Lessons of a Foreign Policy Failure

GREEN, JERROLD D.

Lessons of a Foreign Policy Failure The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations By James A. Bill Yale. 520 pp. $25.00. Reviewed by Jerrold D. Green Director, Center...

...He indicts a system that has permitted many to achieve positions of prominence far greater than their abilities justify...
...The problem, as Bill sees it, is that the United States finds it exceedingly difficult to understand political systems, cultures, religious and historical traditions or individuals influenced by factors different from the ones operativein the West...
...The conventional wisdom posits that in the Middle East Carter had one failure (Iran) and one triumph (the Camp David accords...
...James Bill's book is well written and timely...
...Carter and Sadat reasoned that once Israel became secure in its peace with Egypt, it would have the confidence and imagination to resolve the question of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories...
...Neither private interests nor domestic political exigencies should be allowed to dominate foreign policy...
...These fans of the Shah right or wrong included David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, JacobK...
...This characterizes both the Carter and Reagan administrations...
...Reviewed by Jerrold D. Green Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Arizona So much has been written about the Reagan Administration's dismal record in Iran that any informed reader who approaches James Bill's study with a sense of weary resignation may be forgiven...
...Bill's analysis makes it readily apparent that American administrations have always mishandled relations with Iran...
...He did precisely what both his supporters and his critics expected him to do...
...Rather, he has created a valuable methodology appropriate for analyzing foreign policy development and formulation...
...Despite repeated warnings from our embassy in Teheran, Carter irreparably damaged relations with Iran for years to come by putting the interests of the Shah's friends above those of the American people...
...Carter allowed himself to be hoodwinked...
...In particular, I think the mishandling of the Iranian Revolution provides a cautionary tale relevant to the current Palestinian insurrection in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip...
...As The Eagle and The Lion demonstrates, the country would benefit greatly if future administrations mustered the courage to use the system, instead of letting themselves be used by it...
...Where Carter relied on quibbling subordinates, Reagan has preferred freelance "experts," businessmen and the like...
...This culminated in our systematically avoiding contact with the opposition until the last moment and the foolish decision to admit the ailing Shah into the United States...
...Begin, who witnessed the extermination of millions of his people by the Nazis, was committed to what he perceived to be the salvation of the Jewish people ónot to the resolution of the Palestinian problem, which he never viewed as a problem in the first place...
...Yet if that is true, why is the Arab-Israeli situation not merely unresolved but rapidly deterioriating...
...Among the undertows he enumerates are the debilitating turf battles between the State Department and the National Security Council...
...In situations of multiple crises, policymakers should not devote all of their energies to one crisis and ignore the others...
...Ambassador William H. Sullivan in Teheran was given no guidance by Washington...
...The rise to the National Security Council of such people as Brzezinski, Richard V. Allen, William A. Clark, Robert C. McFarlane, John M. Poindexter and others had saddled American foreign policy with a built-in handicap...
...The Soviet Union, an important force in international politics, is nevertheless hardly the only element...
...The Camp David accords contained two elements...
...Reliance on military means should not be overemphasized, political problems require political solutions...
...Each fought for the heart and mind of President Carter, and even though neither won the United States certainly lost...
...Much of the above is attributed to a set of conditions that apply to other foreign arenas as well where our record is barely better...
...Although the indictment of former President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is unsurprising, the author's evaluation of such stalwarts as Cyrus R. Vance and Carter himself is indeed enlightening...
...Our overreliance on ideology, our fundamental naïveté, and our remarkably inefficient foreign policy apparatus have collectively promoted failure...
...It is testimony to Bill's accomplishment, however, that not only does he add to our understanding of the Irancontra fiasco but he places America's problems with the Islamic Republic into a broader and analytically more applicable framework...
...For this crisis is in part the product of American policy, too, and again significant responsibility can be laid on the hapless Jimmy Carter...
...The man from Georgia was incapable of understanding Begin's psychological and cultural world, just as he was incapable of understanding the deep hatred of the Shah in Iran...
...Isolated at Camp David with Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Carter left the handling of the deteriorating situation in Iran to a paralyzed bureaucracy incapable of formulating a response...
...And while the unschooled celebrated the Camp David accords, the experts Washington so easily ignores awaited what is today occurring in the West Bank and Gaza: The United States, by brokering an excessively narrow agreement, pushed the Palestinians into a position where they had no option except to rise up against Israel...
...Bill exhaustively details the undermining of our relationship with Iran while talking about intra- and extragovernmental influences on the foreign policy process...
...Javits, anda variety of others who exerted inordinate influence on the White House...
...James Bill does not talk about these specific events...
...The tragedy portrayed reveals that the list of mishaps goes beyond the obvious bungling of Ollie and Bud into the camps of those we generally regard as competent...
...Examining Camp David in the light of Carter's performance in Iran, what we find is another, more subtle foreign policy failure...
...To understand events in the Middle East one must look to Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, and Beirut as well as Moscow...
...the second a search for autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza...
...This became more than evident in the Carter Administration's handling of the Iranian Revolution...
...The United States should encourage a degree of expertise concerning those parts of the world with which it interacts...
...In addition, there were tremendous pressures from those termed American " Pahlavites...
...in fact, the record of the Democrats may be almost as bad as that of the Republicans...
...The first was a cessation of hostilities between Egypt and Israel...
...The ex-President seems to feel Begin betrayed him, but he is not the culpable party here...
...In recounting the story of Iran he tells of reports that are commissioned and not read, fact-finding trips that guarantee no facts will be gathered, informants manipulating those who turn to them for information, special interests controlling policy at the highest levels, and scholars opposed to scholarship...
...Unfortunately, the two Presidents interpreted the second step differently than Menachem Begin...
...More recently, Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir has reinterpreted the second step into oblivion, bringing us to the present "uprising...
...The conclusions Bill draws are instructive...

Vol. 71 • May 1988 • No. 8


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.