With clarity and concision, Juan Cole disentangles the key foreign policy issues that America is grappling with todayfrom our dependence on Middle East petroleum to the promotion of Islamophobia by the American rightand delivers his informed advice on the best way forward. Cole’s unique ability to take the true Muslim perspective into account when looking at East-West relations make his insights well-rounded and prescient as he suggests a course of action on fundamental issues like religion, oil, war and peace. With substantive recommendations for the next administration on how to move forward in key countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, Engaging the Muslim World reveals how we can repair the damage of the disastrous foreign policy of the last eight years and forge ahead on a path of peace and prosperity.
* Al-Qaeda is not a mass movement like fascism or communism but rather a small political cult like the American far right circles that produced Timothy McVeigh.
* The Muslim world is not a new Soviet Bloc but rather is full of close allies or potential allies.
* There can be no such thing as American energy independence, we will need Islamic oil to survive as a superpower into the next century.
* Iran is not an implacable enemy of the U.S.it can and should be fruitfully engaged, which is a necessary step for American energy security since Tehran can play the spoiler in the strategic Persian Gulf.
* America's best hope in Iraq is careful, deliberate military disengagement, rather than either through immediate withdrawal or a century-long military presencein other words, both the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates are wrong.
Like Lawrence Wright's remarkable Looming Tower, published almost three years ago, this field guide to the politics of modern Islam traces the history of the different movements, whose violent offshoots are still morphing into new forms. Along the way, Cole, a historian at the University of Michigan, explores what he sees as the twin dynamic of "Islam Anxiety" in the United States and "American Anxiety" in the Arab world. Readers of Cole's blog, Informed Comment, will find many of the arguments familiar, though they are well assembled here, with essays on the myths surrounding Saudi Wahhabism, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the unintended side effects of American meddling in Iran.