American Global Power in Regional Perspective: U.S.-Arab Relations as Twentieth Century History

Saturday, January 5, 2013: 9:00 AM
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Nathan J. Citino, Colorado State University–Fort Collins
I will discuss the benefits, for both the Middle Eastern and American foreign policy literatures, of writing the U.S. into the history of the twentieth-century Arab Middle East.  Studying the ideas of cold-war era modernization that Americans promoted in the Middle East can help regional historians to explain how the competitive anti-colonialism that characterized Arab politics in the first half of the twentieth century evolved into struggles among rival ideologies in the postcolonial Arab world.  At the same time, Arab regional history can provide useful perspective to international historians who study the cold war on a global scale.  By giving Arab nationalist and Islamist ideologies equal billing with those of the superpowers, it can correct the excessively bipolar account of the “global cold war” and emphasize ideological pluralism as an experience shared by Arab and other developing societies during the twentieth century.  Analyzing ideological conflict at the intersection between regional and global history can bridge the chronological break at 1945 and move discussion of the postwar Middle East beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Such a historiography is needed to better explain the antecedents of the present moment in U.S.-Arab relations.
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