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Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 6, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Missteps and missed opportunities proliferate in this gripping insider history of Middle Eastern diplomacy during the Clinton administration. Indyk, former ambassador to Israel, examines the contradictions inherent in Clintons Iraq policy with a remarkable level of self-criticism and brings a nuanced perspective to his analysis of Iraqs alleged WMD programs and the reasons for and against war. The book emphasizes Clintons initial strategic focus on Syrian-Israeli relations, and the authors discussion of Syria runs parallel to his central narrative about the Israel-Palestine conflict, which traces the tumultuous eight years from the hopeful handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1993 through the beginning of the second intifada. The author achieves an impressive balance of scale, packing a tremendous amount of anecdotal information throughout, creating a portrait of diplomacy that reveals the influence of countless small details, from ceremonial gifts to friendly kisses, on world affairs. At the same time, the book surveys the enduring challenges that plagued the Clinton teams efforts to bring peace to the region, making insightful connections between the history in which the author participated and the present state of the region. (Jan.)
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"A rare book of diplomatic history that is suspenseful and dramatic. Indyk puts you inside the White House and leads you through the highs and lows of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Studded with sharp insights about people and places, this is a book to savor and also learn from. Anyone interested in the Middle East or how foreign policy actually works should read this fascinating tale." -- Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and author of The Post-American World

"The ultimate inside account of the machinations of the modern Middle East. Indyk has lived this story now for several decades, and he provides the most vivid cameos and snapshots of the personalities of the region since Henry Kissinger's memoir of his 'shuttle diplomacy' years. Indyk is honest and self-critical about his own mistakes and those of his former bosses. That's the most hopeful aspect of this remarkable memoir -- that we can actually learn from our errors. I devoured this book. As with a good novel, the story grabs hold of you and doesn't let go." -- David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post and author of Body of Lies

"Few diplomats have been as closely involved with the attempts to broker a peace treaty in the Middle East as Martin Indyk. His knowledge, experience, and candor make Innocent Abroad a fascinating book." -- Dr. Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state

"Combines an intimate memoir with a fascinating account of the roller-coaster ride that is the quest for peace between Israel and its neighbors. Vivid, sharply drawn portraits of all the players -- both heartbreaking and hopeful, this book should be in every negotiator's briefcase." -- Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords

"Timely and valuable.... Following Indyk's advice would be a good place to start."-- The New York Times Book Review

"Excellent.... Nuanced."-- Newsweek

"Incisive."-- Thomas Friedman, The New York Times (column of 1/7/09)

"Part memoir, part political analysis, elegantly written, and hard to put down."-- The New York Review of Books

"For practitioners of Middle East diplomacy, this book is essential."-- The Washington Times

"A vivid insider's account....Required reading for the next president."-- Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416594299
  • ASIN: B002PJ4GAE
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Martin Indyk, an Australian citizen and lobbyist for the Israeli government, ended up as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and the first Jewish ambassador to Israel from the U.S. during the Clinton administration. Rather than explaining how he pulled off this trick, he provides a conventional account of peace making in the Mideast during the two terms of the Clinton administration. There are significant gaps in his narrative--he hardly covers the Israeli-Syrian negotiations of 1996. He also examines the policy of dual containment applied to Iran and Iraq. Because of the scope it tends to be rather uneven, but unlike Dennis Ross he is more open about mistakes made by the administration in dealing with Arafat and the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000. He basically supports previous accounts by Clinton, Ross, and Madeleine Albright in blaming Arafat for the failure of Camp David and the peace process. But like Aaron Miller he is willing to admit American mistakes and make recommendations for future administrations. This is recommended for those wanting an overview of American Mideast policy during the Clinton years.
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Format: Hardcover
As the winds of the Arab Spring wind down and current Secretary of State John Kerry makes his push for peace in the Middle East, he would do well to learn from the lessons of the Clinton administration, the last real attempt by the U.S. to bring about a lasting peace in the region. Fortunately for us, Martin Indyk, two-time U.S. ambassador to Israel and key Middle East advisor during the Clinton years, has written a blow-by-blow account of Pres. Clinton's herculean efforts to to bring about a region-wide peace agreement through hard-nosed diplomacy. In a book of around 400-plus pages of narrative text, it is surprising how much detail Mr. Indyk is able to convey. He writes about Pres. Clinton's drive for peace deals between Israel and Syria, Jordan, and Palestine, which produced a road map for peace over the West Bank and a genuine peace deal with Jordan, and a "dual containment" strategy in regards to Iran and Iraq. He also writes extensively about how these strategies ultimately broke down by the end of Pres. Clinton's term in office. The ultimate aim of this book is draw lessons from those times to help inform future negotiators how to proceed in the Middle East. It is a fascinating account that can also be bogged down in too much diplomatic minutiae at times. Mr. Indyk tries to strike that delicate balance between the two succeeds right up to the the Camp David talks, where things slow down to a crawl. It is both fascinating and boring and should be taken in small doses. This is a fine book for those interested in trying to understand the complexities of the Middle East peace process.
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Format: Hardcover
Of all the books on American diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli peace process in recent years I like this book the best. It is rich, full of insights, well-written, with a witty sense of humour. A real treat.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been trying to learn more about the Israel/Palestine problem ever since realizing how much Muslim extremism is rooted in, or fed by, the situation there. This book sounded interesting and informative, so I checked it out. Mr. Indyk may be a smart and accomplished man, but he seems to be wearing blinders. Israel is chronically in violation of international law and of multiple UN resolutions, but Mr. Indyk covers these critical contextual aspects of the situation superficially if at all. For reasons that still aren't entirely clear to me, American foreign policy, of which Mr. Indyk was recently an instrument, has apparently long been very unbalanced and very pro-Israel. I would much prefer a more balanced perspective, both in my government and in this book.

I would strongly caution anyone not to buy this book until they listen to Mr. Indyk's 1/8/09 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. There was a man on that program with him who had a different perspective, calling attention for example to international law, to the huge consensus of world opinion that says Israel is wrong, and most relevantly to specific very significant inaccuracies in Mr. Indyk's book. Mr. Indyk failed entirely to rise to the occasion and refute the criticism, instead falling back on the dubious refuge of those whose statements don't withstand scrutiny - he attacked his critic as a "propagandist" without providing evidence or justification. In my book, anyone who resorts to those kind of labels in lieu of factual arguments isn't much worth listening to. He even made a very dismissive statement about international law, calling it something like "paraphernalia".

Listen to the interview online; if he sounds like someone you want to hear more from, or if you're really interested in his inside accounts, buy the book. For my money, I feel sure there are more clear-thinking insiders who've written memoirs we can read and learn from.
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Format: Hardcover
The 400+ page account should be read entirely as a personal perspective rather than a true representation of the facts or a 360 view of the events. As long as it is read that way, there are few criticisms that can be lodged against the book. However, the book should in not be read as an unbiased or factual representation of historical events. I think it is mistitled. This is not the account of an innocent (i.e., unbiased) observer. The author is not open to hearing others' viewpoints, and does not reference them in the narrative.
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