Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy

(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism is trying to communicate?

My main point is that, in addition to the important moral and legal concerns about U.S. Middle East policy, current U.S. policy is contrary to even mainstream notions of the country’s security interests. There is now a convergence between those of us who have challenged U.S. foreign policy for ideological or ethical reasons and those who see things primarily in terms of national security interests since they can no longer be separated. The U.S. has done terrible things in its interventions in the past, but the Vietnamese and Nicaraguans never flew airplanes into buildings.

(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making thei book what it is?

I wrote it as a survey of U.S. policy in the Middle East for those who may not have much background on the topic, but — given the events of the past year and a half and what is likely to come — figure maybe they should. It is based in part on articles I have written for Z, The Progressive, In These Times and The Nation as well as for more mainstream policy journals. There is also a lot of new material regarding recent events up to early this fall.

(3) What are your hopes for Tinderbox? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically?

On the one hand, it gives progressives a well-documented history that will provide ammunition for challenging Bush Administration policy. I’ve found that there are a fair number of activists who know a lot about Central America, South Africa and even East Timor, but know surprisingly little about the Middle East, so this can serve as something of a primer. On the other hand, it is the kind of book that can be given to moderate to conservative friends and relatives since it avoids being too strident, everything is thoroughly footnoted and it primarily addresses the question of how U.S. policy has been counter-productive to the country’s legitimate security interests. The final chapter, in fact, offers specific alternatives to the current policy that could bring real security.


Stephen Zunes Department of Politics University of San Francisco 2130 Fulton Street San Francisco, CA 94117

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