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“A persuasive but painful solution for dealing with the mess in the Middle East.” –Kirkus The greatest danger to America’s peace and prosperity, notes leading Middle East policy analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, lies in the political repression, economic stagnation, and cultural conflict running rampant in Arab and Muslim nations. By inflaming political unrest and empowering ter “A persuasive but painful solution for dealing with the mess in the Middle East.” –Kirkus The greatest danger to America’s peace and prosperity, notes leading Middle East policy analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, lies in the political repression, economic stagnation, and cultural conflict running rampant in Arab and Muslim nations. By inflaming political unrest and empowering terrorists, these forces pose a direct threat to America’s economy and national security. The impulse for America might be to turn its back on the Middle East in frustration over the George W. Bush administration’s mishandling of the Iraq War and other engagements with Arab and Muslim countries. But such a move, Pollack asserts, will only exacerbate problems. He counters with the idea that we must continue to make the Middle East a priority in our policy, but in a humbler, more humane, more realistic, and more cohesive way. Pollack argues that Washington’s greatest sin in its relations with the Middle East has been its persistent unwillingness to make the sustained and patient effort needed to help the people of the Middle East overcome the crippling societal problems facing their governments and societies. As a result, the United States has never had a workable comprehensive policy in the region, just a skein of half-measures intended either to avoid entanglement or to contain the influence of the Soviet Union. Beyond identifying the stagnation of civic life in Arab and Muslim states and the cumulative effect of our misguided policies, Pollack offers a long-term strategy to ameliorate the political, economic, and social problems that underlie the region’s many crises. Through his suggested policies, America can engage directly with the governments of the Middle East and indirectly with its people by means of cultural exchange, commerce, and other “soft” approaches. He carefully examines each of the region’s most contested areas, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and explains how the United States can address each through mutually reinforcing policies. At a time when the nation will be facing critical decisions about our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, A Path Out of the Desert is guaranteed to stimulate debate about America’s humanitarian, diplomatic, and military involvement in the Middle East. From the Hardcover edition.


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“A persuasive but painful solution for dealing with the mess in the Middle East.” –Kirkus The greatest danger to America’s peace and prosperity, notes leading Middle East policy analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, lies in the political repression, economic stagnation, and cultural conflict running rampant in Arab and Muslim nations. By inflaming political unrest and empowering ter “A persuasive but painful solution for dealing with the mess in the Middle East.” –Kirkus The greatest danger to America’s peace and prosperity, notes leading Middle East policy analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, lies in the political repression, economic stagnation, and cultural conflict running rampant in Arab and Muslim nations. By inflaming political unrest and empowering terrorists, these forces pose a direct threat to America’s economy and national security. The impulse for America might be to turn its back on the Middle East in frustration over the George W. Bush administration’s mishandling of the Iraq War and other engagements with Arab and Muslim countries. But such a move, Pollack asserts, will only exacerbate problems. He counters with the idea that we must continue to make the Middle East a priority in our policy, but in a humbler, more humane, more realistic, and more cohesive way. Pollack argues that Washington’s greatest sin in its relations with the Middle East has been its persistent unwillingness to make the sustained and patient effort needed to help the people of the Middle East overcome the crippling societal problems facing their governments and societies. As a result, the United States has never had a workable comprehensive policy in the region, just a skein of half-measures intended either to avoid entanglement or to contain the influence of the Soviet Union. Beyond identifying the stagnation of civic life in Arab and Muslim states and the cumulative effect of our misguided policies, Pollack offers a long-term strategy to ameliorate the political, economic, and social problems that underlie the region’s many crises. Through his suggested policies, America can engage directly with the governments of the Middle East and indirectly with its people by means of cultural exchange, commerce, and other “soft” approaches. He carefully examines each of the region’s most contested areas, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and explains how the United States can address each through mutually reinforcing policies. At a time when the nation will be facing critical decisions about our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, A Path Out of the Desert is guaranteed to stimulate debate about America’s humanitarian, diplomatic, and military involvement in the Middle East. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I read this book at a particularly fascinating time - Late February and March of 2011. Each evening when I read another chapter, it seemed the day's actual events had just rendered the strategy outlined by Mr. Pollack in that section moot. The wave of revolutions large and small sweeping the Middle East as of this writing represent the 'worst case' scenario Pollack outlines if the US does not aggressively pursue a coherent and consistent strategy there. However, despite the major theme of the bo I read this book at a particularly fascinating time - Late February and March of 2011. Each evening when I read another chapter, it seemed the day's actual events had just rendered the strategy outlined by Mr. Pollack in that section moot. The wave of revolutions large and small sweeping the Middle East as of this writing represent the 'worst case' scenario Pollack outlines if the US does not aggressively pursue a coherent and consistent strategy there. However, despite the major theme of the book literally becoming obsolete as I read, it was still a very worthwhile undertaking. The deep history of the politics of each country and insight into the motivations behind them is very valuable. To be reading the section on Syria on the very day that the government was gunning down protesting citizens was not only a bit surreal, but added greatly to my understanding of the 'big picture'. It also confirmed my observation that television news in particular, but even some 'mainstream' Internet news sites are very shallow if not outright misleading in their coverage. It is plain that the very unpalatable choices faced by the US in response to today's events are the direct result of inadequate US policies in the past, particularly those of the 'Bush 43 administration', as Pollack refers to it, that probably aggravated and accelerated the unrest and instability in the area seen today. Pollack's main theme - basically a consistent policy of constructive engagement (a 'carrot and stick') approach, perhaps even in concert with China (the other soon-to-be major superpower), is still worth studying and remembering. If the Middle East ever settles down from the current turmoil, the principles outlined will still be a useful guide. The new regimes will undoubtedly be less friendly to the US, but due to an insatiable appetite for oil in the US they will need to be dealt with...and Pollack's Path would make a good foundation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Falk

    Although this book is dated, written before the Obama administration, I found it to be a valuable source of historical information and reference material.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Reader Variety

    Any subtitle that includes "Grand Strategy" and discusses the Middle East has set a high hurdle, but Pollack does well to provide a fair-minded account of our options. He describes himself as a "liberal internationalist" for moral and strategic reasons, and claims that every time we ignore the Middle East, the region comes back to haunt us, so let's work out a strategy. Summary of his Grand Strategy is a gradual, indigenously-driven, internationally-assisted transformation: reform stagnant econom Any subtitle that includes "Grand Strategy" and discusses the Middle East has set a high hurdle, but Pollack does well to provide a fair-minded account of our options. He describes himself as a "liberal internationalist" for moral and strategic reasons, and claims that every time we ignore the Middle East, the region comes back to haunt us, so let's work out a strategy. Summary of his Grand Strategy is a gradual, indigenously-driven, internationally-assisted transformation: reform stagnant economies, improve education systems, devise a workable legal system, apply democratic principles, allow culture to come to grips with globalization. Since the time of Mohammed, the Arab world has translated fewer books into Arabic than Spain translates into Spanish in a year. If revolt occurs when expectations of a better life and reality diverge, then almost every Middle Eastern country is pre-revolutionary, but, that stage can last a long time. Governments know that there is a risk to reform - raise expectations, then unable to deliver.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ps dln

    This is a pretensious, over-weight and poorly argued book. Despite the length, few ideas are developed in a serious way. The author only nibbles at some good ideas. The author was one of the most-widely read advocates of the war in Iraq. While he now admits his (rather costly) error, much of the self-deceiving arrogance that informed his views on Iraq are replicated here. He is apparently is angling for job in the new U.S. adminstration in Jan. 2009, but based on this volume he is a very convent This is a pretensious, over-weight and poorly argued book. Despite the length, few ideas are developed in a serious way. The author only nibbles at some good ideas. The author was one of the most-widely read advocates of the war in Iraq. While he now admits his (rather costly) error, much of the self-deceiving arrogance that informed his views on Iraq are replicated here. He is apparently is angling for job in the new U.S. adminstration in Jan. 2009, but based on this volume he is a very conventional thinker, who never really challenges the Washington consensus and who fails to reveal an on-the-ground understanding of the Middle East. Like so many Washington-insiders he also has a hard time seeing how U.S. policy is contorted by its fawning approach to Israel.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rhesa

    Practically speaking, this book puts every middle east book I've read into perspective, even though I'm not American. Superb analysis & many surprising small data, although sometime a bit repetitive & fall into typical IR's phraseology. This book is like a crash course of Middle East Politics. Practically speaking, this book puts every middle east book I've read into perspective, even though I'm not American. Superb analysis & many surprising small data, although sometime a bit repetitive & fall into typical IR's phraseology. This book is like a crash course of Middle East Politics.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Creative, diplimatic approaches are presented, making this one of the best books to read about the MidEast Peace Process that I've come accross.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    An interesting read somewhere between policy wonk, policy maker, and academic. A little bit Thomas Friedman in some parts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    Ken Pollack truly is an expert in Middle Eastern politics. This book provides a lot of detail. A heavy but very educational read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Excellent book for anyone who is interested in America's relationship with the Middle East and vice versa. Covers everything from economics and defense to social and cultural ties

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I am only a few chapters in, but this is a great book to help you interpret the Middle East through all dimensions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cara M

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Blauser

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kia H

  17. 4 out of 5

    Babak

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chang

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phil Deschler

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hallquist

  21. 5 out of 5

    Onur

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chang

  23. 4 out of 5

    Don

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Caldwell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bryon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Warner

  28. 4 out of 5

    Winmonroe

  29. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Chrisman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott

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