[ISBN: 978-1-935982-18-0; 230pp; $20 in U.S.] Amb. Chas W. Freeman Jr. is one of America's most seasoned and thoughtful diplomatists. In March 2009, he became briefly famous when pro-Israel activists raised a furor about Pres. Obama's decision to invite him to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Seeking to save Obama from embarrassment, Freeman withdrew his name from consideration. Now, with the publication of this book, Freeman has pulled together most of his previous writings about the part of the world that got him into so much trouble in 2009.
(Freeman also has many wise things to say about China. He speaks fluent Mandarin and was Pres. Nixon's interpreter during Nixon's breakthrough meeting with Mao Zedong in 1972. Just World Books will be publishing a volume of Freeman's writings on China in 2012.)
America's Misadventures in the Middle East leads off with Freeman's detailed and previously unpublished reflection on Pres. George H. W. Bush's handling of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis of 1990-91. He was U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time; he was thus uniquely placed to see and understand what Washington and key allies were doing in those fateful months. In this chapter, and the one that follows, he reflects on "the American way of war", and in particular on Washington's failure in recent decades to plan for a stable and satisfactory political end-state for the wars it wages. These chapters act as an instructive jumping-off point for the rest of the book, which focuses on Washington's continued pursuit of "the American way of war" in the Middle East of the 2000's.
Parts II and III of the book contain many examples of a fine strategic mind at work. Freeman somberly reflects on the failures at many levels that pulled Pres. George W. Bush into the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. And he stresses, repeatedly, the deleterious impact that Washington's failure to hold Israel accountable for the violent policies it pursued toward its neighbors throughout the 2000's has had on Americans' interests in the Middle East and much further afield.
In Part IV he assesses the impact that America's policy failings in the Middle East have had on its ability to continue leading the world in the same way it did in the half-century following the end of World War II. "Why not try diplomacy?" is the title of one chapter there. But it could be seen as the leitmotif of the whole of Part IV, or indeed, the whole book.
In Part V, Freeman gives us four deeply informed chapters about Saudi Arabia, placing the Kingdom's often misunderstood situation in its own historical context as well as in the context of its relationship with Western and other world powers.
As Prof. William B. Quandt notes in his Foreword to the book:
Posted by boyadj on 4th Jun 2012
A well written, thoughtful book. Ambassador Freeman is a patriot who is struggling with America's loss of its destiny to a foreign minion. He is perceptive and a brilliant thinker. It is reassuring to have men of his intellectual calibre as servants of the USA.
Posted by James Nathan on 4th Jun 2012
American Misadventure's is simply a terrific book.
It's all an eye-opener and vitally important. Freeman renders places, and policy puzzles with wit and lyric competence. In some case, as well, it is a delicious "I told you so."
Ambassador Freeman ceaselessly warned of pitfalls and disasters in the making. Most of his admonitions went unheeded.
The first essay in American Misadventure is from Ambassador Freeman's time as American's senior envoy to Saudi Arabia at the time of the first Gulf War is as novel as it is indispensable. There is no other serious source of what really happened in terms of managing the odd coalition that carried the day in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In fact, diplomacy was critical to one of the most decisive victories since Agincourt. [The fruits of the victory were not really well harvested. Not that Ambassador Freeman didn't try to alert an administration appeared to suffer from a kind of policy attention deficit disorder.]
There is no keener observer of current affairs than Ambassador Freeman. His learning is massive and his observations are lasting, graciously rendered, and are certain to be mandatory reading for military, and diplomatic professionals-- and, as well, it is a remarkably useful for anybody who wants to know of America and the Arab world or the world from one of the best diplomats America has ever had.
Posted by Göran Vesterlund on 3rd Jun 2012
Former Ambassador Chas W. Freeman is, so far as I know, one of the few Americans with a real open mind to assess what is going on in the world. Mr Freeman could observe the Kuwait war (1990-1991) on the spot. His background, and his work as a diplomat, gives strong credence to his messages. At center is Mr Freeman's clear understanding of the importance and implications of the U.S./Israel connection, making U.S. impossible as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, Mr Freeman asserts, as long as the Israel/Palestine problem remains unsolved, no peace is possible in the area, and that is why recruiting of ever more new soldiers in the Al-Qaeda is guaranteed. An honest solution to this problem is the first precondition for a successful campaign against Qaeda terrorrism, and such a solution must create a Palestine with borders according to the UNSC Resolution 242.
Anyone should read Mr Freeman's book, and you will understand why and how the present situation has emerged, and what should be done to redress it. And if you are planning a diplomatic career, this book is an absolute must.
Mr Freeman also gives some observations on China and Saudi-Arabia, and the relations between the U.S. and these countries, which necessarily will become increasingly important in the coming years.
Posted by Midwest Book Review on 3rd Jun 2012
America may not have handled itself the best it could in Middle Eastern affairs. "America's Misadventures in the Middle East" is a collection of essays from Chas W. Freeman Jr., who has acted as a diplomat on America's behalf against one hundred countries and served under President Nixon. Here he presents two dozen of his essays on the subject of the Middle East and provides much insight on what America has done right and what they have failed to do right. "America's Misadventures in the Middle East" is a thoughtful and scholarly read, not to be missed by any student of international affairs.
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