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The Middle East’s ‘World of Trouble’

Patrick Tyler delves into region’s history, foreign policy

Apr. 26, 2010
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Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, CIA Director George Tenet experienced a meltdown in front of Saudi royal family. This was the beginning of Gulf War II, and even before the first shots were fired, Tenet knew two things: one, there was no credible intelligence that would warrant another Gulf war, and two, the failures of the ill-begotten and largely illegal war would hang on Tenet, making him a scapegoat of the Bush administration. He knew that this war was mostly based on arrogance and greed.

The Middle East has lured numerous presidents over the years, from Ike to George W. While the reasons for these incursions into the Middle East are perpetually vague, one word stands out: oil.

That is not to say that American foreign policy is based only on greed; however, the policies that follow forays into the Middle East are, at best, one-sided. After World War II, U.S. foreign policy was forever bound to various oil-rich kingdoms and dictatorships, leading to a balancing act between benevolence and greed.

Author Patrick Tyler attempts to bridge the gaps of information and propaganda in the timely A World of Trouble (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Tyler keenly unravels the mysteries of the Middle East in easily digestible blocks of history and shows how foreign policy was shaped to the benefit of the victors, rogues and would-be players. Tyler’s account of American presidents and their policies is factual and poses an honest look into the power brokers who attempted to shape and reshape the Middle East, from sultans and kings to freedom fighters and rogues, and further cracks open the myths and realities of unique players like King Hussein and Saddam Hussein.

Tyler also delves into the facts and fictions regarding the birth of modern Israel and the delicate balance between nation making and breaking during the Cold War.

A World of Trouble is sparsely illustrated with black-and-white photos that help readers to keep each chapter in a historical context. It’s not light reading, however, and there are ample opportunities for readers to get stuck in a quagmire of droll minutiae. But A World of Trouble is perfect for history buffs and those who are comfortable skipping ahead.


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