The award-winning British journalist analyzes and criticizes Donald Trump’s handling of wars in the Middle East and Asia.

Independent Middle East correspondent Cockburn opens as he closes, with an account of the assassination of Iranian military strategist and supposed terrorist Qasem Soleimani, which was followed by a declaration that the Islamic State had been defeated and by the abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. The author considers Soleimani less a threat than the administration believed, though his killing provided a convenient martyr around whom Iran could plant a flag. There’s a schizophrenia at play here; writes Cockburn, “the US has always been keen to hide the degree to which it has been Iran’s de facto partner, as well as its rival, ever since Saddam Hussein…invaded Kuwait in 1990.” Many of Trump’s moves seem calculated to improve Iran’s standing in the region: “It does not take very much to destabilize Iraq and the signs are that Trump does not care if he does.” IS seems to be flourishing, mounting attacks on peace demonstrators in Turkey, blowing up a Moscow-bound airliner, attacking a mosque in Egypt, and detonating a suicide bomb beside a Pakistani polling place—“not to mention,” adds Cockburn, “the eight killed in the UK in 2017 after a van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge.” Cockburn gives Trump some credit for attempting to project American power less with military strength than with “commercial and economic” blandishments. He further reserves some of his critical asperity for journalists who are too willing to accept party lines, though he allows that a reporter in the field lacks the clout of the suits back home: “Usually, it is…the home office or media herd instinct that decides the story of the day.” Even so, his own reporting on the ground, interwoven into his narrative, proves the power of a well-informed and serious pen.

A well-placed critique of both an inept presidency and an uncritical media.

Read the review here.

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