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STATECRAFT by Dennis Ross

STATECRAFT

And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World

By Dennis Ross

Pub Date: June 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-374-29928-6
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A former Middle East envoy for the Bush I and Clinton administrations argues that the current President Bush’s team has abandoned “statecraft” in favor of lecturing, posturing, bullying and bombing, thereby making the world a far more dangerous place.

Ross (The Missing Peace, 2004) is most knowledgeable about the Middle East, unsurprisingly, and issues in that region dominate his plodding but important text. He writes with great understanding about the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, Iran, Iraq and the rise of what he calls “non-state actors,” such as Osama bin Laden. He begins with a long, textbookish definition of “statecraft,” as distinguished from ordinary diplomacy. An early chapter deals with recent failures of the craft—Bush I’s neglect of the Balkans, Clinton’s inaction in Rwanda, Bush II’s bloody boondoggle in Iraq—and insists that the United States must quickly return to “a statecraft mentality.” Ross then offers a number of case studies in effective statecraft: Bush I’s handling of German reunification and his crafting of the coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait; Clinton’s tardy though effective work with the Balkans. He follows with a hard look at Bush II’s failed Iraq policies and strategies, then hammers hard his theme that our objectives must align with our means and our strategies. He identifies state-supported terror, WMDs, weak and failing states as among the most serious challenges we face today and outlines 12 rules our diplomats should follow in the practice of statecraft. Unfortunately, this section and some later ones read and look like PowerPoint presentations designed for undergraduates, and pop-culture jargon like “tough love” and “good cop-bad cop” attenuates the gravitas established earlier. Ross concludes with some strong passages dealing with our most troubling challenges: radical Islam, Iran and the rise of China.

Brimming with important ideas, well-organized and well-argued, but lacking the stylistic polish and panache that would attract a wider readership.