Regime Change in the Greater Middle East

Regime Change in the Greater Middle East

Project Expert

Philip H. Gordon
Philip H. Gordon

Mary and David Boies Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy

About the Project

In October 2020, I published my newest book, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East.  It is a study of U.S. efforts to oust hostile governments in the Middle East since the 1950s, with a view to drawing lessons for how to approach the region today and in the future.  Drawing on my own experience in government, the book shows how U.S. interventions in places as diverse as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria were all very different, but all ended up failing to achieve their intended goals, produced a range of unintended consequences, carried heavy financial and human costs, and in many cases left the countries in question worse off than they were before.  I argue that diplomacy, deterrence, containment, arms control, and engagement invariably provide a better path forward than well-intended but almost always counter-productive and costly attempts to change regimes and impose democracy.  In addition to my book, I continue to write essays and op-eds on this topic, including in Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, Newlines, and elsewhere.  I have also spoken about the book at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Middle East Institute, the American Academy in Berlin, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the SETA Foundation, the Institute for National Security Studies, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and the Rethinking Iran Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. 

 

Events

U.S. Foreign Policy

Since the end of World War II, the United States has set out to oust governments in the Middle East on an average of once per decade—in places such as Iran, Afghanistan (twice), Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Though pursued for a wide range of reasons, these operations all failed to achieve their ultimate goals, produced a range of unintended and even catastrophic consequences, carried heavy financial and human costs, and often left the countries in question worse off than they were before. Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East gives readers a look at the U.S. experience with regime change over the past seventy years, and an insider’s view on U.S. policymaking in the region at the highest levels. The CFR Fellows’ Book Launch series highlights new books by CFR fellows.