American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

9: UNITED STATES POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Robert H. Ferrell

It is still difficult today, in the 1960s, to realize that the Middle East should have any large meaning for American diplomacy, for until the end of the Second World War the relations of the United States with that area of the world did not amount to much. Trade by the United States with the lands around the Eastern Mediterranean and eastward to Iran, from Syria south to Saudi Arabia, has always been small. Emigration to America was virtually nonexistent, except for some Lebanese who for religious and economic reasons made the long journey to the United States. American visitors from time to time went to Palestine or Egypt, from piety or curiosity, but they were almost the only travelers save for a trickle of missionaries and educators. Many individuals in the United States learned about the Holy Land from their Bibles, scanning the strange pictures of oddly square houses set down on rounded hills. But beyond Biblical study, beyond contacts of tourists, missionaries, and teachers, American knowledge or concern did not go.

The Second World War brought the United States out of its hemispheric isolation, and in other dramatic ways changed the pattern of world affairs. The war was a catalyst in the Middle East; out of it came the present-day situation. Large reserves of oil went into production. There also flowered an ardent Arab nationalism similar to that which was developing in the Far East and Africa. The State of Israel appeared on the Middle Eastern scene. During and after the war France and Britain lost their influence in the area. In the 1950s Russia and America maneuvered there for diplomatic and strategic advantage. The United States found itself deeply involved. After the war Americans began to hear about Middle East crises, as they heard of crises in Europe and the Far East.

To say all these things about American involvement in the Middle East is not, of course, to say anything especially new. There is wide realization today that the United States has entered Middle Eastern

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