- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374281246
- ISBN-13: 978-0374281243
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In what should become required reading for those interested in the Middle East, Cohen, director of the Institute of Middle East Peace and Development, provides a richly detailed history of diplomacy in the region and its implications for current relations. The book begins with Woodrow Wilson's idealistic initiatives, which germinated into a confused legacy [that] continues to be at the heart of the problem between the United States and the Middle East. Cohen takes a tour of major players and key events, including Egypt and its nationalist movement, Iran under British imperialism, the roots of a Saudi-U.S. alliance and the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cohen provides broad suggestions for contemporary diplomacy, generally emphasizing the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all policy. He discusses policies in the region of both Bush administrations, and remains timely in presaging the new administration's diplomatic message. When Cohen concludes, To overcome despair over these relationships, which is now so common, requires the elaboration in our imagination of a best-case scenario, he sounds prescient, and the rigorously researched history he provides make his words ring true. (Nov.)
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To me, this book raises three important questions:
* When will we overcome the naïveté of Wilsonian internationalism?
* Are our national interests limited to the "realpolitik" of cold war rivalries, oil, and an obsession with short terms fixes to deep-seated problems?
* Can we fathom the complex and nuanced realities of the Middle East and the Arab world?
Suffice it to say that the legacy of the Ottoman Empire remains. The politics forged in this era are the contemporary lions wrapped in the lamb-skins of national identities.
A social psychologist by training, Stephen P. Cohen has interacted with many of the principal leaders in the region over the past thirty-five years, and has often used his unique skills to open channels of communications among them. He writes a richly textured account of what is happening in the Middle East, based on his insights about the peoples who are living there and how they understand their historical narratives.
Cohen challenges us to think about where we should be going - not only in terms of statecraft and economic interests but also in terms of group dynamics. 'From the War of Ideas to the Peace of Ideas,' the title of the last chapter, provides a prescription for exercising soft power in the digital age. It's essential to focus on the cultural consciousness of groups in the region, and learn how to foster meaningful connections among them.
All in all, I believe that anybody who wants to be seriously informed about our current struggles across the Middle East should read this book and contemplate its lessons.
I highly recommend this book to Americans working or living in the Middle East and especially to military officers and diplomats.