CAULDRON OF TURMOIL: America in the Middle East by Barry Rubin

CAULDRON OF TURMOIL: America in the Middle East

Email this review


From Middle East expert Rubin (Istanbul Intrigues, 1989, etc.): a policy history of the Gulf War, concentrating on the misconceptions and political climate that led to, and took place behind, the day-to-day events of the conflict. Rubin attempts to answer questions about why US policy-makers appear to be groping in the dark regarding the Middle East. He identifies four myths that, he says, mold policy: that US influence is weak in the area; that Arab states could unite against the US; that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the region's central crisis; and that concessions need to be made to dictators to placate them. Rubin's debunking of these myths is relatively simplistic (""Given their own conflicts, rivalries, and differences, Arabs were incapable of joining together to rule the Middle East or to fight America""), but he does offer much interesting information--e.g., an excellent thumbnail sketch of Saddam Hussein's life, and a clear account of events leading to the 1985 meeting in Hamburg between an Iranian faction and representatives of the US government--the opening moves in what would become Iran-contra. But Rubin's analyses are at times so superficial as to be misleading. Trying to refute the charge by Edward Said (Covering Islam, 1981, etc.) that scholarship on the Middle East is rife with romantic and racist cliches, for example, Rubin writes, ""The dominant approach to understanding the Middle East among American experts has been called Arabism, a word [whose use] implies a good understanding of Arab culture, history, and politics."" More a well-informed journalistic account of a recent crisis than a penetrating analysis.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich