The United States and the Middle East: A Search for New Perspectives

By Hooshang Amirahmadi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
U.S. Policy in the Middle East

Richard Cottam

America's role as the preeminent Western power in the Middle East took shape suddenly following World War II. The British and French, with long Middle Eastern experience, abdicated leadership to the Americans. They did so with great reluctance and with little confidence in their successor's competence, but with an awareness that this was their only real option. World War II had inflicted terrible wounds on both countries, and neither would soon again be able seriously to aspire to first-class power status. The American acceptance of the primacy of its role in the area was gradual. American policy makers entered the world of Middle East politics without any real sense of the history of the area and with few ideas of what role America should play. But an American policy soon began to take coherent form. 1 In 1947 the Truman administration accepted responsibility for guiding the United Nations into an endorsement of the majority plan for the settlement of the Palestinian issue and hence for the emergence of Israel as an independent state in the area. Then in 1948 the Truman Doctrine was proclaimed and in so doing the U.S. government accepted responsibility for preserving the independence of Greece, Turkey, and Iran. But it would be another decade before a fully integrated American policy toward the region would take shape. The responsibilities of American policy makers were enormous, and their understanding was at best shallow. But for the next generation and a half the United States would be the dominant external power in the region and would exercise an influence far greater than that, not only of the old Western imperial powers, but also than that of the Soviet

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