The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014. 258p. $19.89. ISBN: 978-1137279033. Ebk: 704 KB. $11.04. ISBN: 1137279036.
Volume: 2 Issue: 12
W. Lynn Rigsbee II, PhD
Central State University
It is difficult to determine what type of text Walid Phares has written in The Lost Spring . It is not an academic text, as this review will reveal. Neither is it a work of fiction, though the casual reader might mistake it for such. Rather, The Lost Spring is little more a political polemic designed to advance the right-wing agenda of its author.
Walid Phares is a former advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign and consultant to various Republican Party politicians, such as Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich. Phares is also advisor to the center-right European People’s Party (which he mistakenly calls the European Popular Party), a participant or organizer of various conferences (few of which he bothers to name), and a former associate with the Heritage Foundation.
Phares’ thesis is that the Obama Administration is in league with various government funded agencies — (The Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Institute for Peace, the International Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute), liberals, the media (other than Fox News), cultural relativists (the late Edward Said), pro-Islamic and Iranian lobbies, and the academic community — to betray American national interests in the Middle East. The alleged start of this betrayal began with the president’s speech at Cairo University in June, 2009. At that point, the current administration allegedly turned away from the Bush Administration’s “freedom forward” policy and began a long process of accommodation with various Islamists and Salifists groups, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), and the Islamic Republic of Iran. To use Phares’ terminology, “the speech was a version of an undeclared “Yalta agreement” between the administration and the Islamist forces.” (p. 170)
The text provides no evidence to substantiate these charges, but is filled with numerous fantastical claims. For example, concerning the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and the later election of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt’s first democratic election since before 1952, Phares states without evidence “Another factor helped the Muslim Brotherhood in its course, and that was the sympathy of the Obama Administration. With many advisers in its bureaucracy close to the Brotherhood, the administration shepherded the Egyptian revolution in a manner advantageous to the Islamists.” (p. 53)
One discovers other claims of conspiracy by Phares. Also without evidence one reads “The Brotherhood’s peak [of influence] in the United States came with the victory of candidate Barak Obama in the U.S. presidential election of 2008. The network, via its front groups, supported the campaign, not as a formal entity, but as a prelude to receiving influence within America’s bureaucracies and the new administration when Obama took office” (p. 138).
Next, according to Phares, the Obama Administration was planning to turn Iraq over to Iran and Afghanistan to the Taliban: “The next goals [after preventing Israel from attacking Iran and reaching out to Hezbollah] were to offer up Iraq, after the U.S. pullout, to Iranian influence as a price for rehabilitation of Iran’s regime in the club of nations, and to concede Afghanistan to the Taliban in return for peace with the Jihadists” (p. 183).
The sources for these claims are various right wing and conservative publications in the United States. Numerous footnotes reference American Thinker, National Review, New York Daily News, Cutting Edge News, FrontPage Magazine, American Spectator, National Post, and Newsmax Magazine. Hardly works of scholarly repute.
Phares also possesses knowledge of, and insights into Middle East politics that border upon the clairvoyant. Apparently he predicted the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran (p. 19). Phares also knew the Arab Spring was coming (pp. 38-39), that Iran and Hezbollah would assist the Assad regime in Syria (p. 89), and all but predicted the attack upon the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. (p. 101) Of course hindsight always provides one with 20/20 vision.
Finally, throughout the text, Phares refers to himself in the first person. In the first chapter alone this reviewer counted 46 such references. A similar pattern of self-aggrandizement is found throughout the work. Clearly modesty does not become the writer.
Thus, what conclusion does one draw from this text? The main one is that The Lost Spring … is not a work of scholarship. Rather as stated in the first paragraph of this review, it is little more than a polemic. One cannot blame or begrudge the author for desiring to ingratiate himself with potential Republican presidential candidates (Romney, Bachmann, Santorum, et cetera), for any of these individuals may run in 2016. In fact Phares’ final chapter (excluding the Epilogue) is titled “Romney’s Alternative View.” Although an analysis of the former governor’s 2011-2012 positions on the Middle East, the points presented in the chapter might easily be recycled for a 2016 campaign.
Because of the blatant political nature of The Lost Spring … and its lack of anything approaching scholarly balance and objectivity, this reviewer cannot in good conscious recommend adoption by individuals or libraries.