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Falk is a still-surviving totem of the 1960s leftist revolution in American academia and this collection might better be thought of as a tourist guide than a serious effort at comprehending the Middle East. The self-admiring author has a particular approach: he uses abstruse matters of international law to obfuscate the obvious moral problems faced by Arab states, and above all Palestinian politicians, in their conflict with Israel and the United States.

Under the careful hands of Jean Allain of the American University in Cairo, Unlocking the Middle East is more like a self-produced Festschrift in Falk's own honor. Furthering this impression, the book comes not from a distinguished academic or trade publisher, but from an obscure house, with a presentation suggesting a vanity press production, full of grandiosity and self-indulgence.

Thus, in the introduction, Allain records Falk's horrendously mistaken claim that in Vietnam, the conflict which made him famous, the United States was involved in trying "to reverse the outcome of a war waged against the French over the whole of Indochina, and then divid[ing] Vietnam." In this Alice-in-Wonderland view, the United States, invading southern Vietnam, had split the country and then committed aggression against North Vietnam.

It is no wonder, then, that Falk, having transferred his generous attentions from Southeast to western Asia, has written clogged, legalistic essays, republished here, in which he sympathetically discusses or quotes others on the Pakistani nuclear weapon, Palestinian terrorism, the Iranian Islamic state, and sundry additional symbols of anti-Western rage, with little or no new contribution or much nuance.

Allain describes Falk as a "New York Jew," so his mindless embrace of anti-Zionist extremism might prompt some to call him "self-hating." But Unlocking the Middle East suggests that the more accurate term would be "self-loving," as he is someone whose esteem for his own supposed brilliance outweighs any sense of responsibility to a personal and familial legacy or to the democratic culture that has fostered his work or that of others like him.