Peace Out of Reach

Published By: The University Press of Kentucky

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Social Science

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Reviewed by Michele Heather Pollock

Subtitled: Middle Eastern Travels and the Search for Reconciliation

The political and ideological conflicts plaguing the Middle East are currently of immense interest to the world. The United States is engaged in two wars there, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and trouble is brewing in other nations of the Middle East as well. It is not difficult to find news clips, sound bytes, and even occasionally longer considerations of crises in the Middle East, but it might sometimes be difficult to more deeply consider the implications of the troubles there and the Western World’s actions and reactions to it.

Stephen Eric Bronner has a very specific perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East. He is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, and a well-known peace activist. And while his firm convictions against war have obviously influenced his thinking in his book Peace Out of Reach, he raises many questions that should be interesting to most people, even those who do not agree with his political views.

Through a series of eleven essays, Bronner takes you along with him on a tour of the Middle East, through Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine – and then “the Middle East spills over” into the Sudan and Darfur, where Islam collides with Christianity in civil war. Bronner travels with groups of academics and engages in what is known as “citizen diplomacy,” where delegations of American citizens meet unofficially with officials and intellectuals of nations fearful of belligerency by the US.

You get glimpses into conversations with governmental officials and citizens of the Middle Eastern nations, while Bronner and his fellow travelers try to break though the “us versus them” mentality that has characterized this area of the world, fostering dialogue in order to better understand cultures and ideas different from our own.

Whether you are for or against continued or escalated military action in the Middle East, Bronners essays can open your mind to new ideas: unexplored possibilities for pursuing peace in the region, the real and difficult roadblocks to achieving peace, and the immediate and lasting impact of any actions on the average people living in this part of the world.

Armchair Interviews says: Stephen Eric Bronner is the senior editor of Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture.

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