Lippman skillfully excavates the subsequent Saudi-American modus vivendi in the mid-20th century, a period that now seems as remote and innocent as a flickering home movie from Eisenhower's America. Lippman has done pioneering research on the early days of Aramco, the American company that more or less single-handedly created the oil business in Arabia. Some of the pictures he has found to illustrate that era are as eloquent as the interviews he conducted with the Americans who lived in the Saudi kingdom at the time: black-and-white photos of happy American faces at an Aramco cocktail party in 1950 (no Arabs in view), Aramco wives from the same year kicking up their heels in can-can dresses at some amateur theatrical event and Aramco executives dressed in sober suits sitting down in a tent to share a "goat grab" with their Saudi hosts.
With nearly two decades of experience writing about Saudi Arabia for the Washington Post as a Middle East bureau chief and national security correspondent, Lippman is as effective on today's street-level perspective as he is on a nearly century-long history of political and economic alliances between Saudis and Americans. While "Riyadh is just like Phoenix" on the surface, he proposes, Saudi Arabians have a radically different mindset that often includes resentment over what they perceive as American interference with their way of life. His insightful journalism points to a frayed relationship that may get worse before it gets better. B&w photos, 1 map not seen by PW. 40,000 first printing. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Lippman tracks the evolution of U.S.-Saudi relations by stringing together smaller stories: the pioneering American oilmen in the 1930s, the garrison-like life in what became Aramco, the U.S. role in developing Saudi Arabia Airlines, the always tense relations between non-Muslim Americans and the Saudi state and society, the Americans who helped develop Saudi national parks. In the final few chapters, he discusses the strategic ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, especially since the stationing of U.S. troops there in the Persian Gulf War. Lippman's approach works: his account is readable and informative, combining the seemingly disjointed stories into a balanced account of this long-term relationship between two such different states and societies.
In this timely, engaging, and highly readable book, Lippman, adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, and once head of the Washington Post's Middle East bureau, demystifies the puzzle of U.S.-Saudi relations. The long history of America's relationship with Saudi Arabia is multifaceted and complex. Various U.S. administrations have been intimately involved with the Saudi Arabian government for over half a century. Yet few Americans have an understanding of the nature and development of U.S.-Saudi ties. Relying on his many years of covering the Middle East and traveling in the region, Lippman provides a panorama of the issues that have shaped the contours of American-Saudi relations. The book places this relationship in the context of Saudi culture and social norms and explains in lively fashion the interrelationship between domestic and foreign policy in Washington's relations with Riyadh. In a concluding chapter, the author provides an interesting picture of the strained relations between the two traditional allies in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedies. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.