American Orientalism

American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    American Orientalism
    Book Description:

    Douglas Little explores the stormy American relationship with the Middle East from World War II through the war in Iraq, focusing particularly on the complex and often inconsistent attitudes and interests that helped put the United States on a collision course with radical Islam early in the new millennium. After documenting the persistence of "orientalist" stereotypes in American popular culture, Little examines oil, Israel, and other aspects of U.S. policy. He concludes that a peculiar blend of arrogance and ignorance has led American officials to overestimate their ability to shape events in the Middle East from 1945 through the present day, and that it has been a driving force behind the Iraq war. For this updated third edition, Little covers events through 2007, including a new chapter on the Bush Doctrine, demonstrating that in many important ways, George W. Bush's Middle Eastern policies mark a sharp break with the past.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0540-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION What Went Wrong?Wake Me When September Ends
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xx-xx)
  7. INTRODUCTION Gideon’s Band in the Holy Land We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
    (pp. 1-8)

    On a crisp and cloudless Tuesday morning in September 2001, two Boeing 767 jetliners commandeered by Arab terrorists streaked across the New York skyline and slammed into the World Trade Center. Ninety minutes later the twin glass and steel towers imploded, killing nearly 3,000 office workers, firemen, and passersby and crushing whatever collective illusions of innocence or omnipotence Americans may have had. In ways that few could ever have imagined, Osama bin Laden and his Afghan-based terrorist network al-Qaeda had brought the Middle East to America. As rescue workers probed the smoldering rubble in lower Manhattan and policymakers in Washington...

  8. 1 Orientalism, American Style The Middle East in the Mind of America
    (pp. 9-42)

    Few parts of the world have become as deeply embedded in the U.S. popular imagination as the Middle East. The Puritans who founded “God’s American Israel” on Massachusetts Bay nearly four centuries ago brought with them a passionate fascination with the Holy Land and a profound ambivalence about the “infidels”—mostly Muslims but some Jews—who lived there. Raised on Bible stories and religious parables laced liberally with a fervently Christian sense of mission and a fiercely American Spirit of ’76, the citizens of one of the New World’s newest nations have long embraced a romanticized and stereotypic vision of...

  9. 2 Opening the Door Business, Diplomacy, and America’s Stake in Middle East Oil
    (pp. 43-76)

    While the earliest images of the Middle East in the mind of America were products of traditional Bible stories refracted through nineteenth-century orientalist literature and twentieth-century popular culture, the region’s most recognizable symbol has probably been the oil well. By 1900 some business leaders and government officials were predicting that the black gold oozing to the surface from western Pennsylvania to east Texas would eventually propel the United States to industrial and military supremacy. The discovery of huge pools of crude oil in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia during the first half of the twentieth century prompted America’s largest petroleum...

  10. 3 The Making of a Special Relationship America and Israel
    (pp. 77-116)

    While the lure of oil always loomed large in the eyes of the business leaders and diplomats who shaped U.S. policy toward the Middle East during the decades after the Second World War, the vision of a stable and secure Jewish state in the Holy Land loomed even larger in the eyes of other Americans. During the mid-1940s non-Jews appalled by Washington’s do-nothing response to the Holocaust joined forces with Jewish Americans all too familiar with anti-Semitism in a campaign to win U.S. support for Zionist aspirations in Palestine. Despite some ferocious bureaucratic infighting among his top advisers, President Harry...

  11. 4 A Tale of Four Doctrines U.S. National Security, the Soviet Threat, and the Middle East
    (pp. 117-156)

    Although the promise of Israel as America’s strategic asset was never quite fulfilled, Washington’s pursuit of such a relationship was part of a more ambitious quest to promote regional defense and prevent communist inroads in the Middle East after 1945. Wedded to an evolving doctrine of national security that defined the Soviet Union as a mortal threat to the United States and that dictated global vigilance against Russian-backed communist subversion, U.S. policymakers from Harry Truman to Jimmy Carter waged a Cold War against the Kremlin from the sun-drenched shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan. Some...

  12. 5 Sympathy for the Devil? America, Nasser, and Arab Revolutionary Nationalism
    (pp. 157-192)

    Every administration from Truman’s to Reagan’s openly embraced some variant of the doctrine of containment that defined Soviet expansion as the principal threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East. Behind closed doors, however, policymakers wondered whether the wave of revolutionary nationalism that swept the Muslim world after 1945 posed an even greater challenge. Americans have always harbored ambivalent attitudes toward revolution. Although statesmen from Thomas Jefferson to John F. Kennedy publicly hoped that the Spirit of 1776—republicanism, anticolonialism, and moderation— would guide other revolutions in other lands, privately they dreaded that it would not. Indeed, foreign revolutionaries seldom...

  13. 6 Modernizing the Middle East From Reform to Revolution in Iraq, Libya, and Iran
    (pp. 193-228)

    Having labored long and hard to put the genie of Nasserism back into the bottle in Egypt, U.S. policymakers hoped to keep the stopper in place elsewhere in the Muslim world by reciting the magic words: reform, development, and modernization. Always skeptical of any Third World radical who deviated from a Jeffersonian trajectory, America’s national security managers believed that by combining Yankee ingenuity with Middle East petrodollars, the United States could nudge traditional societies such as Iraq, Libya, and Iran down the road toward evolutionary change, thereby making revolutionary change impossible. To this end Washington would offer pro-Western leaders such...

  14. 7 Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome Waging Limited War from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf
    (pp. 229-266)

    National security managers and action intellectuals might insist that modernization would stabilize the Middle East and make military intervention unnecessary, but for two centuries the United States had demonstrated a willingness to use armed force to protect its interests from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Persian Gulf. America’s burgeoning commercial and cultural presence in the Mediterranean basin during the nineteenth century prompted Thomas Jefferson and his successors to deploy U.S. warships from the Barbary Coast to Asia Minor. The subsequent discovery of black gold in the Middle East ignited an oil boom that heightened the strategic importance of North...

  15. 8 Opportunities Lost and Found The United States and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process
    (pp. 267-306)

    Eight months after President George Bush announced that the United States had kicked the Vietnam Syndrome in the First Gulf War, a Middle East peace conference opened inside the Crystal Pavilion in the heart of Madrid. Seldom had hopes for an Arab-Israeli settlement been higher than in October 1991. The Cold War was over, the Soviet Union was crumbling, and the Arab radicals could no longer count on the Kremlin to sell them arms. Israel was showing signs of flexibility, the plo was edging away from its anti-Zionist crusade, and for the first time, Israeli and Palestinian representatives were sitting...

  16. 9 Not Your Father’s Persian Gulf War The Bush Doctrine, Iraq, and Radical Islam
    (pp. 307-342)

    In September 1943, Warner Brothers released a black-and-white “B movie” entitledAdventure in Iraqthat recounted the heroic exploits of a Texas-born Flying Tiger and his pretty English passenger on a largely forgotten front of the Second World War. After crash-landing in the desert kingdom of Ghatsi 300 miles west of Baghdad, Doug Everett and Tess Torrence are captured by a wily pro-Nazi sheik whose “fanatical devil-worshipping” followers mark them for human sacrifice. In a classic Hollywood-style finale, the intrepid couple outwit a mob of brutal but stupid Arab thugs and escape death at the eleventh hour thanks to a...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 343-392)
    (pp. 393-420)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 421-441)