I do think this book... often falls into the same trap that has frustrated successive U.S. administrations: an overestimation of the degree to which our actions really matter ... But like Simon, I worry I am being too harsh in my judgments: because this is an illuminating book, written with exceeding wit and erudition ... One thing I appreciated about Simon’s broader narrative is that it does not let earlier administrations off the hook for creating the conditions that led to America’s greatest blunder since Vietnam ... This being a memoir as well as an analysis of policy, Simon cannot resist settling a few scores ... These petty slights are unfair, and Simon should avoid credentialism when it comes to policymaking.
For an external player to understand all of the factors involved is like trying to put together a jigsaw in a labyrinth of distorting mirrors. Simon threads his way through the chaos, noting the many agreements and treaties that have been meant to bring stability ... As a frontline player in Middle East policy, Simon provides a sweeping, detailed analysis of failures and successes.
Stocked with sharply etched portraits of statesmen, Simon’s narrative elucidates complex issues in pithy, biting prose ... Simon’s insider savvy and bracing honesty make for an illuminating take on America’s vexed relationship with the region.