ISBN 9780262027335

Jørgen Jensehaugen


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When it comes to the Middle East, the Bush administration is generally perceived as incompetent and ideologically driven. Daniel Zoughbie provides a much more nuanced picture, but that does not make it a less scathing appraisal. Using a wide range of sources, including an impressive amount of interviews, Zoughbie shows that the Bush administration’s politics were the result of two competing visions and an indecisive president that sided with first one and then the other. On the one side stood conservatives with a utopian vision of how the world should be. They wanted to change the Middle East by setting off a domino reaction of democracy – the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad. These conservatives formulated their policy as a sequence in which the Palestinians first had to get rid of Arafat and the ’terrorist infrastructure’ before the peace process could start. Opposing this vision stood the moderates with a classical realist understanding of the Middle East as it was. They understood that Arafat was the leader the Palestinians preferred, and that no wishful thinking could change that fact. These moderates wanted a step-by-step peace process in which the Israelis and Palestinians made simultaneous concessions, what Zoughbie calls parallelism. The result of the competition between these ideas was an erratic US leadership that created chaos in the Middle East and then failed to provide any stable policy to handle that chaos appropriately. Zoughbie’s book is not a comprehensive account of the developments in the Middle East during the Bush years, but it provides a convincing and insightful account into the infighting in the Bush administration and the effect this had on the region.