TAKEN HOSTAGE: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam

David R. Farber, Author . Princeton Univ. $22.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-691-11916-8

For 444 days in 1979–1981, Americans watched, with a mix of frustration and helplessness, the unfolding of the Iran hostage crisis and the withering of the Carter presidency. While Farber, a professor at Temple University, presents a detailed picture of the coming of the Iranian revolution, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the United States' inability to see and deal effectively with either, at the heart of his tale is America. Farber satisfyingly contextualizes the moment, vividly redrawing stagflation, the energy crisis and national malaise. Neither the Shah nor his American supporters saw how powerful Islamic forces had become, viewing the threat as "Soviet Red and not Islamic Green"; Carter failed first to grasp the nature of the threat and later to act effectively. Khomeini comes off as a shrewd strategist, using the hostages to both consolidate his growing power and unite his nation. While the commentary on contemporary politics is rather speculative, Farber gives a needed history lesson on the depth of political anger in the Islamic world and on the United States' incapacity to communicate its message. (Nov.)

Forecast: Along with David Harris's The Crisis (Forecasts, Sept. 20), this is the second major book marking 25 years since the November 4, 1979, hostage-taking. The date may be overshadowed by the election, but look for author media play.

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
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