Damien Hirst’s wares are exhibited in one room of the National Gallery, a cramped elevator lobby on the bottom floor that leads directly into a gift shop. For anyone else, the placement could be mistaken for an insult; for Hirst, the metaphor fits. Hirst came from humble and troubled beginnings—from the bottom floor of society, so to speak. Early in life he fell in with a bad crowd and had several run-ins with the law, but soon after discovered his talent for showmanship and salesmanship. His professional ascent was meteoric, easily outstripping the young Brits who competed against him for attention in the 1990s. Now the begoggled businessman sits commandingly in the industry C-suite.
After nearly eight years in office, most observers would conclude that President Barack Obama has done little to advance, and may well have undermined, American interests in the Middle East. While he would tout the Iran nuclear deal as perhaps his greatest foreign policy achievement, a debatable proposition in itself, the region is embroiled in a series of crises the current administration seems unable to address or understand.
In their masterful new book, Ray Takeyh and Steve Simon contend that in the not too distant past the United States was far more successful in the region.