The US approach to Iraq, which Tyler dissects in meticulous fashion throughout the book, provides another example of baffling inconsistency. Ronald Reagan ended up supporting both sides in the Iran-Iraq War; George H.W. Bush encouraged Shiites to revolt against Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, then failed to come to their aid; Bill Clinton dithered on supporting CIA-organized Iraqi coup plotters, which led to the compromise of the operation and the deaths of the plotters; and George W. Bush invaded Iraq without planning for the postwar period.
But Tyler does not restrict himself to presidential blunders. He pointedly assails the machinations of several cabinet members as well.
Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s secretary of State, emerges as a master manipulator who secretly encouraged the Israelis to violate a cease-fire with the Soviet-backed Egyptians during the October war of 1973. He even withheld an offer Nixon entrusted him with delivering to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, in which the US president proposed a joint superpower initiative to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to Tyler, “Kissinger’s argument [was] that Israel had to win so the Soviets would lose,” and he allowed this conviction to overrule Nixon’s directives and the entire principle of superpower détente.
Kissinger was not the only one who abused his power, Tyler charges. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, he says, circumvented President Reagan in extending US support to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.