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Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East since 1945.

Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 by Peter L. Hahn. Potomac Books (, 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, Virginia 20166, 2005, 224 pages, $36.00 (hardcover), $17.56 (softcover).

Peter L. Hahn, author of Crisis and Crossfire--part of Potomac Books' Issues in the History of American Foreign Relations series--provides a credible review of US involvement in the Middle East and presidential doctrines covering that region. Particularly striking are the behind-the-scenes explanations of actions during early US political ventures as well as Middle East peace conferences. Hahn does a splendid job of setting the stage for US political and economic involvement in the area.

Before World War II, US government officials had little interest in the Middle East. " 'Egypt is a charming place to be stationed,' William J. Jardine, the American minister to Cairo, wrote in 1932. 'As I see it, there is not much going on here of tremendous importance to my government. ... It appears to me to be quite a sideshow' " (pp. 1-2). One may reasonably conclude that official US involvement in the Middle East after World War II focuses on regional stability to ensure the flow of and US access to Middle Eastern oil. The author illustrates how this interest arose as British influence in the region waned and grew more intense as the US economy became more dependent on foreign oil. Hahn's ensuing discussion of World War II and Cold War-era US government activities lead the reader through a number of security systems, treaties, and alliances that ultimately set the stage for or helped preclude future conflicts in the region. Furthermore, Hahn shows how US interest has also waxed and waned with the degree of Soviet--and, later, Russian--activity in the region.

The discussion of US presidential doctrine for the Middle East is enlightening. Hahn begins with the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and works his way through to Pres. George W. Bush (current as of 2005). I was happy to see discussion not only about oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, but also about Israel, its neighbors and their collective issues, and US presidential involvement in a search for peace in that part of the Middle East.

At times, it seems that the author's personal opinions, perhaps shaped by some of the sources he used, intrude themselves into the text. Additionally, I noted with interest a comment by Robert J. McMahon, the series editor, who remarks in the introduction that books in this series will feature a broad international perspective on the external behavior of the United States. However, glancing through the bibliography of primary published sources and secondary materials, one finds little more than a handful of international sources in the secondary materials and none in the primary sources (two-thirds of which consist of the US Department of State's Foreign Relations of the United States volumes).

Despite these shortcomings, as a historical review of US involvement in the Middle East, Crisis and Crossfire serves as a good resource. However, readers desiring deeper analysis and perhaps even recommended courses of action for American foreign policy in the region may desire to seek alternate texts.

Maj Paul G. Niesen, USAF, Retired

Scott AFB, Illinois

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Author:Niesen, Paul G.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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