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.
An original, unsettling critique of America’s many blunders in the Middle East.
In Iran, a statue honors Howard Baskerville, and streets and schools bear his name. A young American teacher, he died in 1909 leading volunteers in defense of this nation’s fledgling democracy. After delivering this surprising bit of history, journalist Kinzer (International Relations/Boston Univ.; A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, 2008, etc.) states bluntly that Iran, along with Turkey, the only Islamic nations in the area with vibrant democratic traditions, should be America’s closest allies, replacing Israel and Saudi Arabia. The author makes his case by recounting their recent history. Most readers recognize the name Kemal Ataturk, the charismatic leader who single-handedly revolutionized Turkey after World War I by introducing European institutions. Turkey is prospering and gets along with all Middle Eastern nations including Israel. When Iran threatened to nationalize British oil concession, a CIA-financed coup destroyed its democracy and established Mohammed Reza as absolute ruler. Kinzer reminds readers that after a broad-based—and not solely Islamic—1979 uprising overthrew the Shah, Iran opposed Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. After 9/11 it cooperated with the United States in Afghanistan until, in early 2002, President Bush branded it a member of the “axis of evil” along with North Korea and Iraq. Cultivating Turkey and Iran instead of the reactionary Saudi monarchy and pugnacious Israel makes sense, but Kinzer admits a major barrier: America is also a democracy. Smarting over the humiliation of the 1979 hostage crisis—but ignoring Iran’s humiliation in 1953—most American voters loathe Iran and support Israel uncritically.
An imaginative solution to the Middle-East stalemate, though perhaps too imaginative for most American readers.
Kinzer (Overthrow), columnist at the Guardian, takes an iconoclastic approach in this smart policy prescriptive that calls for elemental changes in America's relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia, and even more remarkably, for the U.S. to find more sensible and natural allies in Turkey and Iran, “the only Muslim countries in the Middle East where democracy is deeply rooted.” This “radical break from diplomatic convention” has its roots deep in the cold war history that Kinzer spends most of the book attentively mining. When he's corralling Middle Eastern history, Kinzer does an excellent job at stitching essential facts into a coherent and telling whole, demonstrating why, for instance, Turkey's recent return to greater religiosity is a victory against “Islamist policies” and how Israel's willingness to do America's dirty work (e.g., selling arms to Guatemala's military regime) tied the U.S. to Israel and Saudi Arabia so powerfully in the past. He's less successful in analysis, though, and is prone to repetition; this astute book builds toward convincing new ideas, but doesn't provide the necessary scaffolding to hold them up.
– Publisher's Weekly, April 19, 2010
"A vivid account underscoring the persistent folly of Western, and especially U.S. policy in the Middle East. This is history with bite and immediacy. Yet Stephen Kinzer sees cause for hope: The possibility of change exists if we but seize it."
– Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
I read and relished Stephen Kinzer's Reset – kudos to him for approaching the enduring problem of the Middle East in a fresh way. Even old hands may learn something new in these fluent, timely, and provocative pages.
–Karl E. Meyer, coauthor of Tournament of Shadows and Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East
Does the United States have nothing but bad choices in the Middle East? Stephen Kinzer says we have attractive choices if our leaders will just abandon the premises of the Cold War and look instead at opportunities in front of their eyes. Kinzer elaborates grand ideas in the conversational voice of a story-teller and challenges conventional wisdom in the most reasonable tones. But let the reader beware: He will make you think, and you may never see the region in quite the same way again.
–Gary Sick, senior research scholar, Columbia University, and author of All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter with Iran
Stephen Kinzer's Reset argues that contradictory U.S. policies in the Middle East are producing serial disasters. He recounts with verve the dramatic historical events and the vivid personalities that brought us to these straits, and argues for a new realism about the rapid rise of Iran and Turkey as regional superpowers challenging the old, dysfunctional bargains struck in the twentieth century. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of the United States in the Middle East.
–Juan Cole, professor of history, University of Michigan, and author of Napoleon's Egypt and Engaging the Muslim World
Stephen Kinzer's deep knowledge of the Middle East is complemented by his lucid style and new ideas. He sees Turkey as a key state for the region and the world, suggests new and innovative ways to deal with Saudi Arabia and Iran, and calls for the United States to play a much more robust and determined role in the Arab-Israeli peace process. His historical perspective and trenchant analysis make Reset an informative read for experts and newcomers alike.
–Thomas R. Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and under secretary of state for political affairs
Kinzer re-imagines the world and America's role in it.
–Robert Lacey, author of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia
Top - Order this book
A Thousand Hills:
Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man
Who Dreamed It
The bestselling author of All the Shah's Men profiles one of the most successful revolutionaries of the modern era, telling the dramatic story of how he seized power in Rwanda and led this shattered country's astonishing recovery.
Paul Kagame grew up as a wretched refugee. He and a group of comrades, determined to force their way back home after a generation of exile, designed one of the most audacious covert operations in the history of clandestine war. Then, after taking power, they amazed the world by stabilizing and reviving their devastated country. Now, as President Kagame, he's obsessed with a single outlandish dream: to make Rwanda the first middle-income country in Africa, and to do it in the space of a single generation. A Thousand Hills tells Kagame's tumultuous life story, including his early fascination with Che Guevara and James Bond, his years as an intelligence agent, his training in Cuba and the United States, the dazzlingly original way he built his secret rebel army, his bloody rebellion, and his outsized ambitions for Rwanda. It is the adventure-filled tale of a visionary who won a war, stopped a genocide, and then set out to turn his country into the star of Africa.
"Kinzer addresses all the criticisms in detail, albeit within an overarching portrayal of Kagame as a pretty good guy with a convincing vision for a successful Africa."
Washington Post, August 2008 (link)
"On a continent that is known for poor leadership, there is little doubt that Kagame stands among the very best--by any standard. But thankfully, despite his clear admiration, Kinzer does not ignore Paul Kagame's authoritarian streak, which has worried human rights organizations in recent years."
African Update, July 2008 (link)
"I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Africa, small wars, reconciliation, and development. Kinzer's prose is easy to read and entertaining. His narrative is insightful. The Paul Kagame I knew came to life when I read this book."
Small Wars Journal, July 2008 (link)
Top - Order this book
America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit. "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and continuing through the Spanish-American War and the Cold War and into our own time, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the latest, though perhaps not the last, example of the dangers inherent in these operations.
In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose foreign regimes. He details the three eras of America's regime-change century -- the imperial era, which brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras under America's sway; the cold war era, which employed covert action against Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile; and the invasion era, which saw American troops toppling governments in Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer explains why the U.S. government has pursued these operations and why so many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences, making Overthrow a cautionary tale that serves as an urgent warning as the United States seeks to define its role in the modern world.
"Reading Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq is so spellbinding and infuriating one is tempted to toss aside the conventional impulse to review and simply insist that everyone buy the book and devour the story for oneself"
-Swans Commentary, July 2008 (link)
Citizens concerns about foreign affairs must read this book. Stephen Kinzer's crisp and thoughtful Overthrow undermines the myth of national innocence. Quite the contrary: history shows the United States as an interventionist busybody directed at regime change. We deposed fourteen government s in hardly more than a century, some for good reasons, more for bad reasons, with most dubious long-term consequences.
-Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Stephen Kinzer has a grim message for those critics of the Iraqi war who believe George W. Bush is America's most misguided, misinformed, and reckless president. Bush has plenty of company in the past century—presidents who believe that Americans, as Kinzer tells us, has the right to wage war wherever it deems necessary.
Stephen Kinzer's book is a jewel. After reading Overthrow, no American—not even President Bush— should any longer wonder "why they hate us." Overthrow is a narrative of all the times we've overthrown a foreign government in order to put in power puppets who are obedient to us. It is a tale of imperialism American-style, usually in the service of corporate interests, and, as Kinzer points out, "No nation in modern history has done this so often, in so many places so far from its own shores."
Kinzer's narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description, and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in foreign policy storytelling.
To be shocked and awed by history is not a common reading experience. One usually reserves such reactions for edgy fiction, juicy memoirs or newsy expose. Yet Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow is as gripping as any of these. What's new here is how adeptly Kinzer draws the dotted line from each story to the next.
-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Timely and important Overthrow effectively challenges our historical amnesia and collective short attention span in ways that can only enrich our national discourse.
Also available as an audio book and in German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Turkish translations
Top - Order this book - Read reviews
All The Shah's Men:
An American Coup and
the Roots of Middle East Terror
This is the first full-length account of the CIA's coup d'etat in Iran in 1953—a covert operation whose consequences are still with us today. Written by a noted New York Times journalist, this book is based on documents about the coup (including some lengthy internal CIA reports) that have now been declassified. Stephen Kinzer's compelling narrative is at once a vital piece of history, a cautionary tale, and a real-life espionage thriller.
The newest edition of the bestseller chosen as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and the Economist begins with a powerful new essay that warns against an American attack on Iran. As the drumbeat of threats against Iran intensifies in Washington, Kinzer argues that they are based on fantasies that are as dangerous as they are delusional. Any attack, he warns, would usher in another era of upheaval in Iran and the surrounding region, this time with the overlay of nuclear-tinged terror. There is more fertile ground for democratic change in Iran than in almost any other Muslim country, and Kinzer presents an alternate strategy for dealing with the burgeoning crisis there. "As militants in Washington urge a second American attack on Iran, the story of the first one becomes more urgently relevant than ever," Kinzer writes in his new essay. "It shows the folly of using violence to try to reshape Iran."
Stephen Kinzer's brilliant reconstruction of the Iranian coup is made even more fascinating by the fact that it is true. It is as gripping as a thriller, and also tells much about why the United States is involved today in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Remarkable, readable and relevant All the Shah's Men not only reads like an exciting, page turning spy novel, it deals with the hard issues of today.
–Senator Richard Lugar
A well-researched object lesson in the dismal folly of so-called nation-building. British and American readers of today should blush with shame.
–John Le Carre
A very gripping tale a cautionary tale for our current leaders.
–New York Times
An extremely engrossing, often riveting, nearly Homeric tale For anyone with more than a passing interest in how the United States got into such a pickle in the Middle East, All the Shah's Men is as good as Grisham.
–Washington Post Book World
An exciting narrative. [Kinzer] questions whether Americans are well served by the interventions for regime change abroad, and he reminds us of the long history of Iranian resistance to great power interventions, as well as of the unanticipated consequences of intervention.
–Los Angeles Times
Kinzer's brisk, vivid account is filled with beguiling details A helpful reminder of an oft-neglected piece of Middle East history.
–New York Times
Also available as an audio book and in Farsi (unauthorized), Greek, Hebrew, Serbian, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish translations
Top - Order this book - Read reviews
Crescent and Star:
Turkey Between Two Worlds
If Turkey lived up to its potential, it could rule the world -- but will it? A passionate report from the front lines.
For centuries few terrors were more vivid in the West than fear of "the Turk," and many people still think of Turkey as repressive, wild, and dangerous. Crescent and Star is Stephen Kinzer's compelling report on the truth about this nation of contradictions -- poised between Europe and Asia, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the dominance of its army and the needs of its civilian citizens, between its secular expectations and its Muslim traditions.
Kinzer vividly describes Turkey's captivating delights as he smokes a water pipe, searches for the ruins of lost civilizations, watches a camel fight, and discovers its greatest poet. But he is also attund to the political landscape, taking us from Istanbul's elegant cafes to wild mountain outposts on Turkey's eastern borders, while along the way he talks to dissidents and patriots, villagers and cabinet ministers. He reports on political trials and on his own arrest by Turkish soldiers when he was trying to uncover secrets about the army's campaigns against Kurdish guerillas. He explores the nation's hope to join the European Union, the human-rights abuses that have kept it out, and its difficult relations with Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks.Will this vibrant country, he asks, succeed in becoming a great democratic state? He makes it clear why Turkey is poised to become "the most audaciously succesful nation of the twenty-first century."
In concise and elegant prose, Stephen Kinzer captures the excitement of modern Turkey with all its complexities and ambiguities, still struggling to define itself and its place "between two worlds," as he so aptly puts it. Turkey matters greatly to us, given its crucial role in both Europe and the Middle East, and this vivid book, both personal and analytical, is the best recent work on the subject.
Stephen Kinzer ground-truths Turkey. He lets Turkey's political reality emerge upwards from cafes and villages— you hear the voices of average people in these pages—and he shows that good journalism conveys the history and culture of a country so that readers can put its politics in perspective. The result is an intriguing portrait of a pivotal nation in historic transition.
–Robert D. Kaplan
A critical but affectionate portrait of Turkey's recent history that throws considerable light on the complex ways of this strategically important ally of the West.
Kinzer's adventures in Turkey gave him in-depth knowledge and real appreciation for the country and its potential. He makes a powerful case that this is a country we must watch.
[A] sympathetic account of Turkey's problems, interspersed with vignettes of the pleasures of Turkish life. Vividly illustrated with the people and events Kinzer covered during his four years in Turkey, the book seeks to explain a confused and complex country both to itself and the outside world A passionately argued analysis.
A sharp, spirited appreciation of where Turkey stands now, and where it may head.
Also available in Turkish, Greek and French translations
Top - Order this book - Read Reviews
Blood of Brothers:
Life and War in Nicaragua
From Library Journal
Kinzer served in Central America first in the 1970s as a freelance journalist and later as a New York Times bureau chief in Managua (1983-89). An eyewitness to events, he interviewed members of the Somoza, Sandinista, and contra hierarchies. As a result, he provides a highly objective and balanced assessment of events that led to the fall of the Somoza government in 1979. Kinzer avoids ideological bias, but he does note that the Sandinistas came to power because "those most likely to shed blood are the most likely to triumph." Yet despite their many shortcomings, he concludes "the Sandinistas at least provided a basis upon which a genuine democracy could be built." An example of public affairs journalism at its best, his book will stand as the definitive study of Nicaragua in the turbulent 1980s. It belongs in every public and school library.
J.A. Rhodes, Luther Coll., Decorah, Ia. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
An essential work…Kinzer has established a standard against which other writers on the subject will have to measure themselves.
In the best tradition of reporters' books, Blood of Brothers takes us inside the lives of Nicaraguans humble and powerful A graphic account of a country torn in half.
–New York Times Book Review
Brings to life a country rich in diversity and complexity [a] serious and sensitive analysis of the country's life and war.
Public affairs journalism at its best.
Impressive in the refinement of its writing and also the breadth of its subject matter.
–The New Yorker
Among the journalistic surveys that have been written so far, Kinzer's book, because of its expertise, thoroughness and goodheartedness, is the best.
–The New Leader
Top - Order this book - Read Reviews
The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala
Bitter Fruit recounts in telling detail the CIA operation to overthrow the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954. The 1982 book has become a minor classic, a textbook case study of Cold War meddling that succeeded only to condemn Guatemala to decades of military dictatorship. The authors make extensive use of U.S. government publications and documents, as well as interviews with former CIA and other officials. The Harvard edition includes a powerful new introduction by historian John Coatsworth, Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; an insightful prologue by Richard Nuccio, former State Department official who revealed recent evidence of CIA misconduct in Guatemala to Congress; and a compelling afterword by coauthor Stephen Kinzer.
Schlesinger and Kinzer have provided the greatest service to truth and justice by presenting the untold story of the CIA coup.
A fast-paced and well-documented story … A thoughtful and compelling book.
–New York Times Book Review
Reads like a cloak-and-dagger thriller.
Also available in German and Spanish translations
Top - Order this book - Read reviews