Most helpful critical review
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining but disappointing
on 11 May 2010
I found Kinzer's writing style very flowing and easy to read which, as an almost exclusive reader of non-fiction international affairs books, I found a pleasant surprise. The book is written in an almost fictional style, with Kinzer focusing on the smallest details of the historical characters involved to grab the attention of the reader. This certainly works, and I found it brought a great personal touch to political history that is often lacking in such books. I also enjoyed the detail on Persian history, which is very interesting and really does help you understand the history of this part of the world.
I found the actual political content of the book to be severely lacking, however. Kinzer regularly condemns the atrocious British actions towards Iran and its people - rightly so - but at the same time he significantly plays down American motives as benevolent and largely ignores the American geopolitical plans that structure all parts of foreign policy in this region, instead writing off the consequences as unintended and regretful.
The title of the book, "An American Coup and The Roots Of Middle Eastern Terror" suggests that a sufficient explanation of the cause of terror will be given which sadly, is not. It's not exactly clear what Kinzer is referring to with the label 'Middle East Terror', which seems to imply terror coming from the middle east, namely Iran. By framing the issue in this way Kinzer clearly suggests that Iran is the problem and ignores the two states carrying out vast majority of terrorism in the Middle East - America and Israel. In the preface, democratically elected Hamas are labelled a 'nonstate actor' which sets the tone for the rest of the book. Instead of illuminating the issues Kinzer seems to be an apologist for American actions, and only ever mildly criticises the American government which has inherited and extended the job of top world oppressor from Britain. The cooperation of the US & UK Governments with the brutal shah is ignored, including the fact that they didn't mind, and even encouraged Iran to develop nuclear energy in the 1970's, a sharp contrast to their position today, where Iran, no longer under control of the complicit Shah will not obey the West. The link connecting the coup to the cause of present terror is dubious at best as Kinzer fails to cover the important, relevant factors - namely American imperialism, Israel, Saudi Arabia and American designs for control over the oil supplies of its two economic rivals, Europe and Japan. Anyone who has read Chomsky's excellent 'Manufacturing Consent' will recognise what he refers to as the 'limit of dissent' throughout this book.
In conclusion, this book may be useful for people who are interested in a description of Iranian history and perhaps find books on international affairs to be quite dry. For a good, solid analysis and explanation of this region and its problems I would strongly recommend 'Hegemony or Survival' by Noam Chomsky along with 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein. All The Shah's Men, ultimately fails in its purpose.