This lecture series is a narrative history of U.S. political involvement in the Middle East from World War I to the present day. Presented from a historian’s perspective, it is meant to strengthen your ability to place today’s headlines into historical context, evaluate what is most likely to happen next, and understand those oncoming events when they do occur.
Step by step, with attention to the viewpoints and motivations of each nation and leader involved, the course explores, over a 90-year span:
- growing American involvement in the Middle East
- the ongoing quest for political independence and self-mastery by Middle Easterners
- the difficulty the U.S. has experienced in weighing diverse and conflicting objectives in the region, especially as the Cold War against the Soviet Union intensified
- the increasing antagonism between Americans and Middle Easterners that came to such a shocking culmination on September 11, 2001.
Over and over again, these themes surface, expressed in the actions of characters in a history still being written as we watch. America’s presidents from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. George Kennan. David Ben-Gurion. Gamal Abdel Nasser. Mohammed Shah Pahlavi. Ariel Sharon. Yasser Arafat. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Menachem Begin. Saddam Hussein.
The course ranges across subjects as diverse as the changing realities of the oil economy and the impact of changing policies as a succession of American presidents bring their own ideas and doctrines to the arena of the Middle East.
Dr. Salim Yaqub’s background offers a unique opportunity to present the issues of this course from both American and Middle Eastern perspectives (the latter of which are rarely homogenous and often contentious).
Dr. Yaqub is also the son of an American mother and a Palestinian father. His father taught at the American University in Beirut, and the family lived in the expatriate American community while Dr. Yaqub was a high school student in the 1970s.
When he discusses the epidemic of hostage-taking by Shiite extremists that plagued that community during the Reagan administration, for example, it isn’t only from the viewpoint of an academic, but from the experience of someone who personally knew victims of terror.
Why the President Should Read This Book
This is not a book, although it should be. It is a lecture series available on CD. But it is hands-down the best resource I’ve found for getting up to speed on the history of the Middle East over the past 100 years. If you want to understand the fundamentals of the conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, what motivates folks like Osama bin Laden, and why the Middle East is less united against the US than you might think, and how simple it might be to solve some of the problems, then listen to this lecture series.