THE EAGLE AND THE LION: America and Iran by James A. Bill
Kirkus Star

THE EAGLE AND THE LION: America and Iran

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Written with superb narrative fluency and marshalling a wealth of scholarship and firsthand experience, this is a masterful recounting of American involvement in Iran from the 1940's to the ""secret reentry"" of 1985-86. Bill (International Studies/William and Mary), an Iran-scholar of distinction, presents this history as a ""case study"" in the failure of US foreign policy. In embracing the Shah after engineering the overthrow of Musaddiq in 1953, the US, Bill avers, set in motion social forces that culminated in the Iranian Revolution--after Vietnam, the greatest debacle in postwar foreign policy. Bill shows conclusively that this debacle was inevitable, especially given the ""massive ignorance, bureaucratic conflict, Soviet-centricity, economic obsession and the prevalence of informal or privatized decision making"" that distinguished the American approach to Iran. Identifying the Shah and his elite coterie with the Iranian people, the US deluded itself into believing that its massive investment in modernizing and arming Iran brought stability to the country. Bill documents the ""politics of greed, misunderstanding, oppression and suffering"" that marked this consort with the Shah. He examines in full the tyranny of the Shah, the politics of oil, the seduction of the American establishment (""Pahlavism in America""), the rise of Khomeini and Islamic fundamentalism, the proclamation of an Islamic Republic, the taking of the American hostages, the arms-for-hostages overture of the Reagan Administration. He also analyzes the intelligence and policy failures that further magnified the debacle, and concludes his definitive study with ""twelve foreign policy lessons"" that address the ""systematic"" nature of American foreign policy failure. A profoundly important, moving, and timely book that reveals a tragic tale of American arrogance and ignorance.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1988
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press