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Don't Be a Hero

By Jordan Chandler Hirsch
- via Foreign Affairs    Sep 29, 2014

Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David. By LAWRENCE WRIGHT. Knopf, 2014, 368 pp. $27.95.

Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, by New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright, arrives at a grimly appropriate time. In recent years, the Middle East has descended into chaos. A bloody, many-sided civil war rages in Syria; Libya has devolved into warlordism; Iraq has continuously failed to form a government capable of unifying the country; and Israeli-Palestinian discord has continued unabated. Meanwhile, the region has become an arena for an array of proxy struggles: Sunni Saudi Arabia against Shiite Iran and their respective confederates; the conservative Sunni states of the Gulf Cooperation Council against the pro–Muslim Brotherhood Turkey and Qatar; and al Qaeda–affiliated Islamists against the revolutionary Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

For policymakers in the United States, this has been a vexing set of problems. After some delay, U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have accepted that, absent U.S. involvement, the Middle East will continue to disintegrate, with dire consequences for both the region and the rest of the world. But even as Washington has taken the lead in addressing the ISIS threat, it seems uncertain of how to restore order to the Middle East -- or whether it is even capable of doing so.

Wright’s book offers a useful reminder of the most prominent instance of the United States not only propping up but also creating that order. The book examines the negotiations between U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and ...

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