Politics of the Middle East: Cultures and Conflicts (2nd Edition)

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9780131594241: Politics of the Middle East: Cultures and Conflicts (2nd Edition)

An introduction to the Middle East, provides an overview of the history, geography, cultures, and religions and leads up the regions twenty-first century conflicts, including the Iraq War. With its emphasis on basic concepts and vocabulary, and it use of illustrative case studies, Politics of the Middle East provides an exciting tool for the basic understanding of this very complex region. This comprehensive book covers cultures and history of the ancients, the birth of Islam, and the Ottoman Empire; Arab-Israeli conflicts and their origins; Turkey and the Kurds; the Persian Gulf and the rise of the oil kingdoms, the Iranian revolution, and the first and second Gulf Wars; and Middle Eastern terrorism. An excellent reference resource for those involved in businesses and concerns that deal with the Middle East and its politics.

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From the Back Cover:

Authors Michael Roskin and James Coyle have written a clear, engaging text that will enable students to better understand the politics of the Middle East. With two separate chapters on Turkey and the Kurds, as well as great, in-depth coverage of Middle Eastern history, geography, and conflicts—including the 2003 Iraq war—this Middle Eastern politics text illustrates the interrelated complexities of the Middle East in ways that will seem real rather than abstract.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Je ne blame, ni n'accuse. Je raconte.
— Talleyrand

One of the authors and a daughter recently chanced upon the film classic Lawrence of Arabia on television. She was curious: Who were these people? Whom were they fighting? When did it take place? Why were the British involved? This bright young college graduate had never learned anything of World War I in the Middle East and the British-encouraged Arab revolt against the Turks. Indeed, few young (and not-so-young) Americans know anything about this colorful episode and how it influences the Middle East to this day. Few Americans care about things distant in time and place. They tend to consign current conflicts to the realm of mystery and futility: "Those people! They're crazy. Their motives are a puzzle, maybe something to do with their religion. I don't know much about the area, but if our government says we'll have to fight, I guess we'll have to." In the same spirit of ignorant bliss we marched into Vietnam.

The authors aim to acquaint American students with this vital, exciting part of the world, which is very much in the news but not, unfortunately, very much among the courses American students typically take. Moving more and more to the vocational and career-related, few students have the knowledge to make sense of the Middle East. Filling the vacuum, many advocate either strong doses of U.S. military might or isolationism: "We should either nuke 'em or stay out."

Many subscribe to the "none of our business" theory: "If those people want to fight, we should just stand back and let them fight." This school-playground approach to the Middle East leads quickly to catastrophe. One recent president started office with a hands-off policy but was soon forced to become more involved than any of his predecessors. He discovered, as did many American isolationists before him, that we are connected to much of the rest of the world. In the Middle East, especially, we can neither fully stay out nor fully control the region, a frustrating situation. Staying out means letting Middle East conflicts roar out of control until they engulf several countries and damage the region's ability to export oil. When that happens, the entire world economy suffers. America imports relatively little Middle Eastern oil (although the percentage is growing), but a shortfall in production anywhere boosts prices everywhere.

The authors noticed that many works on the Middle East are too specialized and scholarly for a first undergraduate course in the area. With years of experience in college teaching on the region, government service, and journalism, we decided to put together our own textbook, covering Middle Eastern history, geography, and conflicts, including the 2003 Iraq War. That war, by the way, illustrates the interrelated complexity of the Middle East. To understand the 2003 war, one must understand a good deal of the history, geography, and politics not only of Iraq but also of all the neighboring countries. Two areas are especially shortchanged in most textbooks—Turkey and the Kurds—which we try to correct by giving each separate chapters.

Knowledge of geography is especially weak among young Americans, so we include "bounding" exercises throughout the book. This old-fashioned exercise requires the student to recite, from forced recall, countries' boundaries, moving clockwise around the points of the compass. If you do them faithfully, you will be able to locate from memory every country of the region. Memorization makes you smarter (and yes, they will be on the exams).

In recent years the news media have used "Middle East" as synonymous with the Israeli-Arab struggle. When they talk about Iraq or Saudi Arabia, they often say "Persian Gulf." Actually, the two are both Middle East and, although a few hundred miles apart, interconnected. Israel angers the Muslim world and serves as fodder for radical Islamists who would like to take over the Gulf oil states, which already encourage and subsidize Palestinian movements, some of them violent.

Instructors may notice that we interweave much general material in our chapters, everything from praetorianism to bureaucratic politics in Washington. All apply to the Middle East but have wider applicability as well. This is part of our purpose, to build what the French call culture generale. Topics in the abstract often become real when introduced in a relevant context. Accordingly, students will learn a great deal beyond the Middle East from this book. The authors thank Cullen Chandler, Mehrdad Madresehee, Robin Knauth, and Steven Johnson of Lycoming College for their valuable comments. We also thank the following reviewers: James L. Lutz, Indiana University-Purdue; Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco; and Larbi Sadiki, University of Exeter.

The Middle East is full of controversies, and we are aware that our accounts and analyses may anger some readers. In many areas we are likely to be accused of either hostility toward or slavish support of a given cause. We are neither hostile nor slavish; we are simply realists. We look forward to "twining" one letter that calls us anti-X with the next that calls us pro-X. Our purpose is not to take sides but to tell several fascinating, complex stories in an accurate and balanced way. We do not play the "blame game" but recall Talleyrand, who served France before, during, and after Napoleon with equal aplomb: "I do not blame, neither do I accuse. I just tell the story."

Michael G. Roskin
James J. Coyle

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