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The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peaceby Aaron David Miller
Synopses & Reviews
For nearly twenty years, Aaron David Miller has played a central role in U.S. efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace. His position as an advisor to presidents, secretaries of state, and national security advisors has given him a unique perspective on a problem that American leaders have wrestled with for more than half a century. Why has the world’s greatest superpower failed to broker, or impose, a solution in the Middle East? If a solution is possible, what would it take? And why after so many years of struggle and failure, with the entire region even more unsettled than ever, should Americans even care? Is Israel/Palestine really the “much too promised land”?
As a historian, analyst, and negotiator, perhaps no one is more qualified to answer these questions than Aaron David Miller. Without partisanship or finger-pointing, Miller lucidly and honestly records what went right, what went wrong, and how we got where we are today. Here is an insider’s view of the peace process from a place at the negotiating table, filled with unforgettable stories and colorful behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Here, too, are new interviews with all the key players, including Presidents Carter, Ford, Bush forty-one, all nine U.S. secretaries of state, as well Arab and Israeli leaders, who disclose the inner thoughts and strategies that motivated them. The result is a book that shatters all preconceived notions to tackle the complicated issues of culture, religion, domestic politics, and national security that have defined—and often derailed—a half century of diplomacy.
Honest, critical, and certain to be controversial, this insightful first-person account offers a brilliant new analysis of the problem of Arab-Israeli peace and how, against all odds, it still might be solved.
"In this extraordinary account of 20 years on the front lines of Arab-Israeli peacemaking, career diplomat Miller provides an impressively candid appraisal of Middle East peace efforts. Drawing from his extensive experience and 160 interviews with presidents, advisers and negotiators, he apportions censure and praise with an even hand, sparing not even his failures or those of his colleagues. Miller evinces genuine compassion for both sides in the conflict (stressing that Americans cannot fully understand the life-and-death stakes in the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians), while maintaining a detachment that allows him to draw hard conclusions. Miller says that though the two sides hold ultimate responsibility for their shared fate, American involvement is imperative and calls for the tough-love approach of Kissinger and Carter, arguing compellingly that such engagement is 'now more vital to our national interests, and to our security, than at any time since the late 1940s.' Although occasionally paternalistic, Miller's writing is both approachable and deeply smart; this and his absolute failure to take sides mean that this work will doubtlessly influence and enrage — and certainly inspire." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided in 2006 to get serious about trying to shape a legacy in the Middle East, she asked the State Department historian's office for reports on past U.S. efforts to strike an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. She received a stack of papers three feet high. As a State Department official for nearly two decades, Aaron David Miller was... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) present for many of those negotiations; during the Clinton administration, he was a top aide to chief Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. Now, he has distilled his experiences into a book that is both a memoir and a diplomatic history. One of the book's strengths is that Miller was seldom the most senior official in the room. He describes himself as the Nick Carraway of diplomacy, a reference to the narrator who was more of a bystander than a central character in 'The Great Gatsby.' If Miller had been secretary of state or national security adviser, he might have used his memoir to maintain or restore his reputation. But he does not have to worry much about history's judgment on him personally. And so he has the freedom to recount the many mistakes he and other American diplomats made. Miller candidly describes how U.S. policy tilted, in subtle and not so subtle ways, toward the Israelis and how, especially in the Clinton years, the U.S. peace team failed to consider other points of view. Many Clinton officials have blamed Yasser Arafat for refusing to accept the deal presented to him by Clinton at Camp David, but Miller argues that the United States also was at fault, because 'not a single senior-level official involved with the negotiations was willing or able to present, let alone fight for, the Arab or Palestinian perspective.' Miller brings an eye for detail to his book, recalling bits of color such as a dying Arafat wearing slippers from an Israeli luxury hotel, and a stunned U.S. diplomat plunging his hand into a bowl of hummus when a secretary of state used an obscene expression in conversation with an Arab president. Miller also fills the gaps in his own experience with interviews with three former presidents, nine secretaries of state (including Rice), four national security advisers and nearly 150 other U.S. and foreign officials and lawmakers. He weaves many of the interviews into his narrative but also lets the key players — such as former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and James Baker and former president Jimmy Carter — speak for themselves. The result is often amusing as well as illuminating. Baker, for instance, says he succeeded as secretary because he worked for a president who would back him up even if he was wrong. 'Look at poor Colin,' Baker added, referring to Colin Powell. 'I told him his first year, Colin, you need to go in there and say, "Sir, this is not what I signed up for," because they needed him a lot more than he needed them. His problem was spelled D-I-C-K' (as in Cheney). Some of Miller's blunt assessments are bound to irritate his former colleagues. He is complimentary of Kissinger, Baker and Carter — men who he felt brought the right mix of negotiating skills and evenhanded toughness to the Middle East problem. He is especially admiring of Baker, one of his former bosses. Miller suggests that if President George H.W. Bush had won a second term, Baker might well have forged a peace deal between Syria and Israel. But Miller is highly critical not only of the current President Bush — for doing so little until recently — but also of Bill Clinton, who probably devoted more time than any other president to resolving the conflict. (Clinton apparently suspected Miller's negative judgment, because he was the only ex-president to refuse his request for an interview.) In Miller's telling, Clinton 'inherited the most promising environment for Arab-Israeli peacemaking in the history of America's involvement in the issue' but made a mess of it, particularly at the end of his term, when he held a rapid series of high-level summits. 'To hold three summit meetings within six months and fail at every one is not an easy task,' Miller dryly notes. He credits Clinton with an astonishing mastery of detail and empathy for both Arabs and Israelis. 'But empathy alone was not enough,' Miller writes. 'Clinton lacked Kissinger's deviousness, Carter's missionary focus, and Baker's unsentimental toughness.' Miller describes Clinton as falling under the spell of Israeli prime ministers and then breathlessly pursuing a final peace deal with little preparation: 'Had the president been more realistic and less willing to be enlisted in the service of well-intentioned but grandiose schemes, we might have pursued other goals that were less politically sexy but also contained fewer dangers to our national interests and credibility.' For instance, even though Clinton was trying to pressure Arafat to accept a deal, he made no effort to enlist Arab support — necessary to give Arafat political cover — until nine days into the pivotal Camp David summit. At that point, the Americans suddenly realized Israel's Ehud Barak was willing to cede some sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem. Thus began a mad scramble to obtain an Arab buy-in, with Clinton speaking at length with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — only to conclude afterward that Abdullah 'had never looked at a map of Jerusalem in his life.' Clinton's spectacular failures, Miller asserts, made it easier for Bush to walk away from the issue for seven damaging years. To some extent, Miller is probably too harsh on Clinton and too complimentary toward Baker. After all, Baker succeeded in convening only a single meeting — the Madrid conference — and we can merely speculate (as Miller does) about whether he could have built on that successfully if his boss had been reelected. Clinton, by contrast, was trying to achieve an actual peace deal. Even today, most experts agree that any likely peace agreement will look very much like Clinton's proposal for settling the conflict, still known as 'the Clinton parameters.' It is not his fault that he was succeeded by a president who was determined to ignore the groundwork laid by his predecessor. Miller concludes with his prescriptions for a successful negotiation, including a more evenhanded approach by the United States and a commitment to make the issue a genuine priority. None of these ideas is particularly surprising or unique; the value of the book is its rich and colorful history of past negotiations, and Miller's sharp-edged analysis of what went wrong and right. Memo to the secretary of state: The next time you head off to Jerusalem, throw out some of those briefing papers to make room for this book in your briefcase." Reviewed by Glenn Kessler, Washington Post diplomatic correspondent and author of 'The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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Book News Annotation:
Miller (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) has served as an adviser to six secretaries of state and Presidents G.H.W. and George W. Bush, as well as Bill Clinton. He advised these leaders on Middle-East policy and sat alongside them at nearly all attempts to broker a peace between Israeli and Arab representatives. Here he offers his reflections on those negotiations, assisted by interviews with Presidents Carter, Ford, and Bush Sr. as well as all nine of the past U.S. Secretaries of State, among other figures. He discusses areas where he believes headway was made--particularly by Carter and Henry Kissinger, Clinton's failure due to what Miller considers a lack of spine, and the religious beliefs that influenced the policies of the George W. Bush administration and further derailed the so-called "peace process," among many other topics. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Miller--who played a central role in U.S. efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace--shatters many of the preconceived notions about what did and could have happened in the peace process, in this honest, critical, and controversial first-person narrative.
About the Author
Aaron David Miller became a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in January 2006, where he wrote The Much Too Promised Land.
For the prior two decades, he served at the Department of State as an advisor to six secretaries of state, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process, most recently as the Senior Advisor for Arab-Israeli Negotiations. He also served as the Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator for Arab-Israeli Negotiations, Senior Member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and in the Office of the Historian. He has received the department's Distinguished, Superior, and Meritorious Honor Awards.
Mr. Miller received his Ph.D. in American Diplomatic and Middle East History from the University of Michigan in 1977 and joined the State Department the following year. During 1982 and 1983, he was a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and a resident scholar at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies. In 1984 he served a temporary tour at the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan. Between 1998 and 2000, Mr. Miller served on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. After leaving the state department, Mr. Miller served as president of Seeds of Peace from January 2003 until January 2006. Seeds of Peace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence (www.seedsofpeace.org).
His media and speaking appearances include CNN (including “American Morning,” “Wolf Blitzer Reports,”), “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” FOX News, “The NBC Nightly News,” “CBS Evening News,” National Public Radio, the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Arabiya, and Al Jazeera. Mr. Miller has also been a featured presenter for the World Economic Forum in Davos and Amman, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, University of California at Berkeley, The City Club of Cleveland, Chatham House, and The International Institute for Strategic Studies. He has written three prior books on the Middle East and his articles have appeared in newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The International Herald Tribune.
Mr. Miller lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with his wife, Lindsay. They have two children: a daughter, Jennifer, and a son, Daniel.
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