David McMurray is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Oregon State University. His publications include In and Out of Morocco: Migration and Smuggling in a Frontier Boomtown.
Amanda Ufheil-Somers is Assistant Editor, Middle East Report, and a member of the editorial committee of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).
Walt begins by outlining five general hypotheses about the causes of alliances. Drawing upon diplomatic history and a detailed study of alliance formation in the Middle East between 1955 and 1979, he demonstrates that states are more likely to join together against threats than they are to ally themselves with threatening powers. Walt also examines the impact of ideology on alliance preferences and the role of foreign aid and transnational penetration. His analysis show, however, that these motives for alignment are relatively less important. In his conclusion, he examines the implications of "balance of threat" for U.S. foreign policy.
It critically examines four core foundations of contemporary US Middle East policy: US relations with Saudi Arabia after the Arab Spring; US diplomacy towards Iran and the Obama administration’s policy of engagement; the road to, and aftermath of, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq; and US policy towards nuclear-armed Israel. Because of a closely guarded bipartisan consensus, these four core foundations of contemporary US Middle East policy have largely evaded public criticism and scrutiny. This book argues that US strategy towards the Middle East has rarely been guided by order, stability and the national interest. Rather, successive administrations have created a house of cards built on a series of deceptions and constructed perceptions or myths. Combined, these four aspects of US Middle East policy have ushered in a decade of political violence, instability, sectarian divisions and an imbalance of power which has culminated in the territorial disintegration of Iraq and countries in the Levant as well as the rise of ISIS. Moving forward requires a rational pursuit of the national interest based on realist principles.
This book will be of much interest to students of US foreign policy, Middle Eastern politics, security studies and IR in general.