ISBN: 9781137499462

Jørgen Jensehaugen


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As the US archives are gradually opened, historians stand in line to reevaluate successive US presidents. Over the past few years Carter's turn has come. The Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia, is a treasure trove of material. In providing a full analysis of the relationship between US domestic politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict during Carter's presidency, Strieff has not only gone through the Carter archives, but also a whole series of other archives, including large numbers of media sources. The result is impressive. When it comes to understanding how the Carter administration treated domestic politics in dealing with the Middle East, and in turn, how the US political scene reacted to Carter's Middle East policy, Strieff's book is an extremely valuable contribution to the growing field of Carter literature. In sum, Strieff finds that President Carter was unable to adapt to the fact that foreign policy, particularly Arab-Israeli policy, is also US domestic politics. Carter was therefore often surprised by domestic crises over foreign policy issues, and he was less prepared to handle such crises than he should have been. The focus on US domestic politics is both the strength and the weakness of Strieff's account. Since most of the Carter-Middle East literature focuses on the Middle East negotiations, and less on the US domestic scene, Strieff's book adds a depth of understanding that is often lacking. On the downside, at times the choice is somewhat puzzling. For instance, in the Camp David chapter, Strieff focuses on the administration's handling of the media and almost ignores the actual negotiations. This is an odd choice because the media were completely excluded from the negotiations.