I’ll confess that in some ways, The ‘Tragedy of the Middle East is my favorite of everything I’ve written. The title was chosen in great sincerity because the theme here is to explain how the region’s modern history really is a tragedy.’ Terrible mistakes were made; the wrong roads were chosen. Bloodthirsty ideology took hold; pragmatism was thrown out the window. And yet alongside all of these disasters was a certainty of correctness and a violent rejection of even considering what had gone wrong.
My approach, as always, is to ignore the Western scholarly literature and to examine the facts on the ground. So this book reviews the region’s modern history and considers the alternatives; the reasons for key decisions; and the architecture of war, terrorism, and extremism. At the same time, I think the book provides a useful introduction to the Middle East and perhaps might be the best starting point for looking at the region and also getting into my work.
It was published by Cambridge University Press in 2002 and made into a paperback by them in 2004. There is also a Korean edition, by Hanul Publishing, issued in 2005.
For a brief period in the 1990s, peace in the Middle East seemed possible. Now that that's over, Rubin seeks to explain what went wrong. In his sixteenth book on the region, he argues that Arab leaders balked at peace because it presented too great a threat to their own power. Blaming external enemies Israel and the United States has long enabled Arab regimes to channel frustration away from their own failures, Rubin writes, and governments across the region reverted to this strategy when peace seemed likely to break out. This is not the first time that Rubin, who is the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, has carefully summed up very recent events. His widely acclaimed 1999 book, The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building, analyzed the inner workings of the Palestinian Authority. But while the tone of that book was cautiously hopeful, in his new work he sees no realistic path to a brighter future. This is a dense but well-argued read, and timely, too, as Westerners seek an explanation for why most if not all of the September 11th hijackers hail from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt.