by Sherard Cowper-Coles
Vali Nasr is a good man, but this is not a good book. In early 2009, Nasr, one of America's greatest experts on Shia Islam in general, and
Nasr spent nearly two years with Holbrooke, until his untimely death, in harness, in
The first, and better, half of the book is a partial account of Nasr's rollercoaster ride in the 'creative chaos' of Holbrooke's SRAP shop, squeezed into a suite of offices beside the
Nasr paints a persuasive picture of Holbrooke's anarchic style, of his conviction that, on its own, a military-heavy strategy could not work (as Holbrooke knew from his time as a junior diplomat working in and on
Where this part of the book strains credulity, however, is in its Manichean depiction of Holbrooke and Clinton as all good, and of Obama and the
The two chapters Nasr devotes to
On the fundamentals, Nasr's instincts are surely right. But the account still comes across as thin and somewhat selective, full of assertions supported only by Nasr's black and white view of relations between the
The same theme dominates the even less satisfactory second half of the book. In a sharp change of gear, Nasr shifts from an insider account of Af-Pak policy to a more general download of his views on the Obama administration's performance in relation to the wider
Here too the tone is highly critical. In Nasr's view, Obama's failure satisfactorily to end the war in
Nasr makes virtually no allowance for the domestic political and economic pressures on the President. For him, it is only the lack of political will in Obama's
If only the
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Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Content Agency.
"Book Review - Unfair Obama Bashing - The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat"