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A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East Hardcover – May 13, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Survival: Journal of the International Institute of Strategic Studies"
"Magesterial...[Freedman] is decidedly level-headed, undogmatic, widely informed about things outside his discipline, and alive to the ways in which governments actually work....Freedman is a great archival historian in part because his grasp of the way decision-makers and bureaucracies interact with each other, their domestic political environment and the wider world enables him to read the fragmentary and self-serving sources more astutely than most scholars. He is also a writer who prefers to work in a jargon-free zone. "A Choice of Enemies" displays all these virtues."

About the Author

Sir Lawrence Freedman is professor of war studies at King's College, London. In 2001 he was appointed head of the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy at King's and then in 2003 vice principal for research. Before joining King's he held research appointments at Nuffield College, Oxford, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He is the author of several books of history, including Kennedy'sWars.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485180
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485184
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Roi Soleil on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've spent my adult life in the foreign affairs community and much of it in the middle-east, so have been directly involved in the events so eloquently presented in Mr. Freedman's excellent historical summary. I would divide the material presented in Choice of Enemies into two categories: One, the obvious historical presentation of facts and events that have so deeply effected not only the middle-east but the U.S. as well. Two, the more subtle but no-less profound exposure of ineptitude on the part of various U.S. presidents and their administrations (and other foreign leaders as well). It's the latter that I'd like to comment on.

Every 4-8 years we have elections in the United States to select a President, and every 4-8 years a new administration assumes power with its own agenda. The president is fully aware of the very limited time he/she has in office and is also acutely aware of how history treats success/failure. I find it intriguing that our nation's foreign policy and its immediate impact on the world and human lives can be so intertwined with the chief executives personality quirks and his administration's intellect (or lack thereof). I remember a line from All the Presidents Men when Deep Throat responds to Woodward's (Redford)rhetorical comment, "How can these guys do this" with the comment, "These guys (Nixon and company) aren't really all that bright." Example, a Baptist peanut farmer with near-fundamentalist views of right and wrong in power in 1979 during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. Completely incapable of viewing nuance in international relations or regional affairs, he often bases his initiatives on his own evaluations of other world leaders and his personal relationships with them.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a history of how the U.S. formulated and executed Middle Eastern Policy over a thirty year period from the Presidency of Jimmy Carter (1978-1982) through that of George W Bush (2000-2008). It also provides a useful, but concise summary of U.S - Middle East relations from the end of WWII to 1978. Essentially it provides an analysis not only of each presidential administration's Middle East Policy, but provides a description of how the policy formation process of each administration actually worked. Not surprisingly it was different for each president.

As the book makes clear, the U.S. has held two remarkably consistent strategic goals for this entire period: the security of the State of Israel; and the security of Middle Eastern oil production. Yet in a volatile region like the Middle East events well beyond U.S. control often erupt to disrupt the most carefully planned policy implementations. Freedman recounts for example how President Carter's tenure was defined by the Iranian Revolution and its subsequent hostage crises, even though Carter really wanted to be remembered for establishing peaceful and enduring relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians. Often the success or failure of U.S. policy in the region was a function of being able to cope with unexpected events or unintended consequences that suddenly threatened one or both of the strategic goals. Reading this book one is struck by how dicey even the best formulated policies are for this region.

Of course Freedman devotes a good deal of attention to the current administration and its involvement in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and Iraq/Iran. He attempts to trace the thought processes that gradually coalesced into what was known as Operation Iraqi Freedom and its aftermath.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Sculnick on August 14, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
thoughtfull marvelously readable and timely written withut the angst and i saw it all tone of most of the current crop of personal reflections that masquarade as learned analyses provides important backgroumd context and history that helps to make some sense of the current state of affairs recommended to anyone who really wants to learn more
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By Lizardking on March 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazing ride through the last few decades of Middle East Policy. Very even handed and fair through every administration.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Micheline Beauchemin on November 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mr Freedman explains in, sometimes excruciating details, the events and actors from the 90's leading to the current quagmire in the Middle East. Israel and Palestine are not the main topics, except for the botched attempt to root out Hezbollah in Lebanon. Rightly so because it is the main excuse used by the regimes and the citizens not to tackle more deeply rooted causes of the region descending into mayhem. The author also stresses the need for America to engage into informal dialogues with Iran, akin to the diplomacy going on behind closed doors during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, in order to build up contacts and conduits in case of disaster. If things can go wrong they will go wrong, and the situation is never that bad that it suddenly can't take a turn for the worse.
He also makes clear that America works with different timelines than the countries in the region, with electoral campaigns, regular changes of presidents and majorities in government. The Obama administration lost several years dealing with the economic crisis. In the Middle East changes are slow and rotation of political parties usually irregular but violent. US presidents, congress and the general public have very short attention spans, and the thought of leaving the wretched region sorts itself out is strong. It needs to be resisted.
The USA is in danger of adopting the ways of the Middle East instead of the other way around. The concluding chapter in just a few pages, sums up in limpid arguments, where the US policies have gone wrong and what should be done. Maybe the experiences of Japan and Germany nation building exercises don't apply as the civil societies are not strong in most of the countries engaged in conflicts with the Western world at large and the US in particular, but there is no other game in town.
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