Friday, January 11, 2008

REVIEW: The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad by Caroline B. Glick

The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad by Caroline B. Glick. Published 2008 by Gefen Publishers.

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I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program and Gefen Publishers.

The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad is what I'd call an aggressive book. The author, writer and Israel-affairs expert Caroline B. Glick, has an aggressive agenda- to prove that Islamic jihadists are out to take over the world, beginning with a campaign of genocide against all Jews.

I respect Glick's views and there are a lot of positive things to say about this collection. The book is made up of newspaper columns that ran in The Jerusalem Post, and in general her columns are very well-written and she knows her subject inside and out. Her writing is based on experience in the Israel Defense Forces, time as an embedded reporter with the U.S. military and in think tanks in Washington, D.C.; thus her expertise and depth of involvement shine through every page. Her articles, written in the thick of the action, are deeply tied to current events and to her point of view- she writes passionately about her subject and her argument, something any reader absolutely could not miss.

The book is arranged by topic and then chronologically within each topic; this arrangement allows the reader to see her reflections on history as it unfolds- a rare treat. However, because the articles appear without explanatory notes and out of context, it seems to be assumed that the reader knows what she's talking about. Removed from their source, to someone like myself who knows very little about the details of Middle Eastern politics and cannot match random publication dates with the specific events that occurred on or near them, they are simply confusing and it is difficult to learn anything about the Middle East or Israeli politics through her lens. I think reading her in the paper, right next to the day's news, would probably help me follow the thicket of detail and reference more closely.

What I did learn about was Caroline B. Glick and how she sees the world. Not one to build an argument in deliberate and logical fashion, with subtlety, footnotes and backup, her approach is aggressive and jarring, not to mention fast-paced and repetitive. She skims over the day's (or week's) news, using each turn of events to bolster her argument, which is always the same no matter what specific topic she's covering. Then there's the name-calling. For all she knows about the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics, adjectives and accusations are tossed around willy-nilly, often with little support. She claims that Europe is one step away from becoming another Middle Eastern country, what with all the Muslims and the accommodations European governments make for them. She takes the fight to America as well and accuses former Senate candidate Ned Lamont and his supporters of anti-Semitism in his campaign against then-incumbent Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman in one or two throwaway sentences, and she includes nothing to substantiate that very serious and inflammatory accusation. I know there were some rumors going around after Lamont beat Lieberman during the primary, and I'm certainly not in a position to evaluate the veracity of the accusations, but whatever the case it's unacceptable for Glick to besmirch someone's good name like that with nothing to back it up. Not content just to libel a Democratic American politician, later chapters see Glick going after such targets as the French, leftist academics and hippie protesters at Harvard. Do you see a pattern yet?

To be honest I found the book almost unreadable going from cover to cover. She has one point to make, and she makes it over and over in every column; after a while I wondered if she had anything else to say. I ended up finishing the first chapter and then cherry-picking through the rest until I had read everything. I'm sure she's better to read in the paper. When I read someone's column once a week or so, over time I can get a good feel for the writer's sensibility and point of view, but reading many columns all at once is a very different experience, particularly with a writer as polemical as Glick. I respect that Glick, unlike some American penthouse pundits, walks the walk and has put herself on the line more than once to become so well-informed. And the book is not without its merits. But it is certainly not appropriate for newcomers to Middle Eastern politics and I would recommend it only to serious Israel and political science buffs looking for an extremely focused and narrowly-viewed picture of that particular landscape.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

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