My friend Justin recommended Patrick Tyler’s A World of Trouble, just as it pinged my blog-reading radar a few months ago. I finally had time to read it and I’m glad I did. Tyler starts with President Eisenhower and runs through President George W. Bush. For each president, Tyler covers their critical interactions with the Middle East. Tyler is a journalist, and consequently the book is easy to read (almost a page-turner really, given the subject matter). With one caveat (see below), I recommend this book for any lay reader interested in learning more about the Middle East in general and about our political and diplomatic engagements with the Middle East in particular. Of course, most of the history in this period has something to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and Tyler pulls no punches there. Caveat: this is not a happy story. I was cringing all the way through the book, chapter by chapter. Although Tyler gives credit where credit is due for successes, the history is basically a history of failures. Different presidents failed in different ways, but they all failed (and some failed in almost all ways).
Foreign Affairs Magazine reviewed it favorably, if briefly. The New York Times review was positive, but pointed out some factual errors. An odd review in the Marxist Political Affairs Magazine lauds the book. The Guardian reviewer liked the book, agreed with the criticism that the chapter on George W. Bush was too brief, and included a UK perspective on the history.
If you’re looking for a well-written book on this very painful subject, A World of Trouble is a good place to start.