- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books (August 18, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307408671
- ISBN-13: 978-0307408679
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 120 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower Paperback – August 18, 2009
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“A masterpiece…Baer's brilliant analysis of Sunni versus Shia, Arab versus Iranian, and Christian versus Muslim is shocking, revealing, and provocative. Baer lifts the veil of Western media hype and challenges the simplistic solutions offered by ‘experts’ whose vision is blurred by the past. Through his knowledge, long-term experience, and ability to assess the changing landscape of this vital region, he not only shatters the foundations of conventional thinking, but also offers a practicable blueprint for turning things around.”
—John Perkins, author of the New York Times bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
“The most important and original book on the Middle East to appear in many years. Baer’s subject is the growing power of Iran; his goal is ending the pattern of American failure; his message is that we’ve been backing the wrong horse. This is a book McCain and Obama should ponder.”
—Thomas Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets and Intelligence Wars
"The Devil We Know, Bob Baer has once again peered into the future and has brought back uncomfortable truths that won't satisfy any partisan. But his book does force us to do something that, unfortunately, doesn't come naturally to the chattering classes. Think.”
—James Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
“An important text studded with keen insights into a nation about which America remains dangerously misinformed.”
“Timely and provocative...adds an important perspective to a crucial international debate.”
“Challenges conventional wisdom…[a] timely and provocative analysis.”
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
ROBERT BAER is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: Sleeping with the Devil, about the Saudi royal family and its relationship with the United States; and See No Evil, which recounts Baer’s years as a top CIA operative. See No Evil was the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. Baer writes regularly for Time.com and has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Middle East.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Though some facts and figures require updating, the work still provides a compelling account, informed by Baer’s seasoned observations and insights of Iran’s present circumstances. Baer, a former CIA operative, fluent in several of the critical languages, mines his contacts and leverages his decades-long experience to provide a cogent, part anecdotal, part analytical account of the transformative period following the 1979 revolution.
Reading the book is prompted by the present disproportionate preoccupation with the current nuclear arms agreement negotiations, as this myopic focus displaces consideration of broader more fundamental issues about our relationship with Iran. One is the recognition that entirely apart from the potential danger of a nuclear Iran, are the immediate challenges arising from a non-nuclear Iran. It is this vacant space the Obama administration and Congress have ignored, failing to even entertain discussion of the formation of a comprehensive and coherent foreign policy. Baer’s book provides a point of departure for consideration of the broader issues, which by implication should enlighten any discourse on the merits of the proposed nuclear agreement as well.
The Devil We Know rectifies this distortion by identifying Iran’s historical perception of itself as an ancient civilization, an empire for sustained periods of time, and presently a modern nation state with imperial imperatives. Baer explains Iran’s ambition to assert significant influence in the Middle East and the regime’s craving for recognition, realistic objectives justifiably consistent with its military power, strategic geography, size, and political stability.
The book’s second major contribution is Baer’s nuanced description of Iran’s transformation from a radical, revolutionary terrorist entity to a stable, calculating rational state actor. Baer posits that if we do not adjust our perception of our adversary and appreciate the changes that have occurred; if we continue to demonize Iran, we deprive ourselves of the objectivity necessary to evaluate existing dangers more accurately, and as importantly, seize opportunities for improved relations.
Baer believes that as long as we characterize Iran as an implacable and permanent enemy and avoid broad engagement, and cling to the view that military action is the best prescription for the region’s problems, we will remain enthralled in a cycle of squandered resources and needless destruction, and consequentially thwart our viable political objectives.
The work contrasts Iran favorably with our vulnerable Sunni allies, Saudi Arabia, and others and the fragile Gulf states with whom we are enmeshed; and whose interests we unquestioningly promote while eschewing engagement with the pivotal actor in the region.
This is not to suggest in any Panglossian way that Iran is a sheep not a wolf, but as the chapter, “Memories That Don’t Fade: What Iran Really Wants,” demonstrates, Iran’s aims are rooted in what they consider its core national interests (a perspective we share, in terms of creating our own foreign policy). Baer distinguishes Iran’s behavior, as a state certainly ready to use military force when necessary and one quintessentially manipulative, from the irrational and nihilistic conduct of the Sunni outliers such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, and the enabling Sunni state sponsors who have provided the support and encouragement that have spawned numerous acts of terror against the U.S. and other Western targets.
Before prematurely concluding that a process of normalization and détente is not an option, Baer urges we examine each of the objectives adumbrated in the chapter, evaluating them on their merits to see if there is enough daylight to begin talking.
Finally, as a corollary, the Epilogue articulates in broad terms the policy choices available to the U.S. in dealing with Iran, which range from aggressive and hostile actions that would involve the U.S. in protracted military conflict, to the politically unpalatable but rationally compelling possibility of “holding one’s nose”, and “settling” by negotiating on a number of issues, where a potential exists for compromise and agreement.
Baer supports his position by nine specific steps that could be taken to diminish tensions with Iran that would be mutually beneficial bilaterally and for the region at large. Several are controversial and will spark immediate objection, but should be examined and considered nonetheless.
While this book provides an advantaged starting point for those trying to work through the fog obfuscating an understanding of the present climate of hostility and distrust, my hope is that Baer will soon revise this fine work, and bring current his well seasoned and pragmatic insights, as they will certainly contribute to a more intelligent and enlightened appreciation of our critical relationship with this regional hegemon.