In This Review

Libya and the United States: Two Centuries of Strife
Libya and the United States: Two Centuries of Strife
By Robert Bruce St John
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002, 256 pp.

From the derring-do of a handful of Americans marching "to the shores

of Tripoli" in the early 1800s to the atrocity of the PanAm jet bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1987, U.S.-Libyan relations have often been sharply confrontational. This feature is all the more absurd today, since it involves a superpower positioned against a minor regional state. Libya has never presented (and could never present) the challenge to America that Egypt, Iran, and Iraq have at times posed. Yet to mention these three along with Muammar al-Qaddafi's Libya illustrates just how much modern Middle Eastern diplomacy revolves around the bilateral face-off between the great-power outsider and a regional challenger. Libya scholar St John offers a straightforward but critical historical account of U.S.-Libyan relations, relying heavily on U.S. sources. The subject is interesting enough on its own, but this book is also useful for outlining a persistent pattern in Middle Eastern diplomacy.