The book “The Foreigner’s Gift: the Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq” by Fouad Ajami provides detailed overview of the events taken place in the mentioned countries as well as the author offers his unique vision of those events. The author is rather persuasive, because he uses logical arguments, conclusions, facts and viewpoints of different critics to defend his position. It is necessary to outline that findings presented in the book significantly contribute the evidence that events in America, Iraq and Arab countries are rather contradictive and disputable.
The issues raised in the book are a matter of concern of many other writers, historians and politicians. The author is rather concerned with war in Iraq defining it as “an orphan in the court of public opinion”. (Ajami 2006) The author thinks that such definition is precisely characterizes the fact that “these days even some of those who had campaigned in favor of the war now sound apologetic or even critical”.
(Ajami 2006)According to Ajami, the war in Iraq ensured support of more than 70% of Americans and thus caused rather enthusiastic endorsement in the US Congress and media. Nevertheless, nowadays situation has dramatically changed and support decreased to 30%.
The author argues that it is difficult to say whether the war may be considered just and necessary. Furthermore, Ajami asserts that to achieve the understanding one should use the help of “detailed arguments based on facts and backed by his deep understanding of the complex politics of the Middle East”.
(Ajami 2006)Therefore, the book is surely a deconstruction and critique of cultural, political and military war in Iraq initiated by Sunni Arabs and the author strongly objects to political rise of Shia. He says: “An old order of dominion and primacy was shattered in Iraq. The rage against this American war, in Iraq itself and in the wider Arab world, was the anger of a culture that America had given power to the Shia stepchildren of the Arab world – and to the Kurds”.
(Ajami 2006)The author assumes that the opposition of Arab countries to Shia has changed even the American policy meaning that Bush’s policy has been changed due to “bureaucratic infighting” in his administration: “There are reports, exaggerated by the telling, that Iranian charities and political-religious operatives from the larger Persian state next door are running away with Iraq, that they will recast it in their image, that they are training Shia activists in media and political work designed to impose an edifice of power akin to Iran’s”. (Ajami 2006)Despite the fact that the author is of Arab origin and at the same time he is an American academic, he takes into account both sides of the issues providing thus relevant comparison and contrasting of American and Arab actions. It is mentioned in the book that American population worries about the cruelty and violence initiated by Iraqis and American understand that it is exploited for partisan purposes in the country. Further, Ajami assumes that Iraqis are also displeased when seeing foreign troops in their country and even more displeased when hearing that liberation and democracy should be introduced without asking them. Therefore, the author admits that “it would take a long time for it to come to the surface”.
(Ajami 2006)Ajami mentions in the book that he has been to Iraq many times during war and thus he has been provided with opportunity to interview key figures in political life of the country. According to the title of the book, it is apparent that the author considers fall of Iraqi’s leader Saddam Hussein as a gift for the rest of the world, especially for the USA and its allies. Ajami notices that “it would have been better had the Iraqis liberated themselves”. (Ajami 2006) Nevertheless, he realizes that it is hardly possible in the near future as the severe regime in the country destroyed the whole native population.After reading the book, two important points appear to be clearly set:1. The first point is that regime has changed in Baghdad meaning that the Iraq Project has achieved its ultimate objectives. Apparently, the first seeds of democratization process are planted in the country.2. The second point is that change of regime in Baghdad has initiated democratic ideas in many Arab countries. Therefore, the author asserts that “these genies will not return to the bottle and that, given time and American tenacity, will be able to reshape the Middle East”. (Ajami 2006)Speaking further, it is necessary to sum up that “The Foreigner’s Gift” isn’t a dry academic study due to its colorful expression, combination of poetic and prose style of narration and shrewd author’s eye of a reporter.
For example, Ajami writes that “the type of carpets that furnish Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s modest home in Najaf”. (Ajami 2006) Therefore, Ajami has true talent of story telling and the book appears to be easily readable and enjoyable for general interested reader. The book certainly contains original and new information about the Iraqi population. For example, the author admits that nowadays many of the Iraqis begin to realize that it is their duty to fight their newly won freedom and, thus, they are obliged to build new democratic system eliminating the old regime. Ajami notes that the desire for more freedom and liberty is spreading among other Arab countries initiating new struggles between, for example, Iraq and its Ba’athist and Islamist enemies.
Therefore, Ajami hopes the democracy is the future of Arab nations. Proponents of new Iraq have the right to dream about the different future. (Ajami 2006)The next moment to mention is that the book is filled with lots of information that reveal the reality of Iraq involving car bombs, suicide attacks and other issues. The author writes, for example, about the increased number of pilgrims stating that they generated the real estate boom in many cities. The number of pilgrims is estimated at about four million people per year.
The author also presents the role of translators and interpreters in misleading foreigners who come to Iraq. Surprisingly, it is found out in the book that both Nuri Said and General Abdul-Karim Kassem “have achieved a new measure of popularity among those Iraqis desperately seeking for a nostalgic wall against which to lean in these times of uncertainty”. (Ajami 2006)Ajami thoroughly examines the attitude of the Arab media towards the agenda of new Iraq. However, the author appears to be highly critical of Qatari Al Jazeera television and the Egyptian press, whereas he is rather satisfied with the releases of Asharq Alawsat and its former editor-in-chief and star columnist Abdul-Rahman Al-Rashed. Special attention in the book is paid to the complexities of Shi’ism in Iraq.
The author provides detailed description of late Muhammad Baqer Sadr stating that he is a real philosopher, though the definition is too exaggerated. The author also assumes that it was Saddam who ordered Sadr’s execution and it is Ruhollah Khomeini who should share the blame. (Ajami 2006)It is necessary t note that book deals with the policies “pursued by Arab governments vis-à-vis recent changes in Iraq” as well. (Ajami 2006) For example, the author strongly criticizes both President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan assuming that they are going to undermine and to destroy the new regime in Iraq. That is the main reason why the media in Egypt and in Jordan is very hostile and too government-controlled.
However, the author provides little supporting evidence to prove the fact that Amman or Cairo is willing to encourage the insurgency in Iraq.“The Foreigner’s Gift” provides position of Lebanese Shi’ite community towards the new regime in Iraq. Apparently, the majority of the population is really happy to realize that Saddam’s regime is over, because he has persecuting fellow Shi’ites for several decades. However, two leading organizations in Lebanese’s Shi’ite community’s claim that new regime in Iraq is just an American contraption. The author admits that both organizations are the proponents of former Ba’atists and pro- Al Qaeda groups. The author strongly objects to Muhammad Hussein Fadhlallah, because he is spiritual leader of the Lebanese Hezballah.
Fadhlallah criticizes new regime in Iraq and, thus, the author opposes his ideas and thoughts. (Ajami 2006)Ajami provides positive feedback towards Wolfowitz and really admires his personality and his intellectual qualities; whereas a person received the most praise in “The Foreigner’s Gift” is Ahmad Chalabi. The author says that Ahmad Chalabi is the natural successor to Saddam, because he has done a lot to ask the USA for help and intervention in Iraq. Nevertheless, after liberation has come to Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi is accused of selling secrets to Iran. However, in such a way the author denigrates other leading political figures of Iraq and he simply enhance Chalabi’s reputation.
Ajami states that if to listen to the head of the largest Shiite party in Iraq, it is possible to reveal “a Persian cadence” in his intonations. Further, Ajami states that Iran’s influence on Iraq’s policy is exaggerated. (Ajami 2006)Despite many shortcomings and dark spots, the author claims that new leadership of Iraq is able to provide improvements compared with the Ba’athist ancient regime. Nowadays, according to the author, Iraq is “affected by the toxic fumes of partisan politics” and, thus, the book is a breath of fresh air. (Ajami 2006) “The Foreigner’s Gift” is a rich textured study of post-invasion Iraq providing morality of the American mission.
However, the book appears highly romantic in portraying American soldiers, religious and political dynamics, Iraqi ethnic and the possibilities for ultimate success. The book is an attempt to persuade people that the occupation and war could not have been handled better.