The U.S. and the Middle East: 1914 to 9/11

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative I found the course to be very informative and helped filling the various gaps that I had developed in my understanding in last 50 years. I wish the course written notes were complete and reflected oral presentation completely rather than capture only key points.
Date published: 2021-02-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Much Good Information, Twisted Conclusion The split between positive and negative reviews is wide. Those who point out that the narrowness of the course’s focus precludes propaganda are certainly correct. Those who appreciate the wealth of information in this 2003 course are correct. Those who have difficulty with L24’s conclusions do so for reasons mostly beyond the focus of the course. See CONS. PROS: Having been alive through & cognizant of the events in lectures 9-24, much of this was a very accurate trip down memory lane. I agree with the positive reviews. CONS: The casual student would tend to agree with L24’s "guilting" summation: “What really angers Middle Easterners…is (the US gov’t) violating the very values they profess…human rights". Because of the course's narrow focus, Yaqub is unable to provide balancing remarks about the Middle East’s poor record on human rights nor the Middle East's own imperialist history and subsequent bias causing its present belligerent incoherence. Hence this conclusion is improper. Reflecting the political view of 94% of professors, colleges have narrowed the focus of most courses to avoid debate. Easy example: they endlessly discuss Hitler's outrages, but gloss over Stalin’s worse record (see TGC’s “Utopia and Terror”, Liulevicius, L8-10 & 18-21). Such a narrow focus causes today's students to conclude that the extreme right is problematic, but the extreme left really hasn’t any mentionable difficulties. A similar lack of context for Yaqub's L24 conclusions is similarly misleading. Let’s expand the Middle East story just a bit: the entire region has been constantly in inhumane war. This tradition dates back to Biblical times with territorial war, followed by Mohammed whose followers divided the world into Dar al Islam (the world of Islam) and Dar al Harib – the “World of War” (multiple TGC courses). In TGC's "The Ottoman Empire", L2 Harl stated "Constantinople was...destined to be captured as foretold in the Quran". And from there, the Middle East became a hotbed of strife. Islamic factions built a magnificent civilization based on imperialistic conquests in Europe, Pakistan, India, along the eastern Silk Road, etc. (TGC’s Decisive Battles of World Hx, Aldrete): In 751 the Abbasid Caliphate took the Tamir Basin around the Chinese Silk Road (KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYSTAN, UZBEKISTAN) so they could tax. The 1191 Muslim attack on INDIA ended as Islamic PAKISTAN (L9). The BALTIC STATES and southern Europe suffered incessant attack. This aggression would span 1000+ years until mud prevented siege cannon from reaching in Vienna 1683 (L21). The very, very brief Crusades were the result, not the cause of such aggression, a fact that negates another narrow academic distortion. In Spain, the last of the Islamic imperialists would not be forced out until 1492 (multiple TGC courses). Middle East human rights violations started then and continue today: (TGC’s "War & World History”, Roth) BLACK SLAVERY STARTED on Muslim sugar cane plantations in Iraq, (TGC’s Aldrete): very young Christian males were ripped from their mother’s arms, converted to Islam and became the fierce Egyptian Mamluk (L12) and Janissary warriors (L18). The MEDITERRANEAN was filled with Islamic ships rowed by (mainly) starving European slaves who often died chained to their benches sitting in their urine. To his credit, Yaqub mentions a few Middle Eastern outrages, usually implying a President's complicity though the US was actually picking between two evils. The West has forgiven Islamic imperialism & slavery, though the contradictions of the region have worsened due to technology. For example, Saddam stated he lost the Gulf War because he had ”no nuclear weapons” (Utopia and Terror, L23). Yacub did not ask if Iran’s nuclear program (started in the 50’s) is any different than Israel’s (which he described as sneakily leading to nuclear weapons). If it is more honest, why? SUMMARY: The course yields an excellent overview of how the US tried to deal with the vicissitudes of a complex region complicated by Middle Eastern imperialistic traditions and religious totalitarianism. As I pondered each chapter wondering what I would have done, my armchair humanitarian quarterbacking was just as frustrated by Middle East regional contradictions as the intentions of Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, or Nixon. I was recently gifted the video version. The video would help those who have not lived through this period. My rating is 5 for information and 1 for conclusions. The course is not propaganda but its narrow focus & emotional conclusion creates an unnecessary anti-Western bias.
Date published: 2020-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My only complaint with this course is that I have found it so interesting that I stay up far too late watching "just one more" until I don't have enough sleep for work the next day. Luckily, tomorrow is Saturday and I work M-F. Of the dozen or so Great Courses I've taken so far, the best lecturer; on the most difficult subject. Very balanced perspective. If you are adamant about the rightousness of one side over the others (Arab, Israeli, US, Soviet), than you won't like that his objectivity points out flaws, miscalculations, mistakes, etc. of all the players in this complex dynamic. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2020-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite courses I stumbled on this course as a Great Courses special. I'm so glad I did. Not only have I learned a lot about the Middle East, I've learned a lot about the way the U.S. fashions its foreign policy from administration to administration--often in ways that end up back firing. Is there any chance we could get another class from this professor updating everything that's happened since 9/11?
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from solid course this is a solid course covering exactly what it states in the title
Date published: 2020-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Learning This is one of the best courses I have purchased. It is so interesting and well taught that I’m planning to listen for the third time. The professor is engaging, enthusiastic knowledgeable and tells a story that makes each lecture interesting and easy to understand. I know I appreciate the complex Middle Eastern history as it relates to United States. His speaking style is clear and what I have learned, I will not forget. I recommend this for all viewers to understand the history of the Middle East and how it impacts our lives today. The professor did a outstanding job in this regard.
Date published: 2020-10-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learned alot more than I thought I would Given the world that we are living in today, this course is incredibly relevant. We have had a much longer-lasting impact on the Middle East than I have thought. It made me see a few things about our role in this place. Clearly our influence, both good and bad, will continue to affect the lives of people in this region.
Date published: 2020-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses ! First of all, don’t listen to the other reviewers. This course was not biased. He provides a lot of detail about all sides and how they thought at the time. It’s quite frankly amazing history telling. I wish there were more courses by him. Similar courses that binged were, A History of the United States and World War 2 (the one by thomas childers)
Date published: 2020-08-04
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A Meeting of Two Worlds
1: A Meeting of Two Worlds

An introduction to the themes of increasing American power, indigenous political aspirations, conflicting interests and goals, and growing mutual antagonism sets the stage for World War I.

34 min
Wilson & the Breakup of the Ottoman Empire
2: Wilson & the Breakup of the Ottoman Empire

An examination of wartime and postwar American policy shows how Wilson's commitment to an ethnocentrically defined view of national self-determination drove his efforts to shape the postwar settlement in the Middle East.

32 min
The Interwar Period
3: The Interwar Period

A look at American interest in the Middle East between the wars reveals our focus shifting in the 1930s to American interest in Saudi Arabian oil and the increasing activism of American Zionism in response to Hitler's persecution of German Jews.

30 min
U.S. & the Middle East During World War II
4: U.S. & the Middle East During World War II

United States entry into World War II alters Americans' conception of the Middle East, whose geopolitical orientation is now seen as vital to American security.

29 min
Origins of the Cold War in the Middle East
5: Origins of the Cold War in the Middle East

Three Cold War crises culminate in the issuing of the Truman Doctrine-which would guide U.S. Cold War policy for a generation-while the evolution of U.S.-Saudi relations produces a formal pledge to defend that nation from possible Soviet attack.

29 min
Truman & the Creation of Israel
6: Truman & the Creation of Israel

A look at competing explanations for Truman's support for Israel's creation and its consequences includes the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the resulting decline in America's reputation in the Arab world.

30 min
Eisenhower, the Cold War & the Middle East
7: Eisenhower, the Cold War & the Middle East

President Eisenhower's responses to the challenge of Middle Eastern nationalists include a successful effort to overthrow the regime of Muhammad Mossadeq in Iran and a less successful effort to arrest the drift of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser toward the Soviet orbit.

31 min
The Suez Crisis & Arab Nationalism
8: The Suez Crisis & Arab Nationalism

Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal and the ensuing crisis-with Great Britain, France, and Israel invading Egypt-marks a crucial turning point, with the United States replacing Great Britain as the preeminent western power in the Middle East.

30 min
Kennedy-Engaging Middle Eastern Nationalism
9: Kennedy-Engaging Middle Eastern Nationalism

This is an examination of President Kennedy's attempt to deemphasize Cold War themes in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Paradoxically, the strategy initially improves America's Cold War position, but leaves a far less promising situation to Kennedy's successor.

32 min
Johnson-Taking Sides
10: Johnson-Taking Sides

Kennedy's efforts to strike a balance between competing interests with respect to Iran, Nasserist Egypt, and Israel are abandoned by Lyndon Johnson, who openly takes sides in all three policy areas.

31 min
The Six-Day War
11: The Six-Day War

The 1967 war dramatically alters the political, strategic, and psychological landscape of the Middle East with the diplomatic and political fallout of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and a devastating impact on Nasserist Arab nationalism.

32 min
The Nixon Doctrine & the Middle East
12: The Nixon Doctrine & the Middle East

Nixon relies on regional "cops on the beat" to protect American interests, while initially keeping the Arab-Israeli conflict on a separate policy track. But Israel, too, soon becomes an American ally within the meaning of the Doctrine.

32 min
The Yom Kippur War & Kissinger's Diplomacy
13: The Yom Kippur War & Kissinger's Diplomacy

An examination of America's response to this 1973 war includes Egypt's and Syria's divergent aims, Kissinger's diplomatic efforts during and after the war, and the legacy of that diplomacy for future peacemaking.

31 min
Carter & Camp David
14: Carter & Camp David

A thorough look at President Jimmy Carter's efforts to broker an Arab-Israeli peace settlement examines an assessment of the Camp David process and the divergent ways in which Arabs, Israelis, and Americans have interpreted that experience.

32 min
The Iranian Revolution & the Hostage Crisis
15: The Iranian Revolution & the Hostage Crisis

A quarter-century of simmering resentment against the U.S. boils over in revolution, topples the shah, sets the stage for a prolonged hostage crisis, and virtually ensures the outcome of an American election.

28 min
Era of Limits-Energy Crises of the 1970s
16: Era of Limits-Energy Crises of the 1970s

The oil shocks of the 1970s are strongly felt in the West, but also force changes that eventually bring the oil-producing nations of the Middle East face to face with a hard new reality.

31 min
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
17: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviets' 1979 invasion of Afghanistan has far-reaching implications for both the Soviet Union and the U.S., whose support for an Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union attracts tens of thousands of young men to the struggle, including a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

31 min
Reagan & the Middle East
18: Reagan & the Middle East

This look at President Reagan's policies pays close attention to his efforts to contain militant Islam, especially in Lebanon, and includes the Marine barracks bombing, the highjacking of TWA Flight 847, and the arms-for-hostages machinations of Irangate.

32 min
The First Palestinian Intifada
19: The First Palestinian Intifada

A detailed examination of the American response to the first Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip discusses the American revival of the Arab-Israeli peace process and the involvement of the PLO.

30 min
The Gulf War
20: The Gulf War

A look at the first Bush administration's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 includes America's "tilt" toward Iraq in the war against Iran, the events and implications of Operation Desert Storm, and the controversial end to the conflict.

31 min
The Rise & Fall of the Oslo Peace Process
21: The Rise & Fall of the Oslo Peace Process

An examination of the origins of the Israeli-PLO direct talks looks in depth at the terms of their preliminary agreement, the conflicting explanations for why the process ultimately failed, and what happened in its wake.

32 min
The United States & the Kurds
22: The United States & the Kurds

This lecture traces American relations with this single Middle Eastern people over a long period of time, examining who they are and the role of their aspirations in our own involvement in the Middle East.

31 min
The United States & Osama bin Laden
23: The United States & Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden's emergence in the 1990s as a sponsor of anti-American terrorism begins with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and continues with his formation of the al-Qa'ida network, its escalating campaign, the Clinton administration's sporadic efforts to counter it, and the ambivalent position of the Saudi government.

31 min
September 11 & Its Aftermath
24: September 11 & Its Aftermath

A look at the events of September 11, their aftermath, and Washington's immediate reaction brings the series to a conclusion at the beginning of 2002 and discusses the implications a more ambitious strategic agenda may have for subsequent U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

31 min
Salim Yaqub

Americans and Middle Easterners have more in common than they realize. They're divided by important cultural differences, and conflicts stem from this. But even the bitterest conflicts occur within a common moral framework.


Yale University


University of California, Santa Barbara

About Salim Yaqub

Dr. Salim Yaqub is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He earned his B.A. from the Academy of Art College and his M.A. at San Francisco State University, continuing on to Yale University, where he earned an M. Phil and a Ph.D. in American History. Dr. Yaqub specializes in the History of American Foreign Relations, 20th-Century American Political History, and Modern Middle Eastern History since 1945. Professor Yaqub is the author of Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. His dissertation of this work earned him the John Addison Porter Prize and the George Washington Egleston Prize from Yale University.

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