MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: US Foreign Policy under Eisenhower and Kennedy

By Smith, Charles D. | The Middle East Journal, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: US Foreign Policy under Eisenhower and Kennedy


Smith, Charles D., The Middle East Journal


MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: US Foreign Policy Under Eisenhower and Kennedy, by Roby C. Barrett. London, UK, and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2007. xxvi + 327 pages. Notes to p. 456. Bibl. to p. 472. Index to p. 494. $95.

Reviewed by Charles D. Smith

A former US Foreign Service officer, Roby Barrett has a doctorate in Middle East/South Asian history and currently heads a corporation specializing in national security policy. This book is the product of research in numerous national archives, including India, Australia, and New Zealand along with the Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential libraries and various university archival collections in the United States and abroad.

Barrett argues several points in this book. One is his focus on a broader Middle East for the period, defined to include Pakistan and India while, for the most part, excluding Turkey. Another is to insist that the Middle East policies of the Kennedy Administration were essentially those of Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. Both administrations viewed economic and social reforms as the root cause of stability for developing countries, a point stressed by Walt W. Rostow, who served both presidents and whom Barrett interviewed. Barrett seems to suggest that this was a flawed perspective, undermined by Cold War security considerations and demands for military aid where regional rulers such as the Shah of Iran and Pakistan's Ayub Khan were able to redirect US aid efforts to suit their wishes for military hardware, often aided by sympathizers within the State Department. He also challenges the findings of other authors, notably Warren Bass and James Bill. He argues that Bass downplays the impact of the Israel lobby on Kennedy's Middle East policy, claiming that one staffer, Meyer Feldman, alerted the Israeli embassy to Kennedy's proposed initiatives regarding Israel and the Arab world, notably Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir's Egypt. And he faults Bill for failing to discuss adequately the tension between the Shah's desire for military hardware and US hopes that he would undertake socioeconomic reforms which, as Barrett all-too-briefly notes, seemed to threaten Pahlavi security once the 1963 White Revolution was underway.1

Specialists will find much to ponder in the myriad of details Barrett offers to bolster his theses. He provides a wealth of material, often buttressed by personal interviews with individuals involved in these events. But those unfamiliar with the background to this era will be hopelessly lost. The footnotes, which can run a full page, often have fascinating material, but some of it should have been in the text to clarify the point Barrett wished to make. …

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