In This Review

America and the Muslim Middle East: Memos to the President
America and the Muslim Middle East: Memos to the President
Edited by Philip D. Zelikow and Robert Zoellick
The Aspen Institute, 1998, 194 pp.

An account of a group discussion organized around nine papers treating four subjects -- the Muslim world in general, U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey -- and concluding with policy recommendations for the president. The papers are well done, and the recommendations are sound enough if rather cautious: for example, the United States should devote more attention to Saudi Arabia and Turkey and view "democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law, and free market economies with sympathy" while soft-pedaling direct U.S. Action. More interesting are the suggestions that the United States consider "moving U.S. Air force activities out of Saudi territory" and ending its futile unilateral efforts to isolate Iran. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, however, are only part of the "Muslim Middle East." Why no coverage of Egypt, Sudan, the Maghrib, or the simmering religious-political movements in the Fertile Crescent? for that matter, is the "Muslim Middle East" a useful rubric? Several contributors suggest it is not. Then, too, the ingrained bipolar thinking ("the United States and . . .") misses the potential for a less assertive and less costly U.S. policy through cooperation with other interested parties, such as Europe and Japan.