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Imagining the Middle East

The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967

Matthew F. Jacobs

Publication Year: 2011

Jacobs examines the ways in which an informal network of academic, business, government, and media specialists interpreted and shared their perceptions of the Middle East from the end of World War I through the late 1960s. During that period, Jacobs argues, members of this network imagined the Middle East as a region defined by certain common characteristics--religion, mass politics, underdevelopment, and an escalating Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict--and as a place that might be transformed through U.S. involvement. Thus, the ways in which specialists and policymakers imagined the Middle East of the past or present came to justify policies designed to create an imagined Middle East of the future. Jacobs demonstrates that an analysis of the intellectual roots of current politics and foreign policy is critical to comprehending the styles of U.S. engagement with the Middle East in a post-9/11 world.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

Far more people contributed to this book than I can possibly thank in the lines that follow. Nonetheless, the place to begin is with those who provide the resources—both financial and archival—that make our work as scholars possible. Over the years, I have benefitted from the generous support of the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation,...

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pp. 1-21

When President George W. Bush addressed the nation in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, he framed the event in an apparently self-evident five-word question: “Why do they hate us?” His answer to that question appeared equally obvious: “They hate our freedoms—our freedom...

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1. The Task . . . Falls to the Area Specialists: National Interests, Knowledge Production, and the Emergence of an Informal Network

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pp. 23-54

In 1947, the University of Pennsylvania’s E. A. Speiser published a broad overview of the Middle East and U.S. interests there. In The United States and the Near East, Speiser argued that U.S. “policy towards the Near East should be based on a thorough understanding of the present social and political conditions...

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2. The All-Pervading Influence of the Muslim Faith: The Perils and Promise of Political Islam

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pp. 55-94

In December 1948, Walter Livingston “Livy” Wright Jr. appeared as the discussion leader at a meeting of a Council on Foreign Relations “Study Group on the Moslem World.” Wright came to the meeting from the academic and philanthropic circles of Near East specialists, having been president of Robert...

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3. A New Amalgam of Interests, Religion, Propaganda, and Mobs: Interpretations of Secular Mass Politics

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pp. 95-139

On 14 November 1960, the Council on Foreign Relations convened the first meeting of a new study group on “Arab Foreign Policy.” The group gathered to provide a forum for Charles Cremeans to work through material for a book he was writing on Arab nationalist foreign policy and its implications for the...

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4. What Modernization Requires of the Arabs . . . Is Their De-Arabization: Imagining a Transformed Middle East

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pp. 140-186

In September 1969, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research forwarded a lengthy research paper to the secretary of state. Thirty-one pages long, “The Roots of Arab Resistance to Modernization” sought to explain why “the Arabs of the Near East [were] failing to fulfill their aspirations...

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5. A Profound and Growing Disturbance . . . Which May Last for Decades: The Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Limits of the Network

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pp. 187-234

William Eddy was closely connected to the Middle East for much of his life. Born to missionary parents in Lebanon in the late nineteenth century, he maintained a family home there and returned regularly even when working in the United States. When World War II began, Eddy reenlisted in the Marines,...

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pp. 235-247

From the end of World War I to the late 1960s, an evolving, informal network of specialists—somewhat transnational in scope—from academia, the business world, government, and the media was responsible for interpreting the Middle East for American audiences. In the years between World War I...


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pp. 249-286


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pp. 287-306


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pp. 307-318

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602783
E-ISBN-10: 1469602784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834886
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834882

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 867785908
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Imagining the Middle East

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Subject Headings

  • Middle East -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Middle East.
  • Middle East -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • Middle East -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Islam and politics -- Middle East.
  • Arab-Israeli conflict.
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