9780812976427

A Path Out of the Desert

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780812976427

  • ISBN10:

    0812976428

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-08-25
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Summary

The greatest danger to America's peace and prosperity, notes leading Middle East policy analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, lies in the political repression, economic stagnation, and cultural conflict running rampant in Arab and Muslim nations. Pollack asserts that we must continue to make the Middle East a priority in our policy, but in a humbler, more realistic, and more cohesive way. In his long-term strategy, Pollack suggests that America engage directly with the governments of the Middle East and indirectly with its people by means of cultural exchange, commerce, and other "soft" approaches. He carefully examines each of the region's most contested areas, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and explains how the United States can address each through mutually reinforcing policies. At a time when the nation is facing critical decisions about our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan,A Path Out of the Desertis guaranteed to stimulate debate about America's humanitarian, diplomatic, and military involvement in the Middle East.

Author Biography

Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. From 1995 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2001, he served as director for Persian Gulf affairs at the National Security Council, where he was the principal working-level official responsible for implementation of U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, and the states of the Arabian Peninsula. Prior to his time in the Clinton administration, he spent seven years in the CIA as a Persian Gulf military analyst. He is the author of The Threatening Storm, The Persian Puzzle, Arabs at War, and Things Fall Apart. He lives in Washington, D.C.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

Part one

America’s Interests in the Middle East



Many americans have only a vague sense of their country’s interests in the Middle East. Some on all parts of the political spectrum believe our engagement in the region brings only trouble and that we should disengage as much as possible. Many who do support American engagement in the region do so without ever having thought through why. Still others overstate American interests, assuming that nothing that happens in the Middle East is unrelated to the well-being of the United States. In arguing for a new, activist grand strategy toward the Middle East (albeit one not quite so activist as the second Bush administration’s), it is incumbent upon me to demonstrate why it is important that we should do so, and that means explaining specifically why and in what ways the region matters to the United States.

Along the same lines, it is impossible to devise a clear strategy without an equally clear understanding of that strategy’s purpose. As the old expression has it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Its converse is also true: picking the right road requires you to know where you are going. Indeed, in the past, America’s approach toward the Middle East and other countries or parts of the world has gone astray precisely because we did not have a clear sense of our own interests. In every instance where that was the case, the result was a bad one—ranging from mere missed opportunities to outright disasters. Thus it is important to articulate America’s interests in the Middle East to have a clear sense of what we should be hoping to achieve, what we should care about, and what we should fear; but it is equally important to understand those interests to discern what it is that we should not fear, what should not concern us, and what is unnecessary for us to achieve.

This last point matters because one of the traps Washington has fallen into in the past is “goal displacement,” in which our true interests become superseded by something else that seems to be consistent with them but really is not. For instance, many American interests in the Middle East are best served by the preservation of stability in the region, but that does not mean that stability itself is our interest. Change is often necessary, especially when the status quo becomes untenable, as is the case in the Middle East today. Unfortunately, for much of the last thirty years American administrations have failed to make that distinction and have often favored stability and opposed change at all costs. The result has been a series of American policies designed to preserve the status quo that have ended in disaster, from the Iranian Revolution to 9/11. Mistakenly substituting stability for our true interests in the Middle East is a dangerous example of goal displacement that we should avoid whenever possible. The best way to avoid it is to have a very clear sense of what our true interests entail.1 Consequently, Part I examines America’s most important interests in the region, starting with oil but also including some interests that apply all over the world but should not be lost amid our specific interests in the Middle East.

chapter 1

Oil


Let’s not kid ourselves: america’s first and most important interest in the Middle East is the region’s oil exports. However, this interest has nothing to do with how much oil we import from the Middle East. Instead, oil is our number one interest in the Middle East because our economic well-being relies generally on plentiful oil. That is true both because of the direct importance of oil to our own economy and, indirectly, because of its importance to the economies of the rest of the world—whose trade is vital to our economy. The Middle East plays a critical role in global oil productio

Excerpted from A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East by Kenneth Pollack
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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