The United States government underwrote the rise of radical Islam, argues a frequent contributor to The Nation and The American Prospect.
Any American who watches the news is familiar with the photograph of a younger Donald Rumsfeld looking chummy with Saddam Hussein. Forget that picture, Dreyfuss tells us. The more important photograph shows President Eisenhower looking chummy with Said Ramadan, bigwig in the Muslim Brotherhood. (If you’ve never heard of the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant group that among other things morphed into Hamas, all the more reason to read this book.) That photograph, states the author, shows in miniature the history of American Middle East foreign policy since WWII. Concerned about limiting the spread of communism and arresting the development of leftist Arab nationalist political parties, the U.S. has over and over again allied with and supported radical Islamic groups throughout the Middle East. The CIA, of course, sponsored the 1953 coup in Iran and financed an ayatollah who had founded a radical pan-Islamic political group; American taxpayers funded an Israeli government that funneled money to fanatical Islamic Palestinian activists who, the Israeli government believed, would ultimately weaken the secular PLO; and so forth. The U.S. didn’t dream up this strategy, actually. The British did the same thing, partnering in the late-19th century with the great-granddaddy of ideological Islamism, Jamal Eddine al-Afghani. Dreyfuss insists that today’s geopolitics is not the inevitable result of a “clash of civilizations,” but at least in part the fruit of shortsighted, ill-conceived U.S. foreign policy. His account is not a disinterested history, but rather a stinging indictment of the Bush administration for, among other things, replicating the same strategy in Iraq: toppling a decidedly secular regime and encouraging Islamists to grab power (to wit, the administration’s alliance with Ali al-Sisatani).
A worthy addition to Metropolitan’s American Empire Project: a devastating account that policymakers—not to mention American citizens—ignore at their peril.