In This Review

Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East
Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East
By Dennis Ross and David Makovsky
368 pp, Viking, 2009

Three "myths" and a tripartite approach to transcending them frame this book. The "core mythology" is that all Middle Eastern issues are linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second myth concerns "larger themes of engagement versus nonengagement and regime change versus the change of regime behavior." And the third myth relates to the question of democracy promotion. For each of the three, Ross (now serving in the Obama administration) and Makovsky present a Goldilocks solution in which the neoconservative's approach is too hot, the realist school's is too cold, and theirs is just right. Even while dissociating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from other problems, the authors demonstrate linkages galore and stress the importance of resolving it. Surely, the old adage that in the Middle East everything is linked to everything else offers a better road map than denying any linkage between Israel and other issues. In addressing their second myth, the authors deal mainly with Iran and what are seen as its satellites, Hezbollah and Hamas, with Israel again very much in the picture. With the final section on democracy promotion including a separate chapter lauding U.S.-Israeli ties, the thrust of this book seems to offer yet another triad: the United States has only one true ally in the Middle East, Israel; its Arab friends are, alas, generally despotic and feckless; and its enemies are legion -- Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda.