A hearty congratulations to Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith, whose new book, The Strong Horse, got the coveted favorable treatment in the New York Times Book Review. Author Wendell Steavenson praises the “short, dense, nuanced polemic,” and adds, “[Smith] treats us to beautifully written portraits of his Arab friends, individuals who illustrate far better than finely wrought theory the difficulties of practical reform.”

Steavenson also engages (and somewhat disagrees, but debate is good!) with Smith’s central contention:

The ruling elites … are simply self-interested factions trying, by any measure possible, to retain their grip on power. Jihad, Smith argues, is an age-old byproduct of this struggle as the ruler pushes the energies of the young militant warrior class away from his capital. For Smith, the 9/11 attacks were less the result of a clash of civilizations than part of existing Middle East power struggles.

“Smith,” Steavenson adds, “sees this as an embedded cultural inheritance.”

To read Smith’s past “Agents of Influence” columns for Tablet Magazine, click here. And check in here on Wednesdays for new ones.

The Enemy Within
The Strong Horse

Related: Agents of Influence [Tablet Magazine]