Janice J. Terry. U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Role of Lobbies and Special Interest Groups.

AuthorTalhami, Ghada Hashem
PositionBook review

Janice J. Terry. U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Role of Lobbies and Special Interest Groups. London: Pluto Press, 2005, 160 pages. Paper $24.95.

It is commonly acknowledged that lobbies play a large role in shaping policy and that the pro-Israel lobby enjoys a near-monopoly on U.S. foreign policy formulations. The issue of lobbies per se has been a subject of debate as of late since they enjoy an inordinate degree of eminence in this country. This contrasts sharply with the minimal role that political lobbies play in other Western democracies. Only in this presidential democracy are lobbies able to marshal votes and monetary resources in the game of influencing policy makers. No one, for instance, questions the power of the pro-Israel lobby in this country, which has been described as the most potent influence on foreign policy since the demise of that of the Nationalist Republic of China. The subject of several studies in the past, such as Edward N. Tivnan's The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (1987), the pro-Israel lobby has an established reputation for being an effective king-maker. It has also been credited with the making and unmaking of several political careers.

American lobbies are, more importantly, significantly superior to voter behavior and opinion polls in their impact on foreign policy decision-making. That is why Janice Terry has chosen to focus on this informal input into foreign policy, which, in the case of the pro-Israel lobby, has been very successful in tilting U.S. policy overwhelmingly towards Israel. Her intent is to investigate how domestic and international inputs shape foreign policy decisions by using the Ford and Carter administrations as two contrasting case studies of the limitations on presidential powers. Terry also examines the context in which American foreign policy is shaped, from the impact of popular culture to the power of certain ethnic special interest groups such as Jewish American organizations. She takes a stab at the contrasting effectiveness of the Greek and Turkish lobbies as well, particularly as they impact U.S. policy towards Cyprus. Underlying all of this is the overriding question: where are the Arab lobbies, and if they do exist, what issues do they normally champion?

The plan of the book is to begin at the top by examining the role of presidential advisors as they facilitate the pro-Israel lobby's access to the presidential office. These are the...

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