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A History Lesson
America’s Middle East Mistakes

American diplomats learned the hard way that being tough on Israel does not make it easier to work with the Arab states. That’s one of the key lessons friend-of-Via Meadia Michael Doran shares in his excellent new book about Eisenhower’s Middle East policy. More, from a glowing NYT review by David Frum:

Eisenhower was a pragmatist in the strictest philosophical sense: someone who judges the truth of theories according to their success or failure in practice. He came to office holding one view of the Middle East. When that view failed, he discarded it in favor of another.

But pragmatism of that kind is a very unusual trait, and especially unusual in politicians. Eisenhower may have rethought his gamble on Nasser. The subordinates who executed the policy, however, insisted to the end that any failure was somebody else’s fault. Their self-justifications have reverberated into journalism and history.

“The ‘inside story’ of the Eisenhower administration’s Middle East policy,” Doran writes, “comes to us not from Eisenhower and Dulles but from . . . the very men . . . who were most personally invested in the courtship of Nasser, and who fought against all efforts to abandon it. . . . Muscular Western policies, we learn, will almost always backfire.”

With only a very few edits and updates, this mode of analysis will serve marvelously to excuse any disappointments in the Iran legacy the current generation of policy makers may leave behind. Here’s the lesson that Doran wishes they would learn instead: the error of the belief “that distancing the United States from Israel would win the good will of all Arabs, and especially the Egyptians.” This belief “prevented them from recognizing the deepest drivers of the Arab and Muslim states, namely their rivalries with each other for power and authority.”

If that snippet hasn’t inspired you to pick up a copy of Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, go read the whole review.

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  • longlance

    Is this article a joke? USA has never been “tough on Israel”. Israel’s fat welfare check from the American taxpayer is never late.

    • Ellen

      Israel’s fat welfare check goes entirely to support the American military industry, which means your local tax base. That is really where the welfare check is going.

    • Tom

      I would recommend that you look up American policy towards Israel in the 1950s before you make an idiot out of yourself.

      • Andrew Allison

        Too late!

    • JR

      I expected a better auto-Semitic line out of you. Try again. D for effort. In danger of failing.

    • f1b0nacc1

      More of a short round really….try Stormfront, they give your type a warmer welcome

  • ljgude

    I can’t help but notice that Obama’s negative policy toward al Sisi has created a de facto alliance between Israel and Egypt.

    • LarryD

      Nobody can rely on America anymore, and Israel is a strong horse in the region.

  • LarryD

    Obama has offended every one of America’s allies, and kowtowed to all of America’s enemies. Just as the Decolonialists wanted. Hasn’t worked out so well. Israel still enjoys strong support among American citizens, except the Progressives have been turning anti-Semitic for decades. Arabs and Palestine are just rationalizations for the return of this ancient bigotry.

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