THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
it is accurate to argue that U.S. inepti-
tude has made everything more difficult,
with or without the United States it was
going to be a long, difficult transition
into the modern world for the countries
of the Middle East. For it is a transition
destined to be uneven, unsteady and
fraught with violence and deprivation.
It is also important to note that the
results of whatever mistakes we have
made in the past will be compounded
if we don’t stay involved in the Middle
East on a corrected course.
Freeman also makes the case for
strengthening the instruments of U.S.
diplomacy, some of which are out of our
hands given the “constant turnover of
inexperienced amateur civilian policy-
makers, placed in office by the spoils
system in a highly militarized civilian
But surely, as Freeman argues,
some improvements could be made,
even within the existing system and
resources, such as correcting the fact
that American diplomacy is “missing
in action when it is most needed—as
the fighting ends.” The ups and downs
of our reconstruction and stabilization
capacity point to a persistent avoidance
of truly taking on this mission.
Freeman cites a failure to profes-
sionalize diplomacy as one reason we
contribute so little to the task, contrast-
ing our profession with the “superbly
professional leadership of the U.S.
Armed Forces.” Again he gives few
specifics, but judging from the number
of times we jump over the entire Service
and bring a retired diplomat in to lead a
critical mission—something that would
be unthinkable in the military—it is hard
to argue that there isn’t room for taking
a more systematic approach to develop-
ing leaders, rather than the wholly ad
hoc system we currently have.
In the end,
America’s Continuing Mis-
adventures in the Middle East
is a very
good and thought-provoking read, not to
be missed by any who are serious about
considering the full range of views and
opinions on this critical region.
FSO Keith W. Mines is currently an Inter-
agency Professional in Residence at the U.S.
Institute of Peace, working on Middle East
peace and federalism in failed and fragile
states. He has served in Europe, the Western
Hemisphere and the Middle East in a vari-
ety of military and Foreign Service assign-
ments. He may be the last true believer in
the imperative of nation-building as a key
undertaking in facing today’s challenges.
Exploring the History-
The Power of the Past: History
Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri, eds., Brook-
ings Institution Press, 2016, $32/paper-
back, $17.27/Kindle, 326 pages.
Reviewed By Todd Kushner
Policymakers instinctually search for
historical lessons that they can use to
guide their statecraft.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig, for
example, once remarked that “inter-
national conflicts attract historical
analogies the way honey attracts bears.”
President Barack Obama famously
absorbed the lessons of Doris Kearns
Team of Rivals
ing his Cabinet. And President George
W. Bush tackled an extensive reading
list of histories and biographies.
Similarly, Foreign Service employ-
ees prepare themselves for a new post
by steeping themselves in the history