Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East

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An unprecedented history of American involvement in the Middle East.

In this definitive and revelatory work, noted historian Geoffrey Wawro approaches America's role in the Middle East in a fundamentally new way-by encompassing the last century of the entire region rather than focusing narrowly on a particular country or era. With verve and authority, he offers piercing analysis of the region's iconic events over the past one hundred years-from the birth of Israel to the rise of Al Qaeda. Throughout, he draws telling parallels between America's past mistakes and its current dilemmas, proving that we're in today's muddle not just because of our old errors but because we keep repeating those errors.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wawro (Univ. of North Texas; The Franco-Prussian War) has crafted a coherent and highly readable analysis of American involvement in the Middle East over the past century, covering everything from the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the 2008 presidential election. Whereas many books have been written about one Middle East nation or one aspect of this topic, Wawro successfully provides the big picture, helpfully drawing together themes and patterns that have emerged across various U.S. presidential administrations. Although at times Wawro is quite critical of Israel, the Israel lobby, and the George W. Bush administration (all justifiably, many would argue), his overall approach is evenhanded and objective, largely avoiding partisan bias. VERDICT This is a very good survey of recent U.S. involvement in the Middle East. The book's emphasis on 1948 to the present makes it a useful companion to Michael Oren's Power, Faith, and Fantasy, which primarily focuses on 1776–1948. Recommended for readers seeking a deeper understanding of current events in the Middle East. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]—Brian T. Sullivan, Alfred Univ., NY
Kirkus Reviews
A keen-eyed, sweeping survey of the depressingly familiar erroneous U.S. policy in the Middle East since the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Wawro (Military History/Univ. of North Texas; The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871, 2003, etc.) asks some pointed questions about American policy in the Middle East, as he pursues these debacles chronologically, from the ignoring of Palestinian demands in the creation of Israel and being blind-sided by Cold War paranoia, to growing entanglement in nasty conflicts such as the Suez Crisis, Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War and Operation Desert Storm. "Did we attempt to repair the damage done by European imperialism, or merely settle into the wreckage in our own American way?" he asks. American support of Israel even in the face of outrageous aggression caused persistent snares in U.S.-Middle East relations for the next 50 years, creating Arab resentment, feeding nationalism and reorganizing the balance of power in the region. After the Suez Crisis, Britain and France were out, the U.S. and Soviet Union were in, and the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957, pledging $200 million to combat communism in the region, prevailed. Nixon continually grappled with the Soviet threat to control Middle East oil sources via Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. With the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Saddam Hussein's Iraq saw its opportunity, and the internal combustions reverberated in the form of jihad, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to New York City. At this point American influence was in tatters. In addition to providing a thorough history of the region, Wawro pays close attention to the hotheaded reflexes of George W. Bush and his "Vulcans," who"pushed ahead without even a nod to those important debates that had flared through the White House forty-five years earlier."An excellent argument for the necessity of careful sifting of historical precedent and error. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow & Nesbit
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143118831
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/23/2011
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 647,503
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Wawro is the General Olinto Mark Barsanti Professor of Military History and Director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas. Wawro has hosted many programs on the History Channel and taught for several years at the U.S. Naval War College. He received his B.A. from Brown and his Ph.D. from Yale.
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Table of Contents

The Middle East 1918

The Middle East Today

Introduction 1

1 Zion 15

2 Oil 49

3 Exodus 86

4 Ajax 124

5 Nasser 153

6 Suez 198

7 The Eisenhower Doctrine 229

8 A Six-Day War 253

9 The Nixon Doctrine 288

10 Great Civilization 329

11 Desert One 354

12 Jihad 374

13 Saddam 398

14 Desert Storm 422

15 9/11 456

16 Enduring Freedom 492

17 Into Iraq 509

18 Iraqi Freedom 551

Conclusion 593

Acknowledgments 611

Notes 613

Bibliography 664

Index 673

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 30, 2010

    Shifting Sands: Politics, Religion, and Oil

    Few topics grab my attention more than the Middle East. Civilization began there, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and some claim it may end there. The world's economy is fueled by the oil produced by just a handful of countries, and yet, rather than being a stable region because of global dependence on oil, it is the world's most volatile. The Middle East, the vortex of civilization, has in many ways become a black hole; dragging the nations ever closer to its center, and like a black hole, threatening to rip the world apart. Few nations have been able to long escape its grasp. So, how did America, and indeed, the rest of world's industrial nations, become ensnared the shifting sands of the Middle Eastern politics?

    Few books have so expertly been able to answer that question better than Geoffrey Wawro's "Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East". Mr. Wawro, who is a Professor of Military History at the University of North Texas, as well as director the Military History Center at UNT, has been able to unravel the Byzantine world of Middle Eastern politics, woven into the cultures and religion of the people for generations, and give the reader a clear and comprehensive history.

    For example, Dr. Wawo describes the blunders of the British Empire in closing years of World War I resulting from the vacuum of the collapsing Ottoman Empire and imperialist myopia which left Britain in control of areas such as the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Palestine, while the French, seeking to maintain its shrinking empire, gained control of Syria. As a result, Arab nationalist aligned themselves with Nazi Germany (and Nazi Germany's policy of anti-Semitism didn't hurt either). The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was often a guest in Berlin, and Arabs were invited to join in a SS division comprised solely of Moslem Arabs (that veneration of all things Nazi, not unexpectedly, still continues in some Arab nations to this day).

    Dr. Wawo goes on to explain how the increasing Jewish presence in the region, especially in Palestine, thanks in large part to the backroom dealings of President Truman, as well as British and French incompetence, as well as a growing powerful Jewish lobby lead to the establishment of Israel, against a backdrop of the Cold War, religious hatred, and economics. Many a Prime Minister and President has sought to get a grip on the Middle East, only to find events as fluid as the shifting sands.

    I can't recommend this book highly enough. Anyone who wants to understand how and why were engaged in two wars in the region; why we're drilling oil wells offshore; why we're investing billions in alternative energy sources; why we're under threat from terrorists; or why we're paying nearly $3.00 for a gallon of gas needs to read this book. The threat is not just to America, but the world is real. If knowledge is power, then Geoffrey Wawro's 551 page "Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East" is an excellent tool to have one's arsenal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    Blatant Misrepresentation

    This review is from: Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (Hardcover)
    Incredibly poor research.
    On the little things..."Ben-Gurion came from Russia". Wrong, he came from Poland.
    And on the big things...."the Jews turned down the Peel Commission proposal for partition of Palestine in 1937". While this is true, Wawro states it's because the Jews would not compromise.
    What he leaves out is that the Peel commission only allowed the Jews the area immediately around Haifa and nothing more. Such a state would have never been viable. He also forgets to mention that the Palestinians turned it down because any Jewish presence in the area at all was unaccptable to them.
    The book continues to rant against Israel claiming that (paraphrase)"following Israeli aggression in starting the Six Day War of 1967 Arab lands were annexed". No lands were annexed other than the Old City of Jerusalem. As to Israeli aggression, he conveniently forgets that the blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat was the opening salvo of that war in addition to the massing of troops in Sinai. This book is as worthless as the garbage written by Mearscheimer of the University of Chicago several years ago...he of course critiques this on the back cover and loves it. DON'T BUY UNLESS YOU WANT TO READ FICTION.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2010

    Brilliant Book on Middle East

    Auhtor Geoffrey Wawro has a spellbinding new book titled "Quicksand" which traces the development of the Middle East for the past 100 years.
    I found especially interesting Wawro's use of Map's to detail the development of the Middle East. Serious thought provoking book that should be read and re read. Bravo Dr. Wawro

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    Posted June 3, 2011

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    Posted May 5, 2010

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