Review: "Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East"
Throughout historian Salim Yaqub’s book, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East, the author provides an examination of the policies surrounding the “Eisenhower Doctrine” and its implications for the Middle East during the 1950s. Following the aftermath of the Korean War and the rapid decline of Soviet-American relations, Yaqub’s work describes how the United States sought to limit the expansion of Soviet power through the financial-backing of countries in the Middle East. Yaqub argues that these efforts were undermined, however, by the rise of Arab nationalists and their radical (often unpredictable) nature which threatened to undo American gains in the region. The author asserts that Eisenhower and his administration met this challenge, however, through the diplomatic isolation of regimes in the Middle East (particularly Egypt). Through this strategy, Yaqub argues that the United States was able to effectively contain the threat of Arab nationalism through a “divide and conquer” stratagem that played countries in the Middle East against one another; allowing for a continuation of American dominance in the region, all at the expense (and exploitation) of Arab leaders and their citizens.
Yaqub’s work incorporates a large amount of primary source materials into his work that includes: American and British embassy records, U.S. State Department files, memoirs and diaries from former ambassadors, as well as reports from meetings with high-ranking Middle Eastern officials. A major highlight of Yaqub’s book is his ability to incorporate documents from both an American and Middle Eastern perspective; thus, giving a balanced and evenhanded analysis of the politics surrounding foreign relations in the early years of the Cold War. However, Yaqub fails to address a number of potential Soviet documents; thus, limiting the persuasiveness of his argument to a degree. This is only a trivial shortcoming though, as Yaqub’s book is both well-written and scholarly in its layout and presentation. The ability of the author to transmute such a massive amount of research and information into a narrative-driven format is also highly impressive as well.
All in all, I give this work 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a history of Cold War politics in the Middle East. Both scholars and general audience members can benefit from the contents of this work. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity! You will not be disappointed!
Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion
1.) What was Yaqub's thesis? What are some of the main arguments that the author makes in this work? Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not?
2.) What type of primary source material does Yaqub rely on in this book? Does this help or hinder his overall argument?
3.) Does Yaqub organize his work in a logical and convincing manner? Why or why not?
4.) What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this book? How could the author have improved the contents of this work?
5.) Who was the intended audience for this piece? Can scholars and the general public, alike, enjoy the contents of this book?
6.) What did you like most about this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
7.) What sort of scholarship is the author building on (or challenging) with this work? Does this book add substantially to existing research and trends within the historical community? Why or why not?
8.) Did you learn anything after reading this book? Were you surprised by any of the facts and figures presented by the author?
Did the United States implement an effective strategy in the Middle East during the Cold War?
Yaqub, Salim. Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
© 2017 Larry Slawson