The Roots of America's Mideast Delusion

(Wall Street Journal) James Traub - From the moment he took office in 2009, President Obama tried to repair America's standing in the Middle East by demonstrating his sincere concern for the grievances and aspirations of Arab peoples. He delivered a speech in Cairo in which he acknowledged America's past wrongs, and he called on Israel to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state. And he found that the Arab world was afflicted with pathologies that placed it beyond the reach of his words and deeds. Had Obama had the chance to read Ike's Gamble, Michael Doran's account of President Eisenhower's statecraft before, during and after the Suez Crisis of 1956, he might have saved his breath. Doran, a former State and Defense Department official, describes a seasoned, wily and prudent president who aligned the U.S. with what he understood to be the legitimate hopes of Arab peoples, even at the cost of damaging relations with America's closest allies - and made a hash of things. Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles feared the U.S. would never win Arab hearts and minds if it was seen as the ally of Israel, a nation that almost all Arabs reviled. The answer in 1955 was to push Israel to make unilateral territorial concessions - and, remarkably, to present the plan to Nasser for his approval before disclosing it to the Israelis. But Nasser was an empire builder who saw America's Arab allies - Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon - as dominoes to be knocked over on his path to regional hegemony.

2016-10-14 00:00:00

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