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Peace Out of Reach

Middle Eastern Travels and the Search for Reconciliation

Stephen Bronner

Publication Year: 2007

In Peace Out of Reach, Stephen Eric Bronner offers an intriguing analysis and eyewitness account of the political and ideological conflicts plaguing the Middle East. Sharply critical of the United States’ policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and concerned about our nation’s declining credibility throughout the world, Bronner examines the unexplored possibilities and recurrent roadblocks in the struggle for peace. Whether visiting academics in Iran, refugees in Palestine, or the president of Syria, Bronner seeks to listen and learn. These experiences have shaped Bronner’s understanding of how the political crises in the Middle East have dramatically influenced Western politics and culture. Peace Out of Reach also investigates the extraordinary controversies generated by the publication of blasphemous cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, the religious conservatism of Pope Benedict XVI, the character of contemporary anti-Semitism, and the connection between human rights and personal faith. Peace Out of Reach is both a study in foreign policy and a philosophical inquiry that raises profound ethical questions about the world and the United States’ role in it. It links experience with erudition and objective analysis with strategic proposals for change. This book will undoubtedly resonate with all people seeking an alternative to the discredited policies of the past. It contributes mightily to the cultivation of a cosmopolitan and democratic politics.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

I would like to express my thanks to the people who helped bring this book to fruition. Lawrence Davidson, Robert Fitch, Kurt Jacobsen, and Michael Thompson spent their valuable time reading drafts of the text and offering...

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1. Cosmopolitan Engagements

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pp. 1-11

As I am writing these lines, sitting at my desk, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has already unraveled. Afghanistan is witnessing the resurgence of the Taliban, Iraq is disintegrating, Iran is at loggerheads with the West, Syria has retreated further from democracy, Hezbollah...

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2. Lessons from Afghanistan

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pp. 13-24

September 11, 2001, marked the beginning of a new millennium. 1 It was a traumatic event for all who lived through it, even those who did not lose family or friends but merely watched the tragedy on television. Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 had the United...

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3. The Iraqi Debacle: Democracy, Desperation, and the Ethics of War

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pp. 25-39

As a member of U.S. Academics against War, I visited Baghdad and some other Iraqi cities before the bombing began in 2003.1 It was clear to our group that the justifications offered in support of the attack were at odds with reality. Iraq the 1991 Gulf War,2 and it posed no threat to the United States or its national interests. I still remember the brightly lit shops ...

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4. Twilight in Tehran

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pp. 41-57

My last trip to Iran was in September 2005. I had traveled through parts of the country in 2003 after participating in the Second International Human Rights Conference at Mofid University in Qom, but I was thrilled at the thought of again visiting the ruins of...

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5. Syria and Its President: A Meeting with Bashar al-Assad

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pp. 59-73

Syria has a particularly bad reputation in the Middle East. Authoritarian remnants of the grim and gray rule of Hafez al-Assad still hang over the country. Arbitrary incarceration and heavy censorship mark his legacy. Memories...

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6. Withdrawal Pains: Gaza, Lebanon, and the Future of Palestine

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pp. 75-91

Before my first trip to the Occupied Territories in 2004 with a delegation organized by the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, I was a rather conventional left-wing critic of Israeli policy. I knew that the condition of the Palestinian refugees was bad, but until I saw for myself what had transpired in towns such as Jenin and Jayousz, I had no idea...

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7. The Middle East Spills Over: The Sudan and the Crisis in Darfur

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pp. 93-108

The Middle East is not merely a geographical designation but a cauldron of ideological and material conflicts. Its borders are arbitrary. Neither religious intolerance nor ancient tribal and ethnic hatreds respect them. Conflicts of this...

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8. Conspiracy Then and Now: History, Politics, and the Anti-Semitic Imagination

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pp. 109-121

The year 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”1 Fabricated toward the end of the nineteenth century by Russian secret police agents visiting Paris—just as the first Zionist Congress was taking place in Basel in 1898—it was first published in 1905 as an appendix to a on the alleged existence of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the ...

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9. Incendiary Images: Blasphemous Cartoons, Cosmopolitan Responsibility, and Critical Engagement

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pp. 123-133

Symbolic politics cannot be divorced from practical politics. This is true not merely when dealing with clashes between East and West, Muslim and Christian, but also with conflicts between any traditional religious community and the liberal, secular world of modernity. Such themes run through much of my work, and...

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10. Of Reason and Faith: On the Former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger

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pp. 135-145

I felt a strange twinge of delight when Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected pope on April 24, 2005. That was because I had had the privilege of meeting him at a party in 1973 while I was studying at the University of T

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11. False Antinomies: On Religious Conviction and Human Rights

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pp. 147-160

In 2004 I was invited to speak at a conference on human rights in Qom, and this essay—built on that lecture—is a fitting end to Peace Out of Reach. It sharply contests Islamic theocracy no less than the signal importance of prepolitical religious values for contemporary democracy. It is also critical of all those provincial nationalists, communitarians...


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pp. 161-178


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pp. 179-197

E-ISBN-13: 9780813172576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124469

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2007