THE MESS THEY MADE: THE MIDDLE EAST AFTER IRAQ by Gwynne Dyer (McClelland & Stewart), 280 pages, $21.99 paper. Rating: NNNN
Gwynne Dyer raised his publisher's headache level in January, reports Quill and Quire, when he temporarily abandoned one book on the rise of China and India halfway through and focused instead on something more immediate.
Luckily, it only took the Newfoundland-born, UK-based journalist about three months to write The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq, which is now climbing up bestseller lists.
The popularity of columnists like Dyer, who was strangely shut out of the Toronto newspaper market before he came to NOW, stems from the spotty coverage provided by Canadian media on that region of the world.
I doubt that this ex-naval guy and professional historian, who writes in a blunt, unadorned style, will be read decades from now, as I suspect the more literary, agonizing Robert Fisk will be.
And it is always a risk to write about an ongoing and changing crisis.
But the purpose of Dyer's book is to inform while the embers are hot. He persuasively argues that meddling by the U.S. and its Western allies (including their client state Israel) in the Middle East has only kept the pot boiling in the region and held back the Arab states and Iran, the latest American bogeyman, from developing and possibly reaching their full potential. He also insists that the U.S., suffering from superpower overreach, may not fully recover from the experience.
More controversially, Dyer disagrees with authors like Linda McQuaig that the U.S. invaded Iraq for its oil. Instead, he says, the mission was the result of maniacal neo-conservative plans to enhance America's superpower status in the face of China's growing economic clout.
Memo to TV Ontario's The Agenda: get Dyer and McQuaig to debate this point in a potentially exciting matchup.