Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Twilight War by David Crist
I remember a professor of mine in grad school telling me, "People love secret histories and untold stories. It's annoying. People aren't interested in books that expand on existing knowledge." For some reason, that stuck with me, and I've come back to it over the years. I think it is mostly correct. Intrigue sells. However, just because a work of history focuses on some heretofore unknown or little-known facet of history doesn't render it unworthy of attention. David Crist's The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict With Iran is an excellently researched work of history. That was Crist is writing about is little-known makes the book that much more interesting.
Crist spent eight months in Iraq during the First Gulf War. He was part of a marine armor reconnaissance battalion. After the war, he went back to graduate school for a doctorate in Middle Eastern history. In 2003, he found himself back in Iraq as on of the few marines assigned to the navy's elite SEALS. As you might imagine, this brings a unique perspective to his writing.
Crist takes us on a methodical, detailed account of the conflict between Iran and the United States, beginning with the fall of the Shah of Iran and ending with the 2011 sanctions against Iran. His extensive military knowledge and connections enable him to describe military equipment and maneuvers in a detailed and informative manner. Crist rarely introduces a new person in the story without given at least a quick physical description of them. He style slips back and forth between detailed and casual, in a nearly seamless manner.
Despite Crist's fluid writing, the book is not a quick or necessarily easy read. The subject matter is dense and complex. The story cuts across five decades and six U.S. presidencies. However, if you are interested in U.S. military history, international relations or the Middle East, you will find this book engrossing.