The King's Game in the Middle East

Non-Fiction - Military
144 Pages
Reviewed on 12/01/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Checkmate: The King's Game in the Middle East is a work of non-fiction that focuses on important current affairs, military themes, and sociocultural and political factors, and was penned by author Gennaro Buonocore. Concisely worded to offer an informative but highly digestible discussion, the work explores the current state of affairs in the Middle East including politics, strategy, culture, and identity. Using the analogy of a chessboard, the author presents many observations on events past and present, and seeks to illustrate how these different ideas are connected to parties moving around in a much bigger game. Whilst these specifics are focused on the Middle East, there is also a wider ideology and application to the overall essay.

Author Gennaro Buonocore has crafted an intelligent and worthwhile read on the complexities of modern affairs in the Middle East, and the impact that this will have on the world as a whole. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of global affairs will find Buonocore’s analogies very helpful and eye-opening, as well as opening them up to more questions and research on the topic thereafter. But one of the things which struck me so poignantly about this work as a piece of non-fiction was its emotional resonance and personal impact. The author gives much of his soul and passion to the piece, imbuing the facts and figures with a sense of real identity, person, and place. Overall, this makes Checkmate: The King's Game in the Middle East truly compelling reading which I would certainly recommend to one and all.

Heather Stockard

Gennaro Buonocore is a U.S. Naval Reserve Foreign Area Officer and former reserve Civil Affairs officer in the Italian military who has operated extensively in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and North Africa over the last twenty years. In his latest book, Checkmate: The King’s Game in the Middle East, Buonocore uses his experience to give readers an inside understanding of the complex situation in the Middle East. In Checkmate, he compares the conflict in the Middle East to a game of chess, full of complexity and tension. He introduces the players: Iran, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, and the U.S., and explains their roles and motivations for playing. He looks into the past and at the present to explain what drives the conflicts, and the problems with current policies.

Checkmate was written primarily for military personnel and others who might find themselves operating in the Middle East, but anyone with an interest in current affairs will find it a fascinating read. It is well-written and easy to understand, and Gennaro Buonocore’s insider perspective is a refreshing change. Most people get their information on the Middle East from the media, often biased in one way or another. But Buonocore’s knowledge comes from his own first-hand experience. Readers will be introduced to different viewpoints and new ideas. Buonocore’s analysis is detailed and thought-provoking, delving into the way the world players think and why. This book is a must-read for anyone looking for a better understanding of the situation in the Middle East.

Joe Wisinski

Checkmate: The King’s Game in the Middle East is an analysis of the political situation in the Middle East. Of course, the history of the area is a critical part of where the region stands today, so author Gennaro Buonocore writes much about history, too. Some knowledge of the game of chess would be useful to profit from this book, although it is not necessary, because Buonocore likens the region to a giant chessboard. In Buonocore’s view, the United States is the queen, Turkey and Israel are bishops, Egypt and Iran are rooks, and China and Russia are knights. Some previous knowledge of the situation in the Middle East and history, in general, will also be useful to potential readers. The author spent many years serving in the Middle East as a soldier and as a statesman. His knowledge is both deep and broad.

Checkmate: The King’s Game in the Middle East is not light reading. As Gennaro Buonocore himself says, “. . . this book is meant to be studied.” He refers several times to the complexity of the political and military situation in the Middle East, and he’s right. However, likening the situation to a chess game is a unique and useful technique to help readers understand the complexities. Some of the book relies on Buonocore’s personal observations and experiences, which are of great value. Many people may disagree with his premises and conclusions, but his book is thought-provoking and will engender discussion. This book would be a useful resource in college and graduate-level political science courses. There’s no disputing Buonocore’s knowledge, experience, and insight.