Wilson Center Experts
I received my Ph.D. in U.S. history from Yale University in 1999, and I now teach at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My area of specialization is U.S. involvement in the Middle East.In my scholarship, I work to integrate the study of foreign relations with an attention to broader societal dynamics. My first book, Containing Arab Nationalism, examines an attempt by the Eisenhower administration to weaken and isolate the radical Arab nationalist movement symbolized and loosely led by Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. To do this, the administration tried to convince critical segments of Arab opinion that the Nasserist movement, by seeking Soviet aid and support, was exceeding the bounds of acceptable Arabism. Nasserists countered that any Arab figures who adopted this critique were themselves outside the mainstream of Arab politics, discredited by their association with America's support for Israel and alliance with "imperialist" Britain and France. More generally, the book takes issue with scholars who see tensions between the United States and Arab nationalists as the product of clashing values, arguing instead that Americans and Arabs have generally combated each other within a shared moral framework.My current book project strives for a fuller integration of state-to-state relations with broader societal concerns. In this work I argue that the 1970s were a pivotal decade in U.S.-Arab relations. It was in these years that Americans and Arabs became an inescapable presence in each other's lives and perceptions and that each society came to feel profoundly vulnerable to the political, economic, cultural, and even physical encroachments of the other. Responding to this growing sense of mutual dependence, in the mid-1970s elites on both sides sought a broad accommodation, entailing a fuller integration of the Arab world into the global economy and a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute on terms acceptable to the main currents of Arab opinion. But events in the second half of the decade thwarted these hopes, and by the early 1980s U.S.-Arab relations were settling into patterns that continue today: strategic alignment between the United States and Israel, escalating terrorist attacks by nonstate Arab actors against American targets, repeated U.S. military interventions in the Arab world, and deepening mutual hostility between ordinary Americans and Arabs.Ironically, even as the hopes for U.S.-Arab accommodation unraveled, Arab Americans achieved new visibility and acceptance inside the United States. The immigration reforms of the mid-1960s permitted a marked increase in immigration from Arab countries over the following decade. This development, combined with the political ferment sweeping the Arab world (including the Arab diaspora) after 1967, encouraged a high degree of political and cultural activism by Arab-American groups, much of it aimed at promoting a positive image of Arab culture and at seeking sympathy for Arab perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although such activism had little impact on general American attitudes in the early 1970s, it encountered considerably more success after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which focused Americans' attention on the region. During the 1970s, in sum, international and domestic circumstances forced Americans and Arabs into unprecedented proximity with one another, encouraging attitudes of animosity and acceptance that remain familiar today.
BFA, (1986) illustration, Academy of Art College, San Francisco, CA; Ph.D. (1999) U.S. history, Yale University
Middle East,U.S. Foreign Policy,U.S. History,U.S.-Arab Relations
- Associate Professor, History, UC Santa Barbara, 2005-present
- Assistant Professor, History, University of Chicago, 2000-05
- Visiting Assistant Professor, History, University of Chicago, 1999-2000
U.S. history, history of U.S. foreign relations, modern Middle Eastern history
In this historical monograph, I argue that the 1970s were a pivotal decade in the evolution of U.S.-Arab relations, establishing patterns of diplomatic, cultural, demographic, and psychological interaction that persist to this day. In foreign affairs, I argue that decisions made, patterns established, and opportunities missed in the 1970s led to a significant deterioration in U.S.-Arab relations. In the domestic realm, I explore how Arab Americans gained unprecedented visibility and acceptance during that decade, on account of profound demographic and cultural changes. This ironic legacy of animosity and acceptance defines the parameters of U.S.-Arab relations as we know them today.
- Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
- "Imperious Doctrines: U.S.-Arab Relations from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush," Diplomatic History 26:4, Fall 2002.
- "The United States and the Middle East, 1914 to 9/11," twenty-four lectures on DVD, video, CD, and cassette, produced and distributed by The Teaching Company, Chantilly, VA, June 2003.