The Cold War and the Middle East

The Cold War and the Middle East

The Cold War and the Middle East

The Cold War and the Middle East

Synopsis

The Cold War has been researched in minute detail and written about at great length but it remains one of the most elusive and enigmatic conflicts of modern times. With the ending of the Cold War, it is now possible to review the entire post-war period, to examine the Cold War as history. The Middle East occupies a special place in the history of the Cold War. It was critical to its birth, its life and its demise. In the aftermath of the Second World War, it became one of the major theatres of the Cold War on account of its strategic importance and its oil resources. The key to the international politics of the Middle East during the Cold War era is the relationship between external powers and local powers. Most of the existing literature on the subject focuses on the policies of the Great Powers towards the local region. The Cold War and the Middle East redresses the balance by concentrating on the policies of the local actors. It looks at the politics of the region not just from the outside in but from the inside out. The contributors to this volume are leading scholars in the field whose interests combine International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies.

Excerpt

The Cold War lasted from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During these four and a half decades, the Cold War dominated world politics; but despite intensive research and a voluminous literature, it remains one of the most enigmatic and elusive conflicts of modern times.

Three features of the Cold War are essential for understanding its nature and consequences: bipolarity, nuclear weapons, and ideology. First, the post-1945 international system was described as bipolar because of the enormous disparity in power between the two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and the rest. This bipolar structure of the international system had a profound effect on postwar politics, for example, in engendering mutual suspicion and antagonism and in dividing Europe and much of the rest of the world into rival spheres of influence. Second, the rise of bipolarity coincided with the emergence of nuclear weapons. This new military technology influenced international politics in several ways: it greatly increased the danger of war while at the same time inducing the superpowers to go to great lengths to avoid being dragged by their allies into a nuclear confrontation. However, the Cold War was more than traditional Great Power geopolitical rivalry with nuclear weapons thrown in. A third feature which further complicated and exacerbated the Cold War was the ideological confrontation between East and West, between communism and capitalism. Since both superpowers sought not only to extend their power but to export their social and economic systems, the geopolitical rivalry between them assumed the character of a sweeping struggle between two ways of life.

The ideological clash was reflected not only in the relations between the superpowers but also in the debate among historians about the origins and character of the Cold War. While the Cold War was in full swing, scholarly detachment and objectivity were not easy to maintain. On the American side, in particular, a fierce battle among the historians accompanied the actual political battle between . . .

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