An ambitious revisionist history of the modern Middle East
What Really Went Wrong offers a fresh and incisive assessment of American foreign policy’s impact on the history and politics of the modern Middle East. Looking at flashpoints in Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese history, Fawaz A. Gerges shows how postwar U.S. leaders made a devil’s pact with potentates, autocrats, and strongmen around the world. Washington sought to tame assertive nationalists and to protect repressive Middle Eastern regimes in return for compliance with American hegemonic designs and uninterrupted flows of cheap oil.
The book takes a counterfactual approach, asking readers to consider how the political trajectories of these countries and, by extension, the entire region may have differed had U.S. foreign policy privileged the nationalist aspirations of patriotic and independent Middle Eastern leaders and people. Gerges argues that rather than focusing on rolling back communism, extracting oil, and pursuing interventionist and imperial policies in Iran, Egypt, and beyond, postwar U.S. leaders should have allowed the Middle East greater autonomy in charting its own political and economic development. In so doing, the contemporary Middle East may have had better prospects for stability, prosperity, peace, and democracy.
Fawaz A. Gerges is professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the author of Making the Arab World and ISIS: A History. He has also been a senior analyst for ABC News. He lives in London, UK.
“Fawaz Gerges does a masterful job of exposing the decades of fiascos, debacles and gratuitous violence that define the bumbling of U.S. empire in the Middle East. This is a searing indictment of an American foreign policy establishment that, in country after country in the Middle East, consistently made things worse.”—Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning former Middle East Bureau chief for the New York Times
“Gerges, one of our keenest observers of the Middle East, shows how Washington’s Cold Warriors misunderstood Iranian and Egyptian nationalism in the 1950s, and through coups and interventions began the destabilization of the region. It is a bracing tale of hubris and overweening ambition.”—Juan Cole, University of Michigan
“Fawaz Gerges’s What Really Went Wrong is a must read. While there are many books on the Middle East, none offer its data, documentation and unique analysis, critique and conclusions of the trajectory of the George W. Bush administration’s flawed foreign policy. Gerges’s book should be required reading in courses on the history and politics of the Middle East and American foreign policy and diplomacy.”—John L. Esposito, author of The Future of Islam
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