Defining the Middle East to include India and Pakistan, Barrett offers an intriguing revisionist thesis: the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies were not all that different in their Middle East policies. For both, containment of communism was the cornerstone, and both emphasized economic development (the economist Walt Rostow served in both administrations). Also, just as the Eisenhower administration abandoned activism for more modest policies following setbacks sustained in 1958, so, too, did the Kennedy administration start off strong only to face later the limits of seeking to co-opt the likes of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru or push the shah of Iran toward democratization. This detailed study, which draws deeply on the dauntingly massive official records (U.S. and also British), offers the most detailed and coherent account available of the U.S. officialdom's actions and thoughts during the years 1958 to 1963 (the earlier period, 1953-58, is covered in a single short chapter). An added bonus: the many detailed notes teem with the author's appraisal of the scholarly literature on the subject.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.