America and the Persian Gulf: The Third Party Dimension in World Politics

By Ryan, Curtis R. | Naval War College Review, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

America and the Persian Gulf: The Third Party Dimension in World Politics


Ryan, Curtis R., Naval War College Review


Yetiv, Steve A.America and thePeian Gulf The Third Party Dimension in WorldPolitics. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995. 192pp. $49.95

In the study of the Middle East, perhaps more than any other area of the world, the gaps between policy makers, international relations theorists, and area specialists tend to be very large. This book is, in part, an attempt to bridge these gaps, and happily, the attempt is successful; hence this book will be of interest to anyone in these various fields. Steve Yetiv, a political scientist at Old Dominion University (and a contributor to the Naval War College Review), brings both his detailed knowledge of the Middle East and his deep understanding of international relations theory to bear on the role of the United States in the Persian Gulf.

One of the distinctive features of Yetiv's approach is his emphasis on the role of "third parties" in international politics. What is especially remarkable about his use of this concept is his reversal of the way in which third parties are often viewed. Much of the literature, for example, focuses on their roles as mediators or otherwise decisive forces affecting international conflicts. Yetiv makes the interesting twist of arguing that it is not only that the United States has.had great effects on Persian Gulf politics but that the reverse is also true, and to a profound degree. The author uses a case study approach, examining a series of major events in the Gulf (the Iranian revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq war, and the 1991 Gulf war) to show how each affected and changed the strategic position of even so powerful a third party as the United States. Among other things, he also makes the provocative argument that these events actually enhanced the strategic position of the United States while lessening that of the Soviet Union.

One of the reasons this book has special appeal is that it combines major theoretical perspectives with a full empirical study of the Persian Gulf. The first chapter outlines the concepts guiding the analysis-essentially the ideas of realism and the balance of power. …

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