Monday, June 04, 2012

Book Review (#5 of 2012) Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future

Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future by Stephen Kinzer is probably a "recommended read" for Americans interested in Turkey and Iran, but I won't call it a "must-read."  Kinzer is a long-time foreign policy writer for several publications.

The recommended reading would be the first half of the book where he details a parallel history of the struggle for democracy in both Iran and Turkey in the late 1800s and the benevolent role some American's played in Iran's struggle. America's later role of overthrowing a democratically-elected government and re-installing the Shah and all related fallout is also detailed. Turkey's modern history including the rise and significance of the AKP is also an important read.

The second half of the book has a divergence into America's role in supporting Israel and some criticisms about Israel for everything from its treatment of Palestinians to its selling arms to South Americans. This tangent seemed very long and unnecessary, like Kinzer had done some research and didn't have a separate book in which to put it.  

One of Kinzer's theses is that Iran's underlying habit of democracy makes it a partner the U.S. should work with as a friend. My guess is that he mostly approves the Obama administration's deference to Iran as opposed to the W. Bush administration's policy of confrontation, which Kinzer condemns harshly. As Kinzer sees it, the Ahmadinejad regime reached out the U.S. in 2002, Bush/Cheney slapped its hand away, and Iran has taken a more hostile tone since.

Kinzer lauds Turkey's AKP for its neutering of Turkey's military leadership and greater promotion of freedom of religion. Turkey's economic rise makes it increasingly a power the U.S. should work with. He well notes the cost Turkey has borne of being supportive of the U.S.-led Persian Gulf war in 1991, which I would agree is under-appreciated by Americans.

Kinzer's thesis on Israel, however, is admittedly controversial and unrealistic. He purports that the U.S. should "impose peace" on Israel and Palestine, despite the uproar such a military presence would cause. I guess Kinzer added the material on Israel to illustrate how America has put the bulk of its foreign policy efforts in the wrong place in the Middle East and the effect it has had. If you think a President could sell Congress on putting troops indefinitely into the Middle East again to try and settle the millenia-old conflict once and for all, then you'll like this book.  Otherwise...

I found the first half of the book interesting and the second half rather not. I give it 3 stars out of 5.


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