Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East

Overview

Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future

Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the nature and motivation of Middle East countries and their leaders. In Myths, Illusions, and Peace, the ...

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Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East

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Overview

Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future

Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the nature and motivation of Middle East countries and their leaders. In Myths, Illusions, and Peace, the authors debunk these damaging fallacies, held by both the right and the left, and present a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region.

Among the myths that the authors show to be false and even dangerous is the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems; that regime change is a prerequisite for peace and democracy; and that Iran's leadership is immune from diplomatic and economic pressure.

These and other historic misunderstandings have generated years' worth of failed policies and crippled America's ability to make productive decisions in this volatile part of the world, a region that will hold the key to our security in the twenty-first century. Ross and Makovsky offer a critical rethinking of American perceptions at a time of great import and change.

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Editorial Reviews

Howard W. French
The authors advocate secret, high-level diplomacy with Iran, while working in concert with other Middle Eastern countries, the European Union and Russia. And they suggest a short time frame: 90 days. More specifically, they say, beyond that 90-day period "dissuasion steps" should begin. At a minimum, Mr. Ross and Mr. Makovsky conclude chillingly, "the use of force against Iran will look dramatically different should good faith, direct negotiations be tried and fail."
—The New York Times
Adam LeBor
Ross and Makovsky have used their decades of experience and insider knowledge to write a trenchant and often pugnacious demolition of numerous misconceptions about strategic thinking on the Middle East…The authors' strength is innovative thinking.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Ross (The Missing Peace) and Makovsky (Making Peace with the PLO) contend that if the U.S. wants to broker peace in the Middle East, it must cease operating from ideological assumptions and "see the world as it is." Ross, now an adviser to Hillary Clinton, was chief negotiator for the Clinton administration, and Makovsky is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; their call comes with real bona fides. "Context matters," they write-but they, too, fail to consider the entire context in question: Israel is all but denied agency, as the authors fail to address the impact of its occupation of Palestinian lands. What may be the crux of the book is found in a mention of This Much Too Promised Land by Ross's former deputy, Aaron David Miller, which examines American negotiating mistakes, including the efforts of his and Ross's team. Ross and Makovsky's open antagonism to Miller suggest they may be less interested in learning from errors than in explaining why everyone else is wrong. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Bush I and Clinton peace negotiator Ross (Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World, 2007, etc.) and journalist Makovsky (Making Peace With the PLO: The Rabin Government's Road to the Oslo Accord, 1995) seek to correct some fallacies about the Middle East. No Arab government, the authors write, protested when, in 2007, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor that Syria was building. That, they explain, is because "most Arab governments want Israel to be strong when it comes to Iran, Hizbollah, Hamas, and Syria," and because most of those governments mistrust Iran as a potential threat with designs on, among other things, Arab oil. Setting aside the tedious construct that all official American thought vis-a-vis matters Middle Eastern has been marred by myths and illusions-the corollary being that only this book is correct on such things, much too daring a claim-Ross and Makovsky venture some Machiavellian divide-and-conquer strategies that have the potential to solve multiple problems at once. Everyone wants peace between Israel and Palestine, for instance, except for a certain percentage of radicals on both sides. Peace would have the further benefit of depriving the radical fringe in the Arab world-at whose extreme stands al-Qaeda, as well as Iran-from having a unifying cause to complain about. Forget the old orthodoxies about linkage, the authors write. When it comes to outflanking Iran, purity of procedure is less important than effective action. Hybrid approaches, they write, are more realistically situated than the triumphalist claims of the neoconservatives who brought us the Iraq War. On that note, they write, "the Bush years have left a woeful legacy: the forces thatreject peace are far stronger than they have been . . . [and] the forces favoring coexistence are far weaker." Yet the authors express hope that a new administration might make headway in securing America's interests in the region. Though mostly addressed to the inside-the-Beltway crowd, Ross and Makovsky's book merits wider attention-and is sure to tick off certain readers in Tehran, Damascus and perhaps Tel Aviv.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670020898
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/11/2009
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Ross is special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Gulf and Southwest Asia. He is the author of the bestselling The Missing Peace.

Analyst and former journalist David Makovsky is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of Making Peace with the PLO.

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