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A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East--from the Cold War to the War on Terror Hardcover – December 23, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this epic, remarkably readable history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East from Eisenhower to Bush II, Washington Post reporter Tyler uses an up-close, journalistic style to depict the power struggles and compromises that have defined the past half-century. Tyler focuses on key turning points in U.S.–Middle East relations and documents the conversations and real-time decision-making processes of the presidents, cabinet members and other key figures. Readers are treated to an intimate view of Eisenhower's careful, steady diplomacy during the Suez crisis, Kissinger's egocentric and fateful decision to fully arm Israel in the October war of 1973 while Nixon struggled through the Watergate scandal, and the tangled web of communication and intentional deceit during the Reagan administration that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. Tyler makes the issues and relationships clear without resorting to oversimplification or ideological grandstanding, and his journalistic instincts steer him toward direct quotation and telling anecdotes rather than generalization. Readers in the market for an examination of how leadership has embroiled the U.S. in the Middle East are well-advised to consult this riveting text. (Jan.)
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"[Narrator Michael Prichard's] ability to turn laborious historical narrative into nuanced, comfortable sentences makes the story easy to follow and remember." ---AudioFile
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374292892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374292898
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patrick Tyler was born in 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri, but grew up in Texas where he attended Ross Sterling High School in Baytown, and attended the University of Texas at Austin for one year (in Physics) before moving to South Carolina, where he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1974 with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. He edited two weekly newspapers in rural South Carolina (1974), before spending a year at The Charlotte (N.C.) News. In 1976, he joined The St. Petersburg Times. In 1978-79, he produced and hosted a PBS Network series, Congressional Outlook, and the next year joined The Washington Post, where he worked for 12 years covering defense, intelligence and national policy issues. From 1986-89 he was Middle East Bureau Chief for The Post. He resigned in 1990 to join The New York Times in Washington as military analyst, then resumed his career as a foreign correspondent based first in Beijing, then Moscow, Baghdad and London, from where he resigned in 2004. His books include a history of the nuclear attack submarine program under Admiral Hyman G. Rickover ("Running Critical," Harper & Row, 1986), a history of American relations with China ("A Great Wall," PublicAffairs, 1999) and a history of American presidents and the Middle East ("A World of Trouble," Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009). He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Linda, an author and teacher. His home page is: www.patricktyler.org

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Greg on February 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Patrick Tyler's approach is dispassionate and concise, and it's clear he has done his homework. Americans who have any interest in the Middle East must read this book or their understanding of their own leaders will be incomplete.

The only president who comes out looking OK is Eisenhower. The rest of them are a sad lot and a couple of them were outright disasters, and Tyler doesn't care how politically popular they are or how much trouble he is likely to get in from their apologists. His sole purpose in this book is to offer the reader a clear-eyed, non-partisan view of America's top officeholder. I recommend this book to the smartest people I know.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ed Ball on January 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a 20 year Navy veteran, I've often stated "history repeats itself" and this book tells us why. Power, corruption, naive aspirations, incompetence, risk takers, spiritual quests, political ransom, blood letting, heroics, leadership, major accomplishments, scheming, and simple minded childish behavior it's all here. We call them Mr. President.
Highly recommended, make sure you have plenty of time off, you won't put this one down! This will probably change your opinion of our role in the Middle East, it has mine. You be the judge.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert Barkin on January 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Not just a well-told tale that takes you deep into the history, places and players that have involved America in the middle east, this book smartly reveals the incredibly complex matrix from which today's problems emanated. Tyler's rich character portraits bring life to the names and figures that have been reported on and analyzed before, but not really brought alive for the reader until now. If you read only the opening chapter, you will know more about the personality and character of George Tenet than any other reporting has offered.

It's a great piece of historical reporting woven into a fast-moving, very informative and entertaining book. Very highly recommended if you have any interest in knowing what the middle east is all about or if you just want to understand why this part of the world so heavily shapes American policies.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on June 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"A World of Trouble" is a history of the US involvement in the Middle East, which offers an accessible and insightful, if overlong and somewhat uneven, introduction to the story of the turbulent area in our times.

Given that the book covers some fifty years - from the mid 1950s until the second administration of George W. Bush, it resists easy summery; There's simply too much going on, from the complicated relationship of Jimmy Carter and the Shah of Iran, to the minuet of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. The book also skips forward and backwards, touching some issues only very briefly (the George W. Bush presidency and the transformations it brought are treated particularly lightly).

One theme is the general incompetence of US Presidents. Only Dwight Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush come out of the book with their reputation more or less intact; Jimmy Carter wins praise for his assuring of the Egyptian-Israeli peace, but is severely criticized for his ineffective policy vis a vis Iran. Reagan, Bush Jr., and Clinton receive little but scorn, although Tyler acknowledges that Clinton had great empathy for both Jews and Arabs.

Richard Nixon is the most interesting case. Tyler asserts that Nixon understood the Middle East well enough, but that he let his policies be shaped by Henry Kissinger, who, rather than a cold hearted Realist, is portrayed here as a Sentimental, instinctive pro-Israeli player. I'm not familiar enough too judge, but other accounts of Kissinger's involvement in the Middle East present him in a much more positive light - see particularly Aaron David Miller's The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeff W Traylor on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent review of US relations in the Middle East. While I thought Tyler was generally even handed, I felt he was more sympathetic to the Palestinians regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. At one point, as Arafat was ready to torpedo a peace resolution on the most trivial basis, Tyler says, "that was Arafat being Arafat." Not the most insightful or well reasoned explanation of Arafat or his motives. I also think Tyler's critique of Carter was far too forgiving, especially given Carter's subsequent actions and statements regarding foreign policy the last few years. Having said all that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the complexities of the Middle East.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kishore on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have always found the Arab-Israeli conflict confusing; I never fully understood the genesis of the conflict and why these two Abrahamic people were always at each other's throats; and of course I never really understood what the hell the USA was doing there over the years, poking and prodding and in general bumbling around. This brilliant book explain the whole gamut of issues starting with the British Mandate at the end if WW I all the way through to the reign of Emperor George Bush II.

The author is almost always rather harsh on the US approach which I found somewhat refreshing. And his passages on how successive Israeli PMs (Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin) have consistently thumbed their nose at American presidents was very consistent with what Benjamin Nethanyahu did to Barak Obama recently. Mr. Taylor sure knows what he is talking about. And his insights about Jimmy Carters breakdown and Regan's onset of Alzheimer's lends poignancy and makes these super powerful people very very human.

Though repetitive at times (and in the Middle East, history itself keeps repeating itself again and again), this book is eminently readable. If you want to read one single book to get a full grasp of Middle East politics, this is the book you need.
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