How 50 years of destructive Cold War policies helped create the Middle East of today.
Though this brief work doesn’t aim to be an exhaustive survey, it ably gets the reader up to speed on many of the disputes that have made the Middle East a flashpoint in today’s U.S. foreign policy. Khalidi (History/Columbia Univ.; The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, 2006, etc.) places it all in context, and infuses it with sharp analysis. He writes engagingly and knowledgeably about U.S. and Soviet maneuvers that exacerbated the already severe tensions between Arab states and Israel. Both superpowers also got heavily involved in larger regional conflicts in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. Motivated in part by fears of encroaching communism after World War II, but also by the desire to protect oil reserves, writes Khalidi, America supported and cooperated with “autocracies, kleptocracies, absolute monarchies, and other forms of despotic and authoritarian rule” in order to meet its ostensibly democratic goals. The Kurdish people in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, for example, have been repeatedly caught in the crossfire of U.S.-Soviet discord, and the author effectively shows the damage Cold War–era meddling did to the region as a whole. He also makes the case that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States, without a clear rival, has followed a series of disorganized and confused policies that have turned the Middle East into the “galaxy of disorder” we see today. In the final section, Khalidi urges the need for change and suggests ways this could come about, in part, by America shifting away from decades-old policies that make little sense in today’s world.
Concise look at a crucial period in one of the world’s most explosive regions.