In This Review

A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East
A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East
By Kenneth M. Pollack
Random House, 2008, 592 pp

This big book offers nothing less than a U.S. grand strategy for the Middle East. Pollack arrives at his grand strategy by discussing seriatim such issues as oil, terrorism, anti-Americanism, nonproliferation, democratization, and the parlous condition of most Arab states, which he describes as dangerously "pre-revolutionary." Nor does Pollack neglect specific country cases. Iran: "relegate . . . regime change to the back burner." Iraq: give "the neighboring states a greater stake." Arab-Israeli conflict: Israel is a moral and strategic asset, but securing a just Israeli-Palestinian settlement is crucial. These many separate studies, packed with information and giving due attention to counterarguments, cohere into Pollack's proposed grand strategy. This is to eschew wars of choice and unilateralism (Pollack is unremittingly critical of the Bush administration) while offering a massive and sustained effort to bring about "transformation throughout the Middle East." Items in this ambitious agenda include offering as much as $10 billion annually in grants to poor Middle Eastern states, stepping up military assistance, making Arab regimes the United States' partners in reform and democratization, and committing to taking action against any Middle Eastern aggressor. Pollack's grand strategy takes the high road, but is it a path out of the desert?