Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East

In This Review

Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East

By Geoffrey Kemp and Robert E. Harkavy
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997
493 pp. $52.95
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Loaded with useful maps, charts, and tables, this book ranges over geography and history, "energy security," and past and prospective military operations. Five appendices, for example, one on unconventional weapons programs in the region, add to this rich diet of encyclopedic fact and interpretation. The authors define a "greater Middle East" that comprises the Arab world, Iran, Israel, and Turkey plus the Horn of Africa, the Transcaucasus, western Central Asia, and South Asia. Including the energy-rich Caspian Basin countries with the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Turkey, and Iraq produces a "strategic energy ellipse" with over 70 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Who will assure access to this strategic region? Ultimately, the United States. That the negative view so many in the region have of the United States ("Great Satan," etc.) might itself be a strategic liability demanding a lower profile is hardly considered. Western European differences with the United States over Israeli-Arab issues are to be deplored and ignored. What about the free-rider problem of countries that gain from access without contributing? It may seem unfair to criticize this excellent presentation of Middle Eastern "strategic geography" for what it does not do, but how one defines a problem shapes the answers chosen.