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59 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kinzer's Bold Proposition
Stephen Kinzer's Reset provides a great short history of Iran and Turkey in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Most importantly, he provides a narrative to outline a different approach in the Middle East and the greater Muslim world. After two disastrous attempts at democracy from the barrel of a gun in Iraq and Afghanistan, US policymakers should take a long hard look at...
Published on June 16, 2010 by Jeffrey Kostoff

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Irrelevant
Reset, published in 2010, is strong in certain areas and weak in others. The background historical information about Iran and Turkey is well written and informative. Most readers may have some familiarity with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the revolution he made in transforming the Ottoman Empire into present day Turkey. The information about Reza Shah and Iran will be new to...
Published 14 months ago by Garry S. Sklar


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59 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kinzer's Bold Proposition, June 16, 2010
This review is from: Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future (Hardcover)
Stephen Kinzer's Reset provides a great short history of Iran and Turkey in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Most importantly, he provides a narrative to outline a different approach in the Middle East and the greater Muslim world. After two disastrous attempts at democracy from the barrel of a gun in Iraq and Afghanistan, US policymakers should take a long hard look at both Turkey and Iran as two Muslim nations that have been struggling to both modernize and create their own democratic structures and traditions.

Most importantly, Kinzer painfully describes the counterproductive results of the last 50+ years of US foreign policy. His descriptions of Saudi funding for US Cold War dalliances, and Israel's willingness to sell arms to the most repressive elements of Central America when Congress forbid Reagan to do so, are chilling. His solutions are to create more rational and less permissive relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict along the line of UN 242 and the Fulbright Plan, and to recognize and court Turkey as a regional bridge nation. He outlines a gradual approach with Iran to strengthen the democratic elements within that country on their own internal terms without intervention.

The timing of this book might be strained by recent the events of the Israeli/IHH flotilla travesty, and the recent "toughest sanctions ever" on Iran. However, any student of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East needs to read this book. His bibliography provides a great resource for deeper reading as well. While this book is based on solid research and academics, it is clearly written and intended for a wide audience. A great and important book.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history, naive policy, June 17, 2010
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This review is from: Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future (Hardcover)
Mr. Kinzer sure has good timing. Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future came out just as Turkey and Iran dominated the news. Turkey in particular has drawn more attention than it has in many years. Kinzer's Reset is a great read for anybody interested in the region and the importance of these two countries for U.S. foreign policy.

Kinzer's argument is that both Turkey and Iran have experience with democratic politics and would make better allies for the U.S. than our current Middle East partners - Israel and Saudi Arabia. He summarizes the history of politics in Turkey and Iran, as well as our foreign policy mistakes (particularly the overthrow of Iran's only truly democratic government, chronicled in Kinzer's excellent All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror).

Reset is written for the general public and policymakers, so Kinzer covers just enough history to inform readers unfamiliar with the region. This might make it a bit shallow for scholars who have a good grounding in the politics of these countries (or those who have read Kinzer's Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds). Nonetheless, he does manage to throw in some anecdotes and facts that will probably surprise even longtime Middle East watchers (this was the first time I had heard any details about Iran's "grand bargain" offer to the Bush administration in late 2001).

Kinzer is not a foreign policy specialist and I found his policy prescriptions somewhat naive. As much as I would love the U.S. to initiate a strategic realignment and ally with Iran and Turkey, this is would be incredibly difficult. The domestic politics in all three countries make this unlikely - in the U.S. for example, the The Israel Lobby is simply too strong. Through U.S. government securities and oil, Saudi Arabia has too much influence over our economy to make such a move politically feasible in the current recession. Moreover, Kinzer provides few details as to how we would actually go about normalizing relations with Iran.

Kinzer cites the example of Nixon in China, but there are differences. First, there was a major geostrategic imperative, namely to balance against the Soviet Union. Second, Nixon has "street cred" as an anti-communist crusader, so he possessed at least some political cover from the natural critics of Communist China, namely those conservatives like Ronald Reagan. Finally, U.S. foreign policy could be conducted in at least some secrecy before the post-Watergate reforms. Kissinger made secret trips to China through Pakistan, something inconceivable in the age of Twitter (imagine Hillary Clinton trying to visit Tehran secretly by going through Riyadh).

Ultimately, I hope many Americans read this book and gain a more nuanced understanding of the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. does need to reset its policy in the region, and I do hope U.S. foreign policymakers heed Kinzer's advice. However, Kinzer doesn't provide a detailed roadmap, and as such I'm skeptical that we'll be wise enough to actually Reset our policy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will there be a new Edition??, June 25, 2013
This review is from: Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future (Hardcover)
As I was reading this wonderful book, I was shocked to see that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was being compared to the founder of Modern Turkey -- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. I kept asking myself where did Mr Kinzer got this idea from? Even though I live overseas I have seen the gradual pressure Mr Erdogan put on the Media companies and how he didn't allow dissenting voices on Mainstream media as he got journalists either fired or imprisoned. His influence on Judicial system, Police forces and Parliament is an undeniable indication of his desire to do away with separation of Powers. The latest country wide -Gezi park protest is another sign that he is coming to the End of the road in terms of his autocratic rule.. His violent suppression of this peaceful protest (with 4 dead and counting) is another turning point which tells us Priminister Erdogan doesn't have patience for democratic process and freedom of speech. Turkish people is simply fed up... If you read the section about Mr Erdogan , one really doesn't appreciate what kind of a divisive and autocratic leader he has been to Turks for the last 10 years. But I am willing to forgive Mr Kinzer because of his desire to shed light on recent Iranian and Turkish history.

I have learned a lot from this book about Iran and how the coup that was planned against Mossadiq with British influence to protect Oil interests in Iran. Mr Kinzer's other book " Overthrow" is an incredible summary of US government interventions last 100 years as well. I recommend both of these books. The section about Mr Erdogan needs a serious Re-write,though. (re-set!?)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Irrelevant, October 10, 2013
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Reset, published in 2010, is strong in certain areas and weak in others. The background historical information about Iran and Turkey is well written and informative. Most readers may have some familiarity with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the revolution he made in transforming the Ottoman Empire into present day Turkey. The information about Reza Shah and Iran will be new to almost everyone.
Unfortunately, when Mr. Kinzer discusses what he sees as the future of American foreign policy and the Middle East, he is on much weaker ground. Ultimately, the government in Iran may change but that is the responsibility of the Iranian people, not the U.S. Ideas such as the American President imposing peace in the Middle East are hallucinatory at best.
This book is irrelevant and will become more so in the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A NEW ROUTE TO MIDDLE EAST STABILITY AND DEMOCRACY, December 26, 2013
By 
Paul Froehlich (Schaumburg, Illinois, USA) - See all my reviews
At a time when the Middle East is in turmoil and American influence is waning, it's appropriate to consider a reset of U.S. foreign policy. Stephen Kinzer proposes a shift from our failing half-century reliance upon two main regional allies to two other nations - Turkey and Iran. He makes a provocative and persuasive case that American interests coincide with Turkey's and, potentially, with Iran's.

A partnership between the US, Iran and Turkey, writes Kinzer, is the tantalizing power triangle of the 21st century. The old triangle between the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia served Washington's interest during the Cold War. But the old triangle has not produced stability. On the contrary: Left to themselves, Israel and the Palestinians are incapable of ending their destabilizing conflict, while the Saudi monarchy is the major source of funding for fundamentalist Wahhabi Muslim clerics, whose preaching inspires terrorism. Since the book was written, the Arab Spring has roiled the region, causing even greater instability.

Turkey and Iran have a long history of struggle for democracy. Both countries are the only two in the Muslim Middle East with democratic experience. Turkey is the world's most democratic Muslim country, while, according to Kinzer, the 2009 protests in Iran after a disputed election indicate the ideals of democracy are vibrant despite the theocratic veneer.

Kinzer contends that Iran, Turkey and the United States share common strategic interests:
* An interest in regional stability, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* A desire to limit Russian influence, and
* A dislike for radical Sunni movements al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The history of Iran's struggle for democracy and independence from foreign domination isn't familiar to most Americans. Iran's first experiment with democracy was crushed in 1911 when Russia occupied Tehran, dissolved Parliament, and supported a 14-year old Shah. In 1941, the Soviets and British invaded Iran and installed 21-yr old Mohammad Reza as their puppet.

After the war, Iranians were interested in democracy. Voters elected to Parliament Mohammad Mossadegh, a passionate defender of democracy and of Iranian independence and its oil. Iran got just 16 percent of revenues from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. When Mossadegh demanded 50 percent, which is what Saudi Arabia got from Amoco, the British refused. Parliament elected Mossadegh Prime Minister in 1951, and he immediately asked approval to nationalize the oil company. It passed unanimously. This set the stage for a confrontation whose effects would reverberate the rest of the century. While Churchill plotted to overthrow him, Mossadegh became Time's 1951 Man of the Year.

Eisenhower agreed to the British plan to remove Mossadegh in 1953, and Operation Ajax became the first CIA coup. With Mossadegh overthrown, Mohammad Reza Shah re-established the dictatorship, ending Iran's short experiment with democracy. In retrospect, the US coup was one of the century's most significant events. During the quarter century of the Shah's rule, Washington had portrayed the U.S.-Iran relationship as ideal, but that's not how Iranians perceived it, instead viewing the U.S. as the latest usurper.

The Shah crushed opposition with his feared security agency, the SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini denounced the Shah as an American stooge. In 1975, the Shah decreed that everyone must join his political party or be treated as traitors. Amnesty International declared Iran had the world's worst human rights record in 1975, but the US nevertheless still supported the Shah. The one institution the Shah left alone was the clergy, so political opposition took on a religious tone, since political parties were outlawed; this almost guaranteed the mullahs would succeed the Shah.

On Jan. 16, 1979, the Shah fled Iran, and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, imposing an Islamic Revolution that reverberated around the region. President Carter's decision to admit the Shah to the US for medical treatment was seen in Iran as prelude to another coup. Militants then seized the US embassy in Tehran, taking dozens hostage. The 444-day hostage crisis tainted American policy toward Iran ever since. Americans saw themselves as wronged innocents, while Iranians saw them as robbers of their democracy who had imposed and propped up the Shah.

Turkey has gotten more democratic in the last three decades.. The current prime minister, Recep Erdogan, started a new party, the AKP, and led it to a sweeping victory in 2002. Erdogan brought in broad reforms in human rights and he reduced the military's influence. With Turkey applying to the EU, Erdogan led democratic reforms required for membership, though he has also cracked down on peaceful dissent. For the first time in history, writes Kinzer, a country was led to democracy by a political party with its roots in Islam. Even pious Muslims recognize, accept and celebrate the democratic principle. The AKP synthesized Muslim identity with modern values.

By contrast, there is no democracy in Saudi Arabia, the only country on earth where the U.S. guarantees the right of one family's male heirs to rule indefinitely. The partnership started in 1945 when FDR met the Saudi king and the two leaders agreed the Saudis would sell their oil to the USA in return for American protection of the Saud regime. This gave birth to one of America's two key relationships in the Middle East. Israel is the other U.S. ally. For half a century and more, these two countries have gotten most of what they want from Washington. When Egypt's Nasser became a Soviet client, Israel came to be seen as important in the Cold War.

Reset is overdue, argues Kinzer. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are stuck in self-destructive patterns. Their partnership with the USA has not evolved as the world has and they have proven unable to achieve stability. The US and Saudi Arabia share few values. It's illegal in Saudi Arabia, for example, to even debate whether democracy should supplant monarchy. The U.S. would have more credibility advocating for democracy and human rights if it stopped supporting the Saudi monarchy and let that nation find its own future.

Turkey has unique credentials to be a regional mediator: its geographical location, its Ottoman heritage, and its successful blend of Islam and democracy. Turkey is a regional role model that has successfully balanced modernization and tradition. Turkey's new role holds great promise for the U.S. because Ankara can make deals Washington can't. Both countries share the goals of a democratic Iraq, a moderate Iran and a stable Middle East free of radical forces, curbing terrorism. The U.S. will come to appreciate the new Turkey, which is most likely to lead the Muslim world. The U.S. can't solve problems with the Muslim world by itself.

Iran is the more intractable problem. The long confrontation with the US doesn't serve US interests since none of our goals in the Mideast can be attained without Iran's help. As the last 30 years prove, an isolated Iran is a spoiler. American policies have strengthened the mullahs -- first with sanctions that enriched smugglers tied to the regime, and second by overthrowing two neighboring regimes hostile to Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The biggest sticking point today is Iran's nuclear program, which ironically started under the Shah with U.S. encouragement. The latest negotiations with the new president, Hassan Rouhani, offer the promise for an accord between Iran and the U.S., which could defuse various Middle East hotspots. Kinzer argues Americans need to realize that Iran is not fated to be their perpetual enemy. We shouldn't remain wedded to old policies, old alliances and outdated assumptions if we want to avoid repetition of old failures. ***
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reset your Dials - the Middle East in your wildest dreams!, February 15, 2013
By 
Alan Scott (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Imagine a Middle East where a democratic secular republic of Iran cooperated with America to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Iraq; where Israel and Palestine resolved to accept each other's existence and agreed on territorial boundaries; where Saudi Arabian rulers worked out a way to govern their people and relate to the outside world without the support of the US arms industry.

You may say I'm a dreamer - but I'm not the only one. Stephen Kinzer proposes these and other fabulous possibilities in this impressively researched, cogently argued, extremely readable book.

The essence of Kinzer's thesis is that, for various historical reasons, the United States is locked into two relationships in the Middle East whose continued relevance is at best questionable, and which are poisoning the diplomatic climate in the region, rendering futile all attempts to achieve long term peace and stability. He argues that America's continued support for the dysfunctional Saudi royalty, and its commitment to backing the Israelis, right or wrong, have in fact helped to create the world-wide axis of evil and terror it so wants to destroy, and actively worked against all moves to pacify and democratize the region. Kinzer proposes that the best and most logical allies for the United States in those troubled lands are Turkey and, in defiance of current logic, Iran.

One factor often lacking in discussions about the region is perspective. In order to move on from the impasse in which we find ourselves, there is a need for some historical context. This is what Stephen Kinzer provides in an accessibly slim volume.

The 1979 hostage crisis in Iran that terminated the employment of President Jimmy Carter, and brought to power the Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, was, in Kinzer's view, a predictable outcome of continued foreign interference in Iranian affairs.

Turkey's comparative advantage was, perhaps ironically, its lack of oil. When nationalists reacted against the threat of post-World War One partition, overthrew the puppet government of the last Ottoman sultan and established the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, Western powers were not inclined to force the issue. The most interesting pages of Kinzer's chapters on Turkey are those where he analyses the achievements of the current AK Party government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Having made a case for the adoption of Turkey and Iran as its new partners in the Middle East, Kinzer then turns to the matter of why the US should revise its anachronistic relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Fortunately for the credibility of his case, the author appears to have impeccable Jewish credentials, dedicating the book to his grandparents who ended their days amidst the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

The Saudis were totally opposed to the foundation of an Israeli state in Palestine - but American pragmatism carried the day, establishing friendships with two implacably opposed foes. These friendships were of particular benefit to the US during the Cold War years, however, Kinzer argues that continuation in their present form no longer serves US interests in the Middle East. On the contrary, he suggests that US support of Israel right or wrong is the single most influential factor working against the achievement of lasting peace in the region. In his final chapter, he makes the provocative statement that `Israel and Iran are in similar positions. They are the two Middle East countries most mistrusted by their neighbours, and their governments are detested by millions around the world.'

Read this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War-Gaming Iran vs. Kinzer's Caution, January 10, 2013
By 
K. Neil Earle "Neil Earle Media man" (Duarte, CA, California United States) - See all my reviews
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"Reset" is not as thorough and weighty as Stephen Kinzer's 2003 report on the U.S.-British regime change that destabilized Iran in 1953 titled, "All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror." He does appear naive in supposing a U.S. President can simply impose a "Big Daddy" style peace on Israel and its neighbors. Still, the monograph has many redeeming features. On page 214 Kinzer acts like the Boston University prof he was with a neat summary paradigm of contrasting American-Iranian psychologies. They echo and confirm National Geographic's 2008 cover story: "Ancient Iran: Inside a Nation's Persian Soul." While Time magazine columnist Joe Klein feels 2013 will be the year of a deal with nuclear-bound Iran (January 14, 2013, page 23), Kinzer's shared wisdom on his years in the Middle East makes a readable primer for updating his countrymen on that 2500 year old Middle Eastern nation with a superpower heritage.

First, says Kinzer, while America is future-oriented par excellence, Iran draws strength from its days as the enlightened Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC). The long past matters. Even recently this applies. Americans remember 1979 and the hostage crisis but Iranians have never forgotten 1953. Where America is pragmatic, says Kinzer, Iranians are methodical and persevering. The long plateau-like country has been invaded many times but has a history of outlasting its would be conquerors. Even Alexander the Great "went Persian" in the end. Americans make a mantra out of science and technology, adds Kinzer, while Iranians have the Middle Eastern love of philosophy, literature and embellishment. This cultural agenda is one reason the tragically murdered Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stephens had requested to serve in the first reopened Iranian embassy. There are Americans who understand the complexity of the Middle East and Kinzer is one of them.

These are a few background reasons why bombing Iran might be what former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (a Republican) called "catastrophic." Even for Israel. In the fall of 2004, Atlantic magazine called in War College veterans and arms inspectors to study the military options against Iran's nuclear program. Israel's successful bombing of Iraq's Osirak Reactor in 1980 quickly breaks down as an analogy. Against Iran, Israeli jets would have to be refueled and/or fly over either Iraq, Turkey or Saudi Arabia--causing a real hullabaloo. Unlike Osirak, Iran's program is scattered and well-hidden. True, American forces could inflict "severe damage" on Iran's military and nuclear facilities as the Joint Chiefs were quoted as saying in a December 17, 2007 Time article, but Atlantic's strategists had warned that Iran's scattered nuclear program may necessitate 300 "aim points." This means an expensive sustained long-term bombing offensive in a country with three times the population of Iraq and five times the land area. Would this be worth the "blow-back" affects? What if Iran cut off the vital oil artery known as the Straits of Hormuz, asked Atlantic's experts.

Still, former State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter opined to CNN on January 6, 2013 that she was "60% certain" the U.S would bomb Iran this year. One can hope that Klein's and not Slaughter's vision will prevail, giving all concerned enough time to read "Reset" and ponder the deeper lessons of history in this region where history matters so mightily.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Concise History, October 4, 2014
This review is from: Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future (Hardcover)
“Reset” by Stephen Kinzer. Subtitled: Iran, Turkey And America’s Future”.
Times Books, New York 2010

I picked up this book based upon the endorsement by Professor Andrew J. Bacevich: “History With Bite”. The author, Stephen Kinzer certainly “bit” just about every modern American president, Democratic and Republican alike. Kinzer even slips in a dig against Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919): he “…had helped overthrow Spanish power in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines”. (P 97). Most of the book, some 197 pages, is a concise and different history of the Middle East. Kinzer’s history is different since he attempts to present the story from the local side, i.e. the people in the region actually affected by the events. The author does not care for the great powers, which view the Middle East as a source of wealth (oil) or as a strategic geographical location (Suez Canal).
Carter and Reagan both blundered with Iran, Democratic and Republican. In my opinion, this book is harsher with the United States than with Great Britain. Stalin’s attempt to intimidate Turkey to allow the Soviets to build bases on the Bosphorus Straits rates only a couple of pages. During this episode, Truman sent the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) to Istanbul as a show of friendship, which permits Kinzer to give good grades to President Truman.

Throughout this history, from the early 1900s to the present, Kinzer has not emphasized the differences between Shi’ite Muslims and Sunni Muslims. This is critical. This difference has been going on for just about 1400 years, one of the longest, if not THE longest family feuds in history. This continuing conflict combined with Shira Law, has delayed Muslim democracy more than any other factor. I would have preferred more than the dozen (or so) pages in which the author addresses these differences. This brings us to the last chapter of the book, entitled, “The Door Is Wide Open”. Not only will the Shi’ite vs. Sunni issue have to be dealt with, but also the Muslim attitude towards the “Infidel”. For 1400 years, Shi’ite Muslims have been at odds with Sunni Muslims. For the same 1400 years, Muslims have been ordered to kill the infidels. In their first century, Muslims spread all along Northern Africa, and into Europe, until they were stopped by Charles Martel (688-741). Not much has changed. We now sit watching reports of the beheading of Christians. So, Kinzer’s suggestions in his last chapter can not be successful unless the Muslims change 1400 years of history. I do not see that happening.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read it for the history, not the foreign policy, June 10, 2013
By 
R. Ricks (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
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An uneven effort overall. The first half, which covers the twentieth-century history of Iran and Turkey, is quite good. Parallels are drawn between the stories of modern Iran and Turkey: moribund monarchies--Qajars in Iran and Ottomans in Turkey--are given a coup de grâce by modernizing revolutionaries--Reza Khan in Iran and Moustafa Kemal in Turkey. These firebrands' attempts to shape a new national identity employed secularizing and authoritarian means and were superficially successful, but they masked underlying tensions that became evident later. As I said, this part is written clearly and includes many memorable details, such as the story of Howard Baskerville, the American martyr in Iran's nationalist movement.

The second half (or final third, really) argues for the necessity of a "reset" in America's relationships with these two countries, which, in Kinzer's view, should replace Israel and Saudi Arabia as the two cornerstones of America's Middle East foreign policy. There's significant merit in the idea of this reset (it's clear to me that Israel commands a disproportionate share of our national attention), but Kinzer's case for actually achieving such a strategic realignment seems to rely on wishful thinking. If each of the parties could simply grow up and be reasonable, Kinzer seems to say, the need for the solution he presents would be self-evident. Unfortunately, nations don't always behave maturely, and real and symbolic slights from the past make it unlikely that the rosy scenario he paints will be realized anytime soon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! I am having a book signing for my ..., July 28, 2014
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Excellent! I am having a book signing for my The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, and "Reset" will help me a lot in my discussion abouot Iran. I highly recomment Stephen Kinzer's "Reset". I think everybody should try to educate themselves about the real history of the Middle East, and "Reset" is the book to educate you in that field. I also recommend his "Hostate to Khomeini."

Armineh Helen Ohanian
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Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future
Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future by Stephen Kinzer (Hardcover - June 8, 2010)
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