B. Scribner and support was found among U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, and numerous clergy.

By the time the Clark moves to her final chapter, “Talking Texan,” she has established an insightful historical context for understanding modern-day Christian Zionism in America. Their support for Israel is complex and muti-faceted: many confuse the Israel of the Bible with the modern state of Israel; some think Biblical prophecies are approaching fulfillment in modern Israel; others believe that after the battle of Armageddon, Jews will convert to Christianity and Jesus will rule from Jerusalem. Texas is spotlighted as the place where the erudite, theological debates of the 1800s were “simplified and sensationalized” and turned into “the gun-slinging, Armageddon-fixated ideology it is today, the prevailing system of the American south.” But this exaggerates the Lone State’s domination of the movement and improperly stereotypes Christian Zionism to be a southern phenomenon.  In fact, the movement has substantial influence throughout the United States, ranging from small Midwestern towns to southern California to the mega-churches of Colorado, and has a growing presence in Africa, Asia, and throughout Europe.

Clark’s foray into theological analysis is also problematic.  Her generic use of the terms “Evangelical” and “Christian Zionist” fails to distinguish the variety of tendencies that characterize these complex Christian movements.  Such personalities as televangelists Pat Robertson and Rev. John Hagee, former President Jimmy Carter, and head of Sojourners Jim Wallis, all claim the term Evangelical, but the first two are the polar opposites of the second pair.  Evangelical Christianity is an umbrella term that covers a variety of theological and political tendencies, of which less than 10% are Christian Zionists, who are more accurately described as “fundamentalists” or the right-wing of Evangelicalism.

A more thorough discussion was warranted of the powerful critique of Christian Zionism by the Heads of Churches, who represent the local Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and inside Israel.  This indigenous Christian opposition challenges the heart of Christian Zionism and the central project of Israel and offers perhaps the most important assessment of Christian Zionism that is available today.  Sadly, the critique is hardly developed.

Aside from these flaws, Clark has packaged a phenomenal amount of historical material into a single volume. It stands as an important resource that you may want to keep in sight for the next couple of years.  The Christian right already has started to gear up for the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 Presidential elections. Christian Zionism runs deep in American culture and it has the institutions and grass-roots support to rally voters in support of its candidates.  So keep this useful book on your bookshelf, as the themes discussed by Victoria Clark are likely to be heard in the near future.


The Rev. Dr. Donald E. Wagner is an ordained Presbyterian clergyman and is an Associate Professor of Religion at North Park University in Chicago, where he is the Executive Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He served for ten years as the Director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. His books include Anxious for Armageddon (1995), Peace or Armageddon (1993), and All in the Name of the Bible (1988). During the 1980s he was National Director of the US Palestine Human Rights Campaign.

Israel’s “Sadat Option”: Could Israel Push the U.S. to Attack Iran? – Joint Forces Quarterly

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

The  general consensus among military policy wonks is that an Israeli attack to halt Iran’s nuclear development would be difficult and largely ineffectual: the lengthy flightpath would have Israel’s warplanes transiting over possible hostile foreign airspace, it doesn’t have a sufficient number of aircraft to hit all of Iran’s widely dispersed nuclear installations, and the long fight probably would prohibit its bombers from carrying the heavy ordinance necessary to destroy Iran’s hardened sites. Only the United States has the capability to mount a sustained and widespread attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.  President Bush had rejected Israel’s request for a joint U.S.-Israeli attack and the Obama administration so far has shown no willingness to resort to the military option to force Iran to halt its nuclear development.

But Richard L. Russell, a professor at the National Defense University, points out that Israel could push the U.S. into a fight with Iran.  Writing in the Joint Forces Quarterly, a publication for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Russell shares Israel’s view that economic sanctions against Iran will have little meaningful effect and that Tehran will continue a clandestine nuclear weapons program under the cover of prolonged negotiations.  He posits that Israel could take a page from Anwar Sadat’s playbook:  the 1973 war was not launched to defeat Israel but to shake Washington and Tel Aviv into starting meaningful negotiations.  Russell suggests that Israel could become frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations and “strike out militarily with no illusion of severely damaging Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but with every intention of shocking the international community via the Sada option into substantially greater diplomatic, political, economic, and military pressure on Iran.”

The drawback with this plan is that no one believes that in response to an assault, Iran simply would sit back and do nothing.  Russell recognizes that Iran and most of the Muslim world inevitably would blame Washington for an Israeli strike, resulting in retaliatory attacks against a broad range of U.S. interests worldwide. Iranian action against U.S. forces in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, attacks by the Revolutionary Guards on U.S. ships in the Gulf, or Iranian sponsored terrorist attacks would compel U.S. counter-attacks. Similarly, the Obama administration would be hard pressed not to come to Israel’s defense if Iran retaliated with missile strikes against Israel.

Russell hints that Israeli action against Iran could be precipitated by bellicose threats or reckless action by Iran or by strikes by Hizballah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad against Israeli interests.  Any such incidents also could serve as a pretext for war, much like the incidents used to justify Israel’s 2006 and 1982 invasions of Lebanon.  But unlike Lebanon, exercizing the “Sadat option” by Israel most likely would push the United States into a war with Iran.  Russell tactfully sidesteps this conclusion; he simply suggests that U.S. military planner be ready for Iranian retalliation.

Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac (Norton: 2008) Reviewer, Rex Wingerter

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Before the public’s expectations of the Obama administration and his claim to start a “new beginning with the Muslim world” balloon too large, the promises George W. Bush initially made to the nation ought to be recalled.  He pledged that America under his leadership would wield a “humble but strong” foreign policy and the U.S. would be “judicious” in flexing its military power. Twelve months later, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq turned those words on their heads.

But the ouster of Bush, Chaney, Rice and Rumsfeld may change only the face but not the cause of America’s blundering in the Middle East.  As Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East makes clear, they are only the most recent of a long cast of characters to march onto the Middle East with the intention of making it a better place for all. From the end of the 19th century, a slew of British diplomats, soldiers and spies helped to create the mosaic of nations now labeled as the Middle East.  They were slowly supplemented and finally replace in the mid-20th century by their American counter-parts, who quickly applied their handiwork to the region.

Kingmakers make an often complicated history accessible to the general reader.  The heavy academic credentials of this husband and wife team thankfully are balanced by their TV and journalism experience. Halfway through the book, the reader readily understands why the “Arab street” often boils over in resentment and violence at meddling foreign interlopers. That the very term the “Middle East” is an Anglo-American invention, fashioned by U.S. naval strategist Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer in a 1902, is our first hint of how the region has been contoured with Western interests in mind.

Meyer and Brysac rely on more than a dozen personalities to thread their way through 100 years of Western intrusions in the Arab world. They begin with Lord Cromer, the British consul-general of Egypt in the 1880s and end with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the primary architect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In between we are introduced to colorful and driven characters who were “building nations, defining borders, and selecting or helping to select local rulers.” Most were larger than life.

Mark Sykes co-authored a World War I agreement that secretly divided the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence; he was also instrumental in convincing England to sanction the creation of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. The indomitable Gertrude Bell’s expertise on local conditions in Mesopotamia allowed her to help Britain draw the modern maps of Iraq, Jordan and Syria. She rivaled the swashbuckling and legendary T.E. Lawrence as they traveled though out the region, instigating Arab revolts during World War I against pro-German Ottoman rule or building alliances with local Arab tribes, all in the service of the British Crown.

Kingmakers illustrates that these actors all shared the hardnosed conviction that they were helping their country as well as the local inhabitants, even if harsh punishment often was required.  Winston Churchill advocated the use of mustard gas against “recalcitrant natives.”  A Royal Air Force officer advised “relentless and unremitting” bombing and machine gunning of villages as a means of teaching unruly locals a lesson. Such tactics, the authors’ observe, were “an early template for the Pentagon’s twenty-first century’s ‘shock and awe’” campaign in Iraq.

Creating countries and appointing leadership was how Britain exerted indirect rule over an area of increasing strategic and economic importance. But London never fooled itself into believing that its Arab surrogates had popular support; referring to King Faisal’s rule in Iraq, the Secretary of State for the Colonies admitted there was “no doubt” that if the Royal Air Force was removed, “the whole structure would inevitably fall to pieces.  Any locally raised forces without assistance from the air could not maintain internal order nor resist external aggression.” It’s an observation that may well apply to today’s Iraq under Nouri al-Maliki.

Similar strategic imperatives underlay American efforts in the Middle East. When Washington secured access to oil first in Saudi Arabia and then Iran, assuring oil’s unimpeded flow to Western markets became a top priority. But with the boundaries of the Middle East largely settled (except for Israel/Palestine), concern in Washington focused on what Meyer and Brysac called promoting “sensible government.” So, when it looked as if Iranian nationalism was endangering Persian petroleum, Kermit Roosevelt, the masterminded of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran, joined the list of kingmakers. But it was in Syria in 1949 where the CIA under Miles Copeland engineered its first Middle East coup. That Washington’s man, Colonel Hosni Za’im, was overthrown five months later didn’t prevent Copeland and his associates’ from further chicanery over the next 25 years in Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Meyer and Brysac describe the cold war years as an “era when U.S. covert intervention was perceived as the norm.” But unlike the Victorian or inter-war years where grandiose characters could create countries and demarcate borders in an afternoon, post-war intrigue was frustratingly abstruse. The authors’ annoyance is almost audible when they decry the subterfuge of modern cloak-and-dagger adventures which obscures fact from fiction and confuses reality with exaggeration. They provide a short but solid review of Middle East turmoil in the decades after World War II.  But it’s clear that the real kingmakers were a thing of the past.

Bush, Cheney & Co.’s invasion of Iraq gave the idea of kingmakers a new lease on life. The authors’ correctly focus on Wolfowitz as a new kingmaker.  But rather than analyze him within the context of being a modern-day Colonial Secretary, they offer a personal, social-intellectual narrative on how such a smart  and seemingly decent man could launch such a ruinous policy.  Such speculation has been offered elsewhere and little new is added. But that’s a small fault in an otherwise insightful book on the continuity of imperial adventures in the Middle East.

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