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Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East

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Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the nature and motivation of Middle East countries and their leaders. In Myths, Illusions, and Peace, the authors debunk these damaging fallacies, held by both the right and the left, and present a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region. Among the myths that the authors show to be false and even dangerous is the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems; that regime change is a prerequisite for peace and democracy; and that Iran's leadership is immune from diplomatic and economic pressure. These and other historic misunderstandings have generated years' worth of failed policies and crippled America's ability to make productive decisions in this volatile part of the world, a region that will hold the key to our security in the twenty-first century. Ross and Makovsky offer a critical rethinking of American perceptions at a time of great import and change.


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Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the Two experts debunk misconceptions about the Middle East and set clear-eyed policies for the future Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the nature and motivation of Middle East countries and their leaders. In Myths, Illusions, and Peace, the authors debunk these damaging fallacies, held by both the right and the left, and present a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region. Among the myths that the authors show to be false and even dangerous is the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems; that regime change is a prerequisite for peace and democracy; and that Iran's leadership is immune from diplomatic and economic pressure. These and other historic misunderstandings have generated years' worth of failed policies and crippled America's ability to make productive decisions in this volatile part of the world, a region that will hold the key to our security in the twenty-first century. Ross and Makovsky offer a critical rethinking of American perceptions at a time of great import and change.

30 review for Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kash

    The only chapters of this book that concern me are those the authors have allocated to the current Iranian regime. For one thing, I am so happy that Obama's attempt to legitimize the murdering regime of Iran have failed solely due to the recent uprising of the Iranian people. But these authors have me worried more because they are the men who will shape the Iran policy in the next few years. (Hopefully Obama will be out of office by 2012). Okay here is my beef with the Iran related chapters: 1-The The only chapters of this book that concern me are those the authors have allocated to the current Iranian regime. For one thing, I am so happy that Obama's attempt to legitimize the murdering regime of Iran have failed solely due to the recent uprising of the Iranian people. But these authors have me worried more because they are the men who will shape the Iran policy in the next few years. (Hopefully Obama will be out of office by 2012). Okay here is my beef with the Iran related chapters: 1-The authors had me until they came to discuss the so-called Iranian Fax message on pages 188-189. The author implies that the United States spurned a legitimate Iranian offer to settle all debts, so to speak, by striking a "grand bargain" and this offer supposedly came in 2003 via a Swiss Diplomat named Tim Guldimann. The offer is often cited by the leftists as evidence that President Bush's administration recklessly flopped a legitimate opportunity to engage in meaningful dialog with Iran. But again, this is nonsense. As AEI's Iran expert Michael Rubin has explained (michaelrubindotcom) , the Guldimann memo was the work of a wishful thinking, freelancing, Western diplomat, and not a serious attempt by the Iranians to strike a deal. And guess who took that fax message to the US officials? A well-known Iranian regime agent named Trita Parsi whose organization is funded by the Iranian regime. So the authors lost credibility the moment they started discussing this fake grand bargain offer. 2- The authors want us to believe the Iranian regime is just like any other functioning government/state. The authors of this book fail to understand one thing: That the Iranian regime leadership/mullahs DO NOT care about the well-being of the Iranian people. They don't have the land of Iran on their list as something they'd like to protect. They consider ISLAM and their faith as something holy and more scared. This is a common belief among Iranian people (including those I know) that the Iranian regime acts as if it is an occupational army. To give you an example, I'd refer you to how they treat victims of natural disasters in Iran. The Iranian regime does not care about IRAN. Period! So how could you deter them if they don't care about that country? You can not deter bunch of radical Muslims whose top priority is to keep their Islamic faith intact. 3- I guess the authors have only found one label better than others to attack their critic: Neo-Cons. And this is what Left likes to do. They have mainly pointed at The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction Michael Ledeen. They do not attempt to refute what Dr. Ledeen has said in terms of his thoughts or policy suggestions. But the only thing authors do not in this book regarding their so-called Neo-Con critics is to tackle the policy suggestions made by the neo-cons. Why? 4- I understand that the main goal of the US govt should be to further its own interests in any possible way. This is what governments SHOULD do. That's why they are there. But what these authors propose in dealing with the current Iranian regime is way more expensive, costlier and more dangerous than any other method. Consider that what these authors propose (DIPLOMACY) fails. What will be left is DIRECT military intervention by the United States in Iran. Whereas if the United States help change the regime in Iran, the costs will be far lower. The job will be done by the Iranian people and not the US soldiers. Why would they not want to try the cheaper way? I hate to say this but it is in the nature of the left to come across as 'Imperialists'. It's either their way or highway. So let me make this clear: My understanding of this book was that if what the authors say fail, there will be direct US military intervention (either in offering deterrence or air strikes against nuke facilities). I still can not understand why regime change option is a bad option. Authors fail to explain this to me as a typical reader. They have not analyzed the possibilities that the removal of this regime can bring to the table. They want the status-quo and they are wrong to be for Status-quo. The benefits of regime change in Iran outweighs anything one can imagine. You could imagine the effect that a secular democratically elected Iranian government can have in the region especially for the Israelis and how it will weaken the Russians, Venezuelans, Syrians and other terrorist groups in the region. You can not deter a terrorist government. Can you? 5- What the authors have offered were tried in 1990s and from 2004 to 2008. It did not work. The US govt offered apology for 1953 incidents in Iran during the 2nd term of Clinton presidency. Pres Bush did not approach the Iranian regime in 2005-08 period the way he did in 2002-03 period. He was cautious and less aggressive. The United States offered all sorts of carrots to the regime in these periods and none worked. One wonders why? So why should the United States try failed approaches again? Should the authors not investigate the nature of the regime rather than blaming the US good intentions during those periods? 6- The Europeans have been negotiating with the regime for as long as one could possibly imagine. The Europeans are more important to the regime than the US is. Why? Because if we consider the trade an important tool of foreign policy, the EU holds more sway over the mullahs in that field. The amount of EU-Iran trade is far more than the amount of US-Iranian trade. They could offer anything to the Iranian regime to have them stop the pursuit of nuclear weapons/energy. They have failed. The authors do not realize that no amount of bargaining and negotiations will stop the dangerous agenda of the current Iranian regime. The Europeans offered airplane spare parts, economic incentives, technology and WTO invitation and so on. If the Iranian regime genuinely believed in advancing the quality of lives of its citizens and its own standing in the international community, it could have taken up on those offers, halts its nuke program and be reasonable. Mullahs have not done so. Why? I won't provide the answer but the authors did not provide the answers either. Again why not? 7- The authors constantly refer the reader to dubious Iran experts like Ray Takeyh Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs who is a very suspicious individual in terms of his loyalties. Many in the Iranian community (iranianlobbydotcom) believes that individuals like him do not take their orders from where they should. Some point at his loyalties and how he is advancing the Iranian regime agenda within the American media or government. Why would the authors refer to such sources whose fairness is in question by so many people? Then there are names like Mahdi Khalaji, Trita Parsi, Karim Sadjadpour... etc. These individuals have little or no credibility among serious Iran experts. They have been exposed for who they really are. It's important that readers know who these guy work for. There are so many points to make about this terrible book. But a few things are clear to me. The failed ideas of 1990s that led to terrorist attacks of September 11th are back again and those who are put in charge of Iran policy KNOW NOTHING about Iran personally. They have never been to Iran. They don't speak the language and those who advise them are dubious characters like the ones I mentioned above. The authors suggest that Neo-Conservatives suffer from wishful thinking and they see the region as they wish. It's not the case. The authors who happen to be REALISTS suffer from this illness. They want to shape the region the way they want and they CAN'T see the region for what it really is. They want us to believe that the Iranian regime is just like any other nation-state. Well, they are wrong. They've been proven wrong. Again, I am so happy that Obama's effort to legitimize the current Iranian regime has failed and I hope the effort to negotiate with the Iranian regime fails even more. The Iranian people deserve to be free and the best thing people like Dennis Ross, Hilary Clinton or 0bama can do is to leave us alone. We don't need their help (since they offer no help) and we demand that they stop trying to legitimize our oppressors.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gerry Connolly

    Dennis Ross and David Makovsky wrote Myths, Illusions and Peace back in 2009. Much has happened in the Middle East since. Insightful though this book is, it insists there is no linkage between Israel and the Arab states. In making that argument they ignore huge linkages like Jerusalem, settlements, human rights violations while critiquing Arab governments, correctly, for their lack of civic life and democracy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    jordan

    Every year, we get treated to a torrent of banal, predictable books about the Middle East. Occasionally one floats above the flotsam to offer not only real insight, but genuine thoughtful recommendations on new paths the United States might pursue in its diplomacy with that chaotic region. “Myths, Illusions, & Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East” is fortunately in that rare second category. Ambassador Dennis Ross, among America’s most seasoned diplomats, and co-author D Every year, we get treated to a torrent of banal, predictable books about the Middle East. Occasionally one floats above the flotsam to offer not only real insight, but genuine thoughtful recommendations on new paths the United States might pursue in its diplomacy with that chaotic region. “Myths, Illusions, & Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East” is fortunately in that rare second category. Ambassador Dennis Ross, among America’s most seasoned diplomats, and co-author David Markovsky successfully demolish many fictions on which our Mideast diplomacy is often based. Neocons imagine that negotiating with autocrats is by definition fruitless and that the seeds of democracy wait to bloom beneath every Arab street, needing only a little fertilizer. Their opponents, so-called “Realists,” claim that ideology and religion are just veneers for power politics and that America’s “rational” calculus is universal and axiomatic. Both cling to the specious notion that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of all the regions woes and conflicts -- despite the countless wars, coups, massacres, as well as retarded economic and political development among the Arab states which have nothing to do with Israel. Yet beyond this books careful historical analysis, the authors build on the shards of past misguided policies to offer new and practical way to precede that could serve as a roadmap for the Obama administration. Iran, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islamic extremists, continue to be among our nation’s most vexing foreign policy challenges. Ross and Markovsky discuss unused diplomatic tools that could be brought to bear on Iran, ways to strengthen the hands of moderate forces in the regions, and strategies to strength civil society among the regions autocratic regimes to lay the foundation for growth and future freedom. Though occasionally “Myths, Illusions, & Peace” reads like a long, imploring memo to the state department – and they would do well to study it -- serious students of America’s role in this crucial region will not be dissuaded by its density. Indeed they will find it a rich and thought provoking text that they will want to consult again and again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I can't think of a better book to inform oneself about the current state of affairs & choices facing the US in the Middle East. I thought this book was very fair in examining the two competing schools of thought within the government over the past few decades vis a vis the Middle East. Ross & Makovsky present their views on how the US should address the situations in Israel/Palestine, Iran, Lebanon/Syria, and the Middle East at large. Frankly, their prescriptions seem very compelling. With David I can't think of a better book to inform oneself about the current state of affairs & choices facing the US in the Middle East. I thought this book was very fair in examining the two competing schools of thought within the government over the past few decades vis a vis the Middle East. Ross & Makovsky present their views on how the US should address the situations in Israel/Palestine, Iran, Lebanon/Syria, and the Middle East at large. Frankly, their prescriptions seem very compelling. With David Ross now working in the Obama administration, I hope his views are taken to heart. Read this book and you'll gain a much better insight into what is happening, and why, in the Middle East over the coming few years. You will also be able to anticipate the likely effectiveness of future US actions & policies in the region. With the exception of 5 or 6 pages that seemed to go a little over the top in praising the history of US-Israel relations, I can't recommend this book highly enough to those interested in government, foreign affairs, US security, and the Middle East in general.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katri

    A general overview of the situation in the Middle east and the development of the peace process, failures one after another. The book tells the history, how did it all start and develop, then analyzing the ongoing peace process since it's early stages until recent times. I really enjoyed this book because I am greatly interested in the topic, though sometimes the text was a bit boring to read, very school bookish (at times I felt like highlighting some parts as if I was getting ready for a test). A general overview of the situation in the Middle east and the development of the peace process, failures one after another. The book tells the history, how did it all start and develop, then analyzing the ongoing peace process since it's early stages until recent times. I really enjoyed this book because I am greatly interested in the topic, though sometimes the text was a bit boring to read, very school bookish (at times I felt like highlighting some parts as if I was getting ready for a test). But it was also very informative and educational, gave me a good and (the most importantly!) NEUTRAL overview of the problems, solutions and also explanations of failures. This book is an eye opener in an era when news are usually biased to one direction or another.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Regardless of your level of involvement in the issue of America's involvement in the Middle East, this book will help understand the history, the common threads and the errors typical of various ideological positions. Makovsky and Ross have made an important contribution to this vital area. Regardless of your level of involvement in the issue of America's involvement in the Middle East, this book will help understand the history, the common threads and the errors typical of various ideological positions. Makovsky and Ross have made an important contribution to this vital area.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Zalkin

    This provides a great foundation for the philosophy behind the Obama administration's strategy with regard to Israel, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This provides a great foundation for the philosophy behind the Obama administration's strategy with regard to Israel, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adrianus Ardhi

    The reviews of past policies are quite thorough and the approach to USA's failure are logical and pragmatic. The statements are stark and clear. A good book. The reviews of past policies are quite thorough and the approach to USA's failure are logical and pragmatic. The statements are stark and clear. A good book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Shields

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim Van

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leora Eisenberg

  12. 4 out of 5

    Scott Atkinson

  13. 4 out of 5

    Martin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Taylor

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eve Rowell

  18. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jayne Caron

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Sapir

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  25. 4 out of 5

    Antic

  26. 4 out of 5

    ZKetzlach

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarmat Chowdhury

  28. 4 out of 5

    Farhadghalei

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Pusatory

  30. 5 out of 5

    J

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