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Publishers WeeklyPowers (The Intelligence Wars) is a journalist whose recent writings focus on policy and intelligence. This anthology of pieces published between 2003 to 2008, all but one in the New York Review of Books, offers a scathing and eloquent critique of the Bush administration's Middle East policy. Its main points are familiar. Even before 9/11 the president and his advisors were planning to use U.S. military power to "make the Middle East safe for America and its friends" ("Friends" being a transparent euphemism for Israel). Powers's most controversial, and as yet unverifiable, thesis is that Afghanistan and Iraq were merely steps to the primary goal: ending a potentially nuclear-armed Iran's threat to the Persian Gulf. Powers describes a series of ill-considered actions generating intractable new problems, including two expensive wars, the draining of American moral capital and reducing foreign policy to threats unenforceable by overextended armed forces. But the book suffers from the familiar error of America-centeredness. Powers repeats Bush's flawed assumption that the situation lay essentially within America's capacity to determine. A broader perspective might suggest that the Middle East offers no good options except in hindsight.
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