Sunday, June 01, 2008

Review: Guests of the Ayatollah

I just finished Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden. This book covers the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis including most major events throughout the lead-up and gives a decent epilogue. If you're looking for a good storyteller, Bowden's writing is where it's at. His narrative keeps you engaged in the plight of those involved. I'm not a big fan of preachy or stilted material, so I was quite pleased to find that Bowden remained relatively neutral. He does give a general assessment at the end, but it still leaves you feeling that you can make up your own mind.

One thing that bothered me throughout was I continuously thought, "why did the military just do x" or "they could have just done y." Then Bowden explained. The military reacted to the failures of Operation Eagle Claw (the attempted rescue of the hostages) by adapting. The complex mission would now be far simpler to plan...even a junior officer has the basic information needed to know what equipment and planning would be necessary to attempt such a rescue attempt.

I felt the book also brought to the light several issues that are very important in present day. Mostly, they involve diplomacy. The greatest weakness in diplomacy is the "no." As long as someone continuously says no, talking will go nowhere. Taking action, whether force, the threat of force, or political pressure, is sometimes necessary.

In addition, the author's recent trips to the embassy grounds and modern Iran show the current state of affairs within the country. Perhaps Iran is ready for a new revolution?

I highly recommend this book as an insight into a dramatic and poorly understood moment in history.


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