The misperceptions and misdeeds of the United States in the Middle East from the time of Dwight Eisenhower to the closing days of the presidency of George W. Bush frame this big book. Eisenhower gets favorable mention for his actions during the Suez crisis in 1956, but few plaudits are to be found thereafter. The Six-Day War on Lyndon Johnson's watch was "a failure of American diplomacy." Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is charged with a pro-Israeli slant during the 1973 October War. Indeed, pro-Israeli policy "failings" constitute something of a leitmotif throughout the book. As for the Bill Clinton years, the headings of the two relevant chapters tell it all: "Tilting at Peace, Flailing at Saddam" and "Flight From Terror, Lost Peace." George W. Bush's war in Iraq is depicted as neither just nor necessary. Tyler's story, told largely in terms of the personal contacts and confrontations between U.S. and Middle Eastern political figures over more than a half century, is well researched and readable. His judgments are almost always persuasive and in a few cases refreshingly original. And yet, a little bit less judging and more interpreting would have been nice.
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