In This Review

Re-engaging the Middle East: A New Vision for U.S. Policy
Re-engaging the Middle East: A New Vision for U.S. Policy
Edited by Dafna H. Rand and Andrew Miller
330 pp, Brookings Institution Press, 2020

Rand and Miller, both veterans of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and advisers to the current presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, use this edited volume to present a vision for future U.S. policy in the Middle East. Their contributors come largely from what they call “the emerging generation of Middle East experts,” and the results are mostly edifying: a collection of knowledgeable and restrained—albeit fairly predictable—treatments of U.S. interests and options in the Middle East. Although they strike a deliberate contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in both tone and substance, the authors are also refreshingly candid about the failures of the Obama administration in the Middle East. But they continue to struggle with some of the same dilemmas: the United States is overcommitted in the region, but, as Trump also found, “rightsizing” is fraught with its own risks. The contributors invoke U.S. “moral leadership” and call for “humility,” but such talk can ring hollow in light of U.S. reluctance to defend the rights of Palestinians and human rights more broadly in the region. Perhaps the most important blind spot is the frequent confusion of the interests of states with the calculus of regimes, a distinction U.S. policymakers will have to make if they want to navigate the challenges of the Middle East.