All the Shah's Men: An American Coup & the Roots of Middle East Terror

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup & the Roots of Middle East Terror - Stephen Kinzer Utterly fascinating and depressing at the same time. Though not the most gripping book I've ever read (a fair bit of history and names to slog through), it was insightful and thought-provoking, especially in light of current affairs in the Middle East.

Like a fine wine or good beer, this book is complex yet accessible. At 230 pages, it isn't the most in depth look possible, though that is probably in its favor. The great fear I had going into this book was that it would be a one-sided propaganda piece (either pro or anti-USA, I wasn't sure), but I feel like the book did a great job of portraying the complexities of these people and events, without overly simplifying motivations or drawing one-sided conclusions, all while it avoided being too dense.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from this book is just how ignorant I was of some of the goings-on of the past. Ever wonder why Iran hates us (aside from the pat answer, "because they're Islamic radicals")? Perhaps it has something to do with the coup that the CIA started in 1953 to crush their democratizing, nationalist movement.

I had never heard of this coup until stumbling upon this book, which I am sorry to admit, considering that I have a liberal-arts education from a world class university. It makes me wonder how many who are so fervently in favor of our wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and our seemingly impending war with Iran, actually understand any of the history involved with these conflicts prior to Sept. 11th. Maybe we should entertain the idea that Islamic radicalism is actually a somewhat rational response to US foreign policy.

Much like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which I recently finished, this isn't a page-turner by any means, but it is the kind of book I will continue mull over for some time. Definitely inspired me to continue reading on the subject, I only hope I can find more books that are as (seemingly to my prior ignorance) balanced and informative.