The attacks on New York City and Washington, DC in September 2001 were an enabling moment that provided an opportunity for U.S. policymakers to pursue ambitious, yet misguided policies intended to remake the region. Although 9/11 marked a period of particularly intense American interest in the Middle East, the United States has been involved in the region since the end of WWII in pursuit of three core interests: the free flow of energy resources from the region, helping to ensure Israeli security, and maintaining American dominance in the service of the first two interests. As a result, U.S. policy in the region has been heavily “securitized.” In turn, the nexus of American politics, media, and popular culture have tended to produce distorted images of the region and the people who live there.
Lost in policies like the “global war on terror,” the “Freedom Agenda,” and Operation Iraqi Freedom is a region of 21 Arab countries (plus Palestine), Israel, Turkey, and Iran comprising about 400 million people with a long history of cultural and scientific accomplishments, to say nothing of the fact that the region is the birthplace of the three Abrahamic faiths. The Middle East certainly has its problems, including the failure or near failure of several states, but the region is also critical to the global economy in manifold way. It boasts a strong entrepreneurial spirit, demographic and geographic advantages, as well as enormous potential for tourism.
The objectives of the course are threefold: 1) to provide an overview of the history and politics of the region, 2) to understand how the Middle East fits within the global economy, and 3) to examine several case studies from two dynamic regional economies: the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
Steven A. Cook is Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S.-Middle East policy. Cook is the author of False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East; The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, which won the 2012 gold medal from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Ruling but Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey. Oxford University Press is publishing his next book, The End Of Ambition: America’s Past, Present, and Future in the Middle East in 2022.