Gerges (Middle Eastern Politics/London School of Economics; The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 2011, etc.) succinctly traces the history of the West’s relationship with the Middle East and pulls no punches as he iterates the trail of failed policies.
The Middle East has always been a hotbed, but now it is a conflagration waiting to ignite. The dissolution of trust and friendship toward the West, beginning with French and English imperialism up to the current Israeli doctrine of permanent conflict, is reaching critical mass. These ex-colonies wanted development, modernization and relief from economic hardship, while all the West wanted was to thwart communism and control the area’s oil. Policy decisions were based on containment of the Soviets, but the focus has now shifted to stifling Iran’s influence and that of militant Islamism. As a leading authority on the Middle East, Gerges’ extensive research and analysis exposes the effects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the war on terror and the emerging power of Turkey, Iran and Egypt. The author excoriates the Bush administration and its imperialistic “continuity of failure,” from the act of rejecting Iran’s offer of help after 9/11 to unilateral war in Iraq. The president’s neoconservative advisers used exaggeration, overreaction and crusading impulses to further their goals, tactics that poisoned the entire Middle East against the United States. Obama’s attempts at conciliation have been repeatedly stymied by the constraints of the American political system and his own protracted efforts to build consensus. Frustrated Arab states are weary of rhetoric and distrust America’s inaction as they turn to the rising powers of Turkey, Egypt and Iran for solutions. Gerges lays out the problems from multiple viewpoints and establishes the points of greatest need. How Obama addresses the challenge to America’s hegemony and whether he can stand up to political pressure from home will determine if this is truly the end of America’s moment in the Middle East.
An exceptional book that thoroughly scrutinizes the struggles of all the nations of the Middle East and doesn’t hesitate to distribute blame where it’s warranted.