This is a study that delights in challenging conventional wisdom and often is quite persuasive. The author challenges much of the rationale for American involvement in the Middle East, arguing that the powerful pro-Israeli and pro-oil lobbies have both, for different reasons, wanted the United States to make commitments in the region. The recent Gulf War brought these two domestic forces together behind an interventionist policy, but the author thinks that the United States would serve its own interests and the region would be better off if Washington were gradually to disengage diplomatically and militarily. Some of the author's pessimism about the prospects for an active American policy seem to be related to the intransigence of the former Likud government, and it is not quite so clear whether his prescription for pulling back from the region would now mean abandoning the peace process. The book is often stimulating, but also often frustrating. What is one to do with a throw-away line that implies that the region would be more stable if Israel and Iraq both had nuclear weapons? He also seems excessively optimistic about the possible role that Europe might play in helping the region tackle its many problems.
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