Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East
by Geoffrey Kemp and Robert Harkavy
Washington: Carnegie Endowment in Association with Brookings Institutions Press, 1997. 493 pp. $52.95 cloth, $22.95 paper.
Reviewed by Patrick Clawson
Middle East Quarterly
The Persian Gulf, so very distant from the United States, contains most of the world's oil reserves; Kemp and Harkavy explore the implications of these two geographic facts on U.S. policy toward the area. However much modern technologies may have shrunk distances, when it comes to war and oil, they argue, geography still comes close to being destiny. They reject the notion that Persian Gulf security can be guaranteed without much U.S. presence there. In a manner accessible to the non-specialist and interesting to the expert, Kemp and Harkavy consider the impact on Gulf security of those technologies which make possible a revolution in military affairs (RMA), such as technologies that allow long-range detection of targets and precise delivery of force from a great distance, explaining their skepticism about the RMA's ability to substitute for forward presence.
As for energy supplies, they see little likelihood that the Gulf's central role will diminish. Its oil is so cheap, world demand is likely to increase. They nicely show why the Caspian Sea oil basin is likely to be caught up in the same geopolitical instabilities that shape the Persian Gulf. The volume includes useful appendices on technical energy and military issues.
Despite a title that refers to "strategic geography and the changing Middle East," the book has little to say about the strategic geography of the Levant or North Africa, other than to offer an optimistic assessment of the potential for cooperative prosperity. Specifically, this is not the place to find an analysis of the impact of geography on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Related Topics: Oil, Persian Gulf & Yemen, US policy | Patrick Clawson | March 1998 MEQ
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