Middle East studies in the News
Did Obama Read This Book? [on Rashid Khalidi]
by Rick Richman
In the New York Times Book Review, James Traub reviews Rashid Khalidi's "Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East." The most interesting question about the book is whether Khalidi's friend and one-time associate Barack Obama received an advance copy during the transition.
Khalidi "sees the cold war as a very unequal battle between a world-girdling United States and a defensive and fearful Russia." His argument extends all the way to the present: "the global war on terror is in practice an American war in the Middle East against a largely imaginary set of enemies."
Traub says the book "often reads like a polemic rather than a work of history." Khalidi's sense seems "flattened by his own preconceptions." "Only by checking a footnote" does one learn that a critical quote, repeated twice in the book, may not be true. As with Khalidi's prior book, before swallowing his text you need to check his footnotes.
Traub challenges Khalidi's argument that American meddling is to blame for Arab troubles. America meddled at least as much in Southeast Asia and Latin America, but "Vietnam is a stable autocracy experiencing rapid growth, and Thailand is a shaky and semiprosperous democracy . . . . Latin America is a largely democratic zone with both deeply impoverished and middle-range countries." Traub then asks:
So what should President Obama do with this tendentious new book by his old friend?
He may already have read it, but who's to say how critically. If you learned our Middle East enemies are largely imaginary, and that the region's problems were chiefly caused by American meddling, you might decide to start your presidency with an apologetic interview on Al Arabiya television.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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