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Tyler’s Troubled World

In the New York Times Book Review, British author Adam LeBor reviews Patrick Tyler’s “A World of Trouble:  The White House and the Middle East – From the Cold War to the War on Terror,” published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux – who previously brought us Walt & Mearsheimer’s “The Israel Lobby.”

The review praises Tyler’s book as “authoritative” and “important.”  In fact, it is neither.  We’ve seen this kind of book before.

The book’s “Prologue” opens with an anecdote about a drunken George Tenet in Saudi Arabia mocking neoconservatives in the Bush administration as “the Jews” (an incident, as Jeffrey Goldberg noted, vigorously denied by Tenet and others) and ends with a description of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith as a “cabal.”

Then the book circles back to Eisenhower’s handling of “Israeli aggression” in the Suez crisis (during which Lyndon Johnson acted “as if [he] were Israel’s attorney”).  Later, as president, Johnson is described as having “put himself in the service of Israel” and “cavorting” with Jewish friends as the Six Day War approached.  In Tyler’s account of the Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger had a “commitment to the Zionist cause” rendering him “deaf to the advice of his more knowledgeable peers,” with Kissinger supporting Israel “to the detriment of U.S. national interest.”

During the Carter administration, foreign policy was run by Zbigniew Brzezinski (“Zbig – that’s what he’s called:  ‘Zzz-BIG’”) with a “lively mind” and “breathtaking clarity.”  With respect to the Clinton administration, Tyler writes that “no objective analysis” of Arafat’s leadership could fail to credit him with pushing the PLO into a “process that he hoped would lead to peace” — but the process failed because Clinton put the U.S. “in the thrall of [Ehud] Barak’s frenetic tactics.”  The chapter on George W. Bush criticizes his “know-nothing approach” and “jumbled view of history,” among other faults.

LeBor’s review identifies several factual errors in the book, but he missed the most instructive one.  Consider this error — exemplifying the style and tone of this book — in Tyler’s description of then Governor Bush’s 1998 visit to Israel (during which Ariel Sharon “imprinted” on Bush the “visual justification for the ‘activist’ or militarist instinct in Israeli policy”):

Sharon had given him “the tour,” that rite of passage in which Israeli leaders seek to indoctrinate American political figures about Israeli’s geographic vulnerabilities.  The retired general dazzled Bush with a helicopter ride north of Tel Aviv to see firsthand the delicate nine-mile-wide “waste” of Israel where the Arab West Bank looms above the plain that runs down to Jewish Netanya on the Mediterranean.  [Page 528].

I think he meant “waist” — but I am not sure.  He may simply have been channeling his inner Walt & Mearsheimer.

In any event, here is a consumer alert for those tempted to purchase this book based on the egregiously misleading Times review:  you can get the same “authoritative” and “important” analysis for free at Daily Kos.



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