I think my internet failed when I tried to post this, and I didn’t realize it till now (sorry).
Pollack, Kenneth M. The Persian Puzzle. New York: Random House, 2005.
1. Provide some information about the author.
Kenneth Pollack has worked as both a CIA analyst and National Security Council staff member. At the CIA Pollack served as an intelligence analyst and expert on Iraqi and Iranian military affairs. At the National Security Council he worked as Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs and later as Director for Persian Gulf Affairs. He has also worked as the director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and is the former Council on Foreign Relations national security studies director. Finally, he has also worked at the National Defense University.
2. Why did the author write this book? What’s the author’s perspective?
The author argues he had two purposes in writing the book. First, he wanted to establish a history of Iran-U.S. relations. Second, he wanted to address the current crises between the United States and Iran in the context of past history. Although it is the first part of the book that is useful as a scholar of history, the second half may cloud his view or provide bias in his presentation of Iranian-U.S. history. The author’s agenda in the second half of the book may have pressured him to prevent only information relevant to his argument in his history.
3. What is the author’s methodology? What sources does the author use? What is the book’s thesis?
The majority of the author’s sources are newspapers, magazines, and journals. Pollack consults sources from major U.S. papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post to foreign policy journals such as Survival and Foreign Affairs. Pollack also consults journals and magazines specific to the Middle East such as Middle East Policy, Middle Eastern Studies, Middle East Contemporary Survey and the Middle East Journal. Finally Pollack consults a number of Middle Eastern new sources, such as The Daily Star (Beruit). The author’s thesis is that given the history of Iran-U.S. relations, diplomacy is the wisest course to guide the U.S. through current crises with Iran. Pollack argues the use of force would fail and trigger a wider backlash. Specifically, Pollack argues diplomacy can be successful because of the presence of moderates and pragmatists.
4. When was the book written?
The book was published in 2005, and in the introduction the author mentions that the majority of the book was written in late 2003 and 2004.
5. How will you use the source for your paper?
Pollack attempts to address comprehensively the history of Iran-US relations. This provides useful background knowledge and a host of other resources. Pollack also extensively cites major U.S. papers, including during the range of dates I’m examining. This provides a list of relevant primary sources that other scholars of history consider important, helping to provide key sources for my research.
6. What are some of the problems that you foresee in using this source for your paper?
Determining what parts, if any, of Pollack’s history are biased by his agenda will be the most difficult part of using this source. However, Pollack’s qualifications and his history of working with historically conservative institutions (such as the National Defense University), moderate institutions (Brookings), and liberal-leaning institutions (the Council on Foreign Relations) give his work and arguments credibility.