2023-05-16 14:14:59 UTC
If one wants to read criticism against Washington's foreign policy in the Middle East during the past four and half decade," Grand Delusion" by Steven Simon is the book. The following from Foregn Affairs book review.
"Grand Delusion tells the story of eight successive U.S. presidential administrations, ...
Given the extraordinary scale of American involvement in the Middle East over the past four and a half decades, why have U.S. policies been so consistently ham-fisted? Simon offers several answers. First and most colorful is his assessment of the people responsible for creating them. Carter’s inner circle was “dysfunctional.”
The Reagan administration was peopled by “thin-skinned, devious, recalcitrant antagonists” whose vision of an Arab-Israeli peace process was “nearly perfectly silly.”
George H. W. Bush’s team was “blinded” by “the glare of U.S. power and comforts of wishful thinking.”
Clinton’s Middle East advisers were “hobbled by an attraction to faulty doctrines.”
George W. Bush was “demonstrably narrow-minded, incurious, and impulsive,” with a “crude approach to foreign policy dilemmas.”
Obama’s trouble in Libya reflected no malign intent, only “incompetence.” And then there was Trump, who assigned the Middle East portfolio to his son-in-law Jared Kushner in pursuit of “self-dealing crony capitalism.” After reading this catalog, it is hard to resist the conclusion that U.S. tax dollars have been paying the salaries of an astonishing collection of rascals and reprobates.
Equally important for Simon is a deeply flawed policy process. Rather than common sense or strategic insight, U.S. policymaking in the region has invariably been shaped by “political imperatives, ideological fixations, emotional impulses, and a coordination process that necessitates some sort of interagency consensus on the part of cabinet members whose priorities are often incompatible.” Even the most gifted analysts, he suggests, would have trouble getting good ideas implemented. Simon cannot resist (and who can blame him) reminding readers that more than 18 months before the 9/11 attacks, he and the counterterrorism expert Daniel Benjamin published an article in The New York Times warning that there would soon be “a mass casualty attack against the United States by Sunni extremists.” So much for operational understanding and early warning.
Yet there are other explanations for the United States’ Middle East failures that Simon neglects. By organizing Grand Delusion around successive administrations, he is compelled to foreground the political cycles that shape short-term policy choices rather than focus on broader national inclinations and global developments. As the Cold War ended, American triumphalism inhibited the sort of soul-searching in Washington that might have produced more serious deliberation about the consequences of U.S. policies and what, exactly, U.S. interests in the Middle East should be. For example, Simon points out that when Washington began its plunge into the region in the 1970s, “the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia and Israel appeared striking.” But by the beginning of the twenty-first century, under the tutelage and extravagant backing of the United States, both countries had grown into regional powerhouses that were increasingly ready to challenge Washington when their interests diverged. "