Over the last few years I’ve featured a number of books from Greenhaven Press’s Current Controversies, Opposing Viewpoints and Global Viewpoints series. Early on, I had pretty good luck with a number of their books including their Islam: Opposing Viewpoints, Afghanistan: Current Controversies and China: Opposing Viewpoints. Lately however I have not been as impressed with Greenhaven’s offerings. I was considerably underwhelmed with their Israel: Opposing Viewpoints and especially their Democracy: Global Viewpoints. So disappointed I was with their books that I was seriously considering never reading one ever again.
Well, as you probably guessed from my last few Library Loot postings that I recently decided to give Greenhaven another chance. Since I’m participating in Helen’s Middle East Reading Challenge, one of those books I grabbed from the library was their 2012 edition of The Middle East: Current Controversies. Being a quick read like most of their books, I burned through The Middle East: Current Controversies in just a few days. However, after finishing this particular book from Greenhaven Press this time I was not disappointed. Based on the quality of its selected opinion pieces, The Middle East: Current Controversies is a noticeable improvement over Greenhaven’s recent offerings.
Just like others in Greenhaven’s catalog, The Middle East: Current Controversies is divided into separate chapters, with each chapter devoted to a single discussion topic. In a quest to explore the many aspects of this turbulent region, the book is divided into the following chapters:
- What Are the Primary Concerns About the Middle East?
- How Can the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict be Resolved?
- Have US Military Actions in the Middle East Been Effective?
- Should the United States be Involved with Problems in the Middle East?
Unlike the last several books in this series that I’ve read, the opinion pieces used to help create this book are of much better quality. Instead of stuff reprinted from obscure and fringe publications or written by people, who based on their experience and credentials could hardly be considered subject matter experts, this material comes from a higher caliber of sources. Not only are there fairly lengthy speeches by past US President George Bush as well as current President Barack Obama, but there are pieces from the Congressional Research Institute, in addition to an essay from a professor at the US Air Force Academy and one from a major in the US Army. There’s also a plethora of opinion pieces from writers representing a number of think tanks and policy institutes including the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution. Lastly, traditional periodicals seem to be represented as well in this collection, with the inclusion of pieces from the Christian Science Monitor, the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post.
I’m happy to report that every single opinion piece in this book has its merits. Yes, just like you will find with any collection, some pieces are better than others. But whether I agree or not with the expressed opinions is irrelevant: all the writers had interesting things to say. While I don’t consider myself a conservative, I thought the contributions from notable conservatives David Frum and Daniel Pipes were well-written and intelligent, even if I disagree with some of the things they wrote.
Hats off to editor Noel Merino and team for selecting an excellent crop of material for this book. By doing so, you’ve gone a long way in restoring my faith in Greenhaven Press.