A bland title may give the impression of yet another retired government official indicting U.S. policy in the Middle East; but Parker uses "miscalculation" in a more precise way, meaning "a policy decision that goes awry because those making it did not foresee properly what the results would be." He explores three case histories from this angle: the Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian misakes of May 1967, the U.S.-Israeli failure to hear Soviet threats to introduce troops into Egypt in February 1970, and the U.S. insistence on putting through the Lebanese-Israeli agreement in May 1983.

The latter two studies do not sustain the weight Parker imposes on them. In the 1970 case, for example, it is true that Washington and Jerusalem failed to interpret a Soviet warning correctly, but that was a minor, almost routine sort of error. Parker's analysis comes into its own in the first study, however, a well-researched, insightful analysis of one of modern history's great enigmas-Why did the the Six Day War take place? He draws on published accounts, interviews, and personal experience to establish the significance of such subtleties as the relationship between Gamal Abdel Nasser and his marshall, 'Abad al-Hakim 'Amr; he works out the intricacies of timing; and he shows how events acquired a momentum of their own. Until the archives open fully, this probably rates as the last word on the outbreak of war in June 1967. As such, it provides a fascinating entrée into the many-mirrored world of Middle Eastern politics.