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Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's…

Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future

by Stephen Kinzer

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Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future by Stephen Kinzer is probably a "recommended read" for Americans interested in Turkey and Iran, but I won't call it a "must-read." Kinzer is a long-time foreign policy writer for several publications.

The recommended reading would be the first half of the book where he details a parallel history of the struggle for democracy in both Iran and Turkey in the late 1800s and the benevolent role some American's played in Iran's struggle. America's later role of overthrowing a democratically-elected government and re-installing the Shah and all related fallout is also detailed. Turkey's modern history including the rise and significance of the AKP is also an important read.

The second half of the book has a divergence into America's role in supporting Israel and some criticisms about Israel for everything from its treatment of Palestinians to its selling arms to South Americans. This tangent seemed very long and unnecessary, like Kinzer had done some research and didn't have a separate book in which to put it.

One of Kinzer's theses is that Iran's underlying habit of democracy makes it a partner the U.S. should work with as a friend. My guess is that he mostly approves the Obama administration's deference to Iran as opposed to the W. Bush administration's policy of confrontation, which Kinzer condemns harshly. As Kinzer sees it, the Ahmadinejad regime reached out the U.S. in 2002, Bush/Cheney slapped its hand away, and Iran has taken a more hostile tone since.

Kinzer lauds Turkey's AKP for its neutering of Turkey's military leadership and greater promotion of freedom of religion. Turkey's economic rise makes it increasingly a power the U.S. should work with. He well notes the cost Turkey has borne of being supportive of the U.S.-led Persian Gulf war in 1991, which I would agree is under-appreciated by Americans.

Kinzer's thesis on Israel, however, is admittedly controversial and unrealistic. He purports that the U.S. should "impose peace" on Israel and Palestine, despite the uproar such a military presence would cause. I guess Kinzer added the material on Israel to illustrate how America has put the bulk of its foreign policy efforts in the wrong place in the Middle East and the effect it has had. If you think a President could sell Congress on putting troops indefinitely into the Middle East again to try and settle the millenia-old conflict once and for all, then you'll like this book. Otherwise...

I found the first half of the book interesting and the second half rather not. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. ( )
  justindtapp | Apr 13, 2013 |
Kinzer is an expert on this part of the country. I especially enjoyed his early coverage of Turkey in "Crescent and Star". Kinzer lays out a plan to shift our policies towards these countries. They both have a desire to go back to the days of their initial democratic experiences, but the US has in many ways thwarted this process. The author also lays out a plan for settling the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Essentially, the US has to superimpose a peace process and be willing to back it up. While this book is not an in-depth coverage of these countries, many will find the overview helpful and instead of just reporting he lays out a blueprint for adjusting our relationships with the Middle East countries. ( )
  dickcraig | Sep 14, 2010 |
Stephen Kinzer's recommendations are sound. Many American policymakers and international relations scholars agree with his conclusions and have given his book glowing blurbs (Andrew Bacevich, Thomas Pickering, Gary Sick, Juan Cold, Robert Lacey). But Reset seems unlikely to persuade the unconvinced because Kinzer radically simplifies history, molding it to simplistic and moralistic narratives built around jaunty vignettes composed of short sentences and imagined dialogue. These he presents with great confidence, as though we were there, as in the juvenile history books of our youth used to say (this is part of Kinzer's self-proclaimed "cheeky fearlessness," perhaps).

Such an approach has strengths and weaknesses. It is designed to grasp the reader's imagination; Reset might be a book to give to someone who knows nothing about the Middle East. But it is not a book for a sophisticated reader; while Kinzer presents an impressive bibliography, he often relies on tendentious sources (e.g. psychobiography). ( )
  jensenmk82 | Aug 12, 2010 |
Stephen Kinzer's Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future (Times Books, 2010) is an important, and timely book that I hope those responsible for American foreign policy will read carefully. Offering a lucid examination of American diplomatic relations with Turkey and Iran in the 20th and early 21st centuries, Kinzer argues that by engaging meaningfully with these two nations (and by reexamining our stale relationships with Saudi Arabia and Israel), we might have a better chance of attaining the goal of a peaceful Middle East.

Iran and Turkey, Kinzer points out, have deep traditions of democratic engagement, making them and their people logical partners for America in the post-Cold War environment of today. He points out the number of missed opportunities we had in the early years after 9/11 to re-engage with Iran, including a remarkable effort in 2003 which was met with a severe brush-off by the Bush Administration. Kinzer characterizes the US-Iranian relationship this way: "Whenever one has seemed ready to compromise, the other was in too militant a mood to compromise" (p. 127).

By reorienting our relationships with our major allies in the Middle East and pushing strongly for (perhaps even imposing) a settlement on Israel and Palestine, and by working toward coming to terms with Iran (Kinzer suggests using Nixon's China strategy as an example) and building on our good relations with Turkey, America can become an ever stronger force for good in the region.

While Kinzer's book is sometimes repetitive and perhaps a little bit more hopeful than current diplomatic events warrant (it's hard to see a strong engagement with Iran under its present leadership), it's certainly one that should be taken seriously.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2010/05/book-review-reset.html ( )
  JBD1 | May 31, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805091270, Hardcover)

The bestselling author of Overthrow offers a new and surprising vision for rebuilding America's strategic partnerships in the Middle East

What can the United States do to help realize its dream of a peaceful, democratic Middle East? Stephen Kinzer offers a surprising answer in this paradigm-shifting book. Two countries in the region, he argues, are America's logical partners in the twenty-first century: Turkey and Iran.

Besides proposing this new "power triangle," Kinzer also recommends that the United States reshape relations with its two traditional Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This book provides a penetrating, timely critique of America's approach to the world's most volatile region, and offers a startling alternative.

Kinzer is a master storyteller with an eye for grand characters and illuminating historical detail. In this book he introduces us to larger-than-life figures, like a Nebraska schoolteacher who became a martyr to democracy in Iran, a Turkish radical who transformed his country and Islam forever, and a colorful parade of princes, politicians, women of the world, spies, oppressors, liberators, and dreamers.

Kinzer's provocative new view of the Middle East is the rare book that will richly entertain while moving a vital policy debate beyond the stale alternatives of the last fifty years.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:55 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

What can the United States do to help realize its dream of a peaceful, democratic Middle East? Kinzer provides a penetrating, timely critique of America's approach to the world's most volatile region, and offers a startling alternative.

» see all 2 descriptions

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