In This Review

Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President
Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President
By Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk, eds.
Brookings Institution Press, 2008, 288 pp

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations have teamed up to propose a Middle East policy for the new administration. An introduction by the editors outlining an overall policy is followed by chapters setting out suggested U.S. approaches to Iraq, Iran, nuclear proliferation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Middle East economic and political development (largely democracy promotion), and counterterrorism. The work of some 18 months and 15 specialists (eight from Brookings, seven from the Council on Foreign Relations), this book should, and almost certainly will, gain the attention of the incoming foreign policy elite. It is also a first-rate primer for engaging the larger public. The overall tone is judicious, stressing diplomacy and coalition building while minimizing any resort to force. At the same time, the proposals that would restore the balance disturbed by the missteps of the previous administration hardly add up to a downsizing of diplomatic capital. Is such policy activism for the Middle East doable given the global and domestic context the Obama administration faces? A very different question is whether defining a Middle East that largely excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan is appropriate in today's world.