On not learning history’s lessons

An article from Mike Doran, effectively summarising his new book, and applying it to Obama’s Middle East policy. I’ve bought the book already, and am looking forward to getting into it—it’s next in my pile!

Over the last five years, President Obama has tacked away from the U.S.’ historic allies in the Middle East – Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – to create a space for the Russians and the Iranians in the regional security architecture. The Iranian nuclear deal was supposed to usher in a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations. Instead, it has spawned a Russian-Iranian alliance that is well on its way to building a corridor of subservient states stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

Obama is not the first American president to make such a gamble on a longstanding adversary. In 1953, when President Eisenhower assumed office, he, too, sought to stabilize the Middle East by co-opting the leading anti-Western power of the day – Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt. Believing that the association of the U.S. with Zionism and British imperialism was poisoning American relations with Middle Eastern Muslims, Eisenhower worked to prove to Nasser that the U.S. would help him achieve his nationalist goals, even if those came at the expense of British and Israeli interests.

Sixty years ago, when, at the climax of the Suez Crisis, Britain, France and Israel launched coordinated attacks against Egypt, Eisenhower’s opposition to his allies was extreme and they buckled under the pressure. Eisenhower’s policy handed Nasser the victory of his life, and the Egyptian leader repaid America by becoming more radical, more anti-Western and more pro-Soviet.

Eisenhower came to realize that Israel was the U.S.’ truest friend in the Middle East and that courting adversaries is a very risky business.


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