A keen-eyed, sweeping survey of the depressingly familiar erroneous U.S. policy in the Middle East since the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
Wawro (Military History/Univ. of North Texas; The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870–1871, 2003, etc.) asks some pointed questions about American policy in the Middle East, as he pursues these debacles chronologically, from the ignoring of Palestinian demands in the creation of Israel and being blind-sided by Cold War paranoia, to growing entanglement in nasty conflicts such as the Suez Crisis, Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War and Operation Desert Storm. “Did we attempt to repair the damage done by European imperialism, or merely settle into the wreckage in our own American way?” he asks. American support of Israel even in the face of outrageous aggression caused persistent snares in U.S.-Middle East relations for the next 50 years, creating Arab resentment, feeding nationalism and reorganizing the balance of power in the region. After the Suez Crisis, Britain and France were out, the U.S. and Soviet Union were in, and the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957, pledging $200 million to combat communism in the region, prevailed. Nixon continually grappled with the Soviet threat to control Middle East oil sources via Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. With the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq saw its opportunity, and the internal combustions reverberated in the form of jihad, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to New York City. At this point American influence was in tatters. In addition to providing a thorough history of the region, Wawro pays close attention to the hotheaded reflexes of George W. Bush and his “Vulcans,” who “pushed ahead without even a nod to those important debates that had flared through the White House forty-five years earlier.”
An excellent argument for the necessity of careful sifting of historical precedent and error.