This book didn’t take me hostage

In con­trast to Ken­neth Pol­lack­’s [*The Per­sian Puzzle*]([canonical-url:node/674]), which took me weeks to fin­ish, I read *Tak­en Hostage* on a flight from Cal­i­for­nia to New Hamp­shire. I bought it yes­ter­day to keep me occu­pied on the flight and it fit the bill almost exact­ly. I fin­ished about 20 min­utes before landing.

*Tak­en Hostage* is the account of the 444-day Iran­ian Hostage Cri­sis in 1979 – 1981. I had just turned eleven when the hostages were released, and my mem­o­ries of that time are pret­ty hazy. I hoped the focus on this one event would make a good com­pli­ment to *The Per­sian Puzzle*‘s more com­pre­hen­sive overview of U.S.-Iranian rela­tions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, while Far­ber cov­ers more of what hap­pened in Amer­i­ca, Pol­lack­’s analy­sis and data is gen­er­al­ly much better.

In the end, even Pol­lack­’s cov­er­age just of the hostage cri­sis has greater detail and insight than the whole of Far­ber’s book. Which isn’t to say Far­ber’s book isn’t any good, but my tim­ing for choos­ing to read is unfor­tu­nate. I did­n’t get very much from this book.

3 Replies to “This book didn’t take me hostage”

  1. I have just fin­ished read­ing
    I have just fin­ished read­ing “Tak­en Hostage.” Hav­ing lived through that peri­od, my descrip­tion of this book is “vac­u­ous.” He describes the facts and events sim­ply, then cher­ry-picks whichev­er ones fit his view­point and ignores the rest. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true when he describes Carter’s advi­sors. Ini­tial­ly, he describes how bril­liant and astute they were. Then he pro­ceeds to deride them for their every deci­sion. Harold Brown, Cyrus Vance, Hamil­ton Jor­dan, and Zbig Brzezin­s­ki cer­tain­ly haven’t fared as well in his­tor­i­cal review as in Far­ber’s esti­ma­tion. Most of the US felt that Carter and his men were inept at best. Although Far­ber lays most of the blame for Carter’s loss in 1980 on the hostage cri­sis, I think that is too char­i­ta­ble for an admin­is­tra­tion that drove the US econ­o­my into such a state that they had to invent new words such as “stagfla­tion” and “mis­ery index” to describe it. Add to that the VERY unpop­u­lar Pana­ma Canal give­away (We still don’t under­stand why.) and it would have been impos­si­ble for Carter to win reelec­tion even with­out the cri­sis. In sum­ma­ry, not much to learn from this book. I was pleased to see that even with his lib­er­al views, he dis­cred­its the idea of the “Octo­ber Sur­prise” rather con­vinc­ing­ly. A total lack of evi­dence has not deterred most lib­er­als from believ­ing it.


  2. Not par­tic­u­lar­ly. I sus­pect
    Not par­tic­u­lar­ly. I sus­pect you can find a good home for it. =^)