Monday, March 10, 2003

Book Review: Fire in Beirut: Israel's war in Lebanon with the PLO

Dan Bavly and Eliahu Salpeter's book Fire in Beirut: Israel's war in Lebanon with the PLO is not all that famous. Nor will it be. That is not to say that it is a bad book, but it does seem somewhat dated. There are a number of good things and a number of bad things I will say about the book. First the good: The book does give you a better perspective then others I have read, about the bigger picture of the war. That is to say that there is a decent chapter on the Soviet stake in the war, and the media environment, and a small sampling of the other Arab interests in the war in Lebanon. The book is also refreshingly not written assuming the objectivity of the left-wing weltenschaung. The book is mildly polemical, and is not in any way pro-Sharon. There is also some good material on the lessons learned from the war, both by the Israelis and the Americans.

The book, like I said, is dated though. It was written in 1984, from the perspective of the events as they were then. It assumes that Ragen will have the final say in some of the issues here. He did not. the book is also a bit light on source material. I would like a bit more on how they came to that formulation. The book also lacked a goog analysis of the American and Israeli demands on Bashir Gemayel that forced him in to making some of the choices he made. That would have been useful, and rounded out the picture nicely.

Finally, they kept referring to the al-shouf mountains, and stuff like that. "Al" is synonomous with "the", so "the al-Beka" valey sounds redundant and annoying.

The book was not bad. I learned a few new and useful things from it, and I would recommend it to anyone really interested in the topic.