United States Policy and the Conflict of Powers in the Middle East
by Edward W. Said.
By permission B.R.P.F.
Summary: Wide-ranging early survey of the Middle East by Edward Said, before he wrote his books 'Orientalism' (1978), 'Covering Islam' (1981), 'Culture and Imperialism' (1993) and others. He was once described, I think by a New York Times hack, as the 'Professor of Terror' - Rae West
Edward Said is Professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, New York. He has written widely on Palestine and the Middle East.
We are delighted with the fact the ceasefire lasted this long and the area is relatively stable ... Contrary to the views I hear expressed occasionally, we still have good communications with the Arab countries and we still have hopes that negotiations can start sometime.
Secretary of State Rogers, March 14, 1972.
In our new approach to security assistance we have adjusted, and in some areas eliminated, practices which did not reflect the realities which are inherent in the Nixon doctrine and our national security strategy of realistic deterrence. We have sharpened our managerial procedures to assure better allocation of our scarce resources, and have included specific guidelines for the integration of security assistance into overall force planning under the total force concept. And most importantly ... we are moving forward with our allies on programmes which do improve their self-sufficiency and increase their contributions to our mutual security.
I A simple working definition for what is involved when foreign powers conflict in the Middle East is that one power seeks a presence (whatever the form) of some sort, and this presence is actively struggled for with other powers who have the same general ambitions. There can never of course be an absolute victory of one power over all the others since the historical pattern tells us that powers begin by hoping for the total dislodgement of other powers but ends by settling for a type of co-ordinated presence with these powers, within which one finds it possible quite ably to manoeuvre. The mode of conflict is rather more complicated and various than the underlying fact of conflict. The reason for this is -- and here modern experience in the Middle East is a very advanced school for the historian -- the extraordinary lengths to which the powers have gone in defining their "interests" in the Middle East. Thus for every interest there is a mode of conflict and a type of goal more or less special to it. A general rule, however, is that no matter what the "interest", a power will seek its enhancement or growth or realization as forcefully and as inexpensively as possible. Where direct intervention or great risk and expense appear as alternatives they have not always been categorically avoided (e.g. The Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of 1956) although I think that the Middle East of the 70's presents unique opportunities for a "logical", and for the United States, a relatively lucrative policy of conflict that makes violence between the powers almost totally unattractive. I believe this to be a sophisticated short-range policy, given US objectives, but it is misguided in the long run.
Secretary of Defense Laird, March 15, 1972.
Part of the enormous confusion that exists in the Middle East today about the conflict of powers there is that the Western powers have been a major factor in political life from the very beginnings of the twentieth century struggles for national independence. It has therefore become difficult to examine the policy of powers whose involvement in the modern history of a dozen states seems to have enabled that history even as it has later become an encroachment upon it. Hence my simple definition of conflict perfectly suits the way Britain and France, for instance, assisted Arab and Jewish nationalisms in their seemingly successful struggles within the Ottoman framework. It is the intertwining of foreign interests with local ones, however, that has made contemporary Middle Eastern history a battleground for competing perceptions of how, what, and which regional autonomy is to be achieved. What gives these perceptions an almost frightening vitality is the sheer number of levels at which the foreign powers and the Middle East interpenetrate, levels economic, political, cultural and psychological. So that if the historian wishes to avoid using general labels to describe the interpenetration, he is virtually trapped into saying that matters are too complex for judgment, that every issue has to be judged separately, etc. In trying to discourage this kind of surrender to what seems to be an irrationally large aggregate of details, I hope also to be advancing a view that is accurate and particular even as it volunteers judgment.
In the final analysis what is important in all such investigations as this one is what is too often obscured or forgotten: that there is a legitimate "interest" in the Middle East to be held for its resources and potential development by its people. Any policy that suppresses this interest can do so only in the short run, since there is a limit to how long the Middle East will submit inertly to being so handled. At least three decades of seemingly endless agitation, turmoil, self-deception and wasted effort have -- not without the paternal encouragement of the powers -- turned both the Arab and Jewish peoples into a mosaic of warring factions. The result has been to divert a sense of self-interest into subsidiary, less crucial interests. Fascists call themselves socialists, bourgeois intellectuals call themselves a proletariat, yet the powers grow stronger in the Middle East, and the great mass of people more abused.
A major reason for this state of affairs, which is a symptom of the Middle East's unique history, is that the contemporary Middle East is the result of "combined development". Trotsky's phrase is doubtless apt for most of the Third World, but in no place more than the Middle East is the difference between levels of development that co-exist simultaneously in time so dramatic. The three major religions which originate in the area have welcomed foreign cultures linked ethically to them, but have also reacted conservatively in trying somehow to preserve the identity of their national roots. Exactly this schizophrenic mode is reproduced, for example, in the Western radical who is silent (or worse) about the Middle East, even as he has a lot to say about Vietnam or Cuba. An accurate political awareness therefore suffers from exposure to regressive emotional sympathies: Yet this has benefitted neither the Western radical nor the Middle Easterner. The fact is that Middle Eastern realities are rationally intelligible, if not simple, and amenable to analysis; the actuality, however, is that aside from US policy-makers not enough people have grasped this fact.
II It is instructive to see, from the outset, how the western European and Atlantic powers dealt with the Arabs (or the Jews) in a set of three completely interrelated moves; these are moves that involve a number of attitudes still present and employed today. First of all, there is the step of dealing with smaller groups (oligarchies, hereditary elites, minority factions) in terms more appropriate to a much greater mass of people. Thus the Sharifian dynasty is encouraged to aspire towards and, ironically, to settle for, "Arab" goals; similarly a Zionist faction is identified as a mouthpiece of the Jewish people. With this maximalist tendency nurtured amongst minorities comes a second step; through the dialectic of partnership in an allied cause, whether it is anti-Ottoman or anti-communist, a set of national goals and priorities is formulated and, in some cases, granted. In fact, however, these goals turn out really to be the legitimation by the powers of their presence and the presence of their minority native partners. As Aaron S. Klieman has recently shown, the Cairo Conference of 1921 is a watershed for this type of arrangement in which a conflict between rationales for imperial stability and the logic of appeasing nationalist aspiration multiplies, rather than dampens, confusion and expense.1 Not the least important is a third move, which is for one power (or sometimes a group of powers) to promote policies designed neatly to do a double but contradictory job. On the one hand competing powers are dislodged, forestalled, removed; on the other hand, the locals are convinced of having achieved a step towards independence.
The textbook case in which to observe all three moves operating in synchrony is historically the first in twentieth century Arab-Jewish-Western experience. By the autumn of 1918 Arab forces, acting mainly with the British (but to a degree also with the French) had practically reached Damascus, after having successfully cleared Ottoman troops from Arabia. T.E. Lawrence has claimed that setting Damascus as a goal for the Arab Revolt was his idea, for previously only the liberation of Mecca and Medina had been the Arab war aim.2 Nevertheless the Hussein-MacMahon correspondence, the Sykes-Picot agreement, and the Balfour Declaration had in a sense overdetermined the choice of strategy for which Damascus was the prize.3 Much of subsequent Arab bitterness comes of course from having felt that the powers betrayed those promises for which the Arab Revolt was declared, fought, and won -- and here too the taking of Damascus has been pointed to as a symbol of triumphant Arab insurgency. Yet in two essays a contemporary historian has disinterred fairly compelling evidence to show a) that the Arabs were allowed to "take" Damascus by letting them enter the city first (although British and Australian regulars were really more capable of the job) and b) that this tactic was designed specifically to prevent the French from taking the city, as well as to let the Arabs actually see that cooperation with the British had tangible advantages.4 Two years later Feisal was driven from Syria by the French and installed in Iraq. Middle Eastern history has thereafter been a succession of such events.
As most commentators agree, it is only since World War Two that the United States and the Soviet Union entered the conflict. Britain and France by then had begun an attenuation of their presence, which was slowly to be reasserted, though to a lesser degree than before the War, after 1967. The decade of the fifties saw an exchange of interventions, musical invasions we might call them, the upshot of which was to bring US and Soviet rivalry to the fore. (A curious sideshow of this rivalry has been the polemical literature in the West on post-War radical Arab nationalism. Generally, Abdel Nasser, the Palestinian organizations, and the Baathists are treated as sell-outs to, puppets and stooges of international communism. This at least has been the operative assumption held in official circles. Yet a substantial current of thought, extending from the State Department Arabists to ex-CIA men like Miles Copeland5 and Kermit Roosevelt and to uncounted teachers, missionaries and business-men, maintains that radical Arab nationalism is substantially the creation of the United States, its foreign service, or its cultural-educational institutions!) Even today there is generally thought to be an absolute symmetry in the Middle East between on one side, the US-Soviet conflict, and on the other, the Arab-Israeli conflict. How this peculiar view has come to be held, particularly when it has a basis neither in history nor actuality, must be counted as one of the achievements of "public diplomacy". For I submit that one of the most ominous developments in the Middle East since the era of avowedly secret agreements by the powers on the disposition of spheres of influence, has been the rise of a public policy making full use of a liberal mutual interest, respect and assistance platform against extremism and disorder, even as the far less evident underside of that platform is a thoroughly ruthless instrument for quashing or containing the slightest social restiveness or protest. I shall be concentrating upon US policy behaving this way simply because that policy has hitherto proved most effective. I am not at all arguing, however, that other powers are either blameless or uninvolved in the same kind of techniques. I shall also be arguing that the technical lessons of direct intervention (as in Vietnam) have not been lost on this policy; thus it is possible to say that in the Middle East the United States has made its greatest inroads by conceiving of its role primarily in behavioural science terms, with an eye towards social and economic control. The military imperatives remain of course, but they have, I think, been made far less obtrusive.
The effectiveness of such policy is most easily seen in the successful internationalisation, its defusing, of the Palestine question, at bottom a direct conflict between two peoples as well as the accepted genesis for all Middle Eastern unrest. The rise of an armed and organized Palestinian movement since 1967 should be interpreted, I believe, as a popular determination to nationalize (much as Abdel Nasser had done with the Suez CanaL in July 1956) the right to ones political fate. To a very great degree, however, the defeat of Palestinian nationalism in its present form has been the product of a policy of viewing Palestinian-Israeli conflicts as secondary to international instability. When in a study commissioned by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence, International Security Affairs, the RAND Corporation surveyed Palestinian nationalism it characterized the whole movement as a two-time "trigger" to armed conflict in the Middle East.6 The movement's defeat by 1971, according to the analyst, had proved that any extra-territorial, or paramilitary, or conspiratorial force could not "be reflected in any future political arrangements".7 The future is thus determined by the nations that presently neutralize social conflict, having put a so-called order between nations above everything.
Such conclusions as this are symptomatic and consistent, even though they neither make nor substantially alter policy. Obviously they protect the status quo. But they make the smallest possible allowance for the basic values to which the Palestinians gave themselves, and this is a disservice a research study ought not to perform. Such conclusions cannot therefore adequately deal with the human forces that might again stimulate Palestinian insurgency, especially since those forces by no means regard the status quo as unchangeable. Besides, Quandt's analysis only reinforces norms -- military stability, political unity etc. -- that derive from a view of things held to be without serious challenge: everything discussable is, given a sufficient number of facts, predictable, since the model of political processes is essentially linear, proceeding from "ideology" to "adaption to reality".8 A political force is a potent power block: if it is prevented from engaging directly in "political arrangements" then it will inhabit a "political limbo".9 The complexity of human activity is denatured and falsified into what one critic has called "the rat view of human nature".
For what purpose? Chiefly to assure the sponsor of such research, and possibly even the researcher, that human activity might turn out that way way, and thereby be susceptible to what behaviourist psychology calls negative reinforcement. Moreover, research of this sort is driven by a desire greatly to increase the sophistication of United States foreign policy. Such sophistication as I have been able to discern, however, is found initially in the large amounts of information, and the great variety of information being gathered. In the case of the Middle East these informations are directly commensurate with the growth of US interests felt to be in need of protection there. Certainly these interests are conceived in a more complex, although menacingly holistic, way; but the principle that they must be preserved has not changed much from the methods I described above. To this end therefore all information about the Middle East is highly political in nature. Its politicization is imposed not by irresponsible Third World radicals who are often accused of gross disregard for liberal knowledge, but rather by the thoroughly respectable view that considers human activity as behaviour inclined either to favour or harm US interests. Bio-statistics, for example, are useful in determining the efficiency of a porterage system in a guerrilla supply network; research on popular attitudes towards a given regime helps to assess whether or not there would be a strong response to the regime's dislodgement; a survey of political thought can assert or deny the true influence of radical ideas upon the political culture. The apparent randomness of such analyses conceals an integral goal binding them together. Borrowing from President Johnson, Barnet has called this goal keeping America the number one nation.11 Of course this is a general goal capable of being reached in many different ways.
It is worth considering in more detail now what the US sees its interests are in the Middle East, how they are defined, and what attitudes their formulations strengthen. The Nixon administration has made it clear since 1969 that the Middle East is its number one trouble spot, the most dangerous place on earth. Aside from the contradiction and entanglement given rise to by the Arab-Israeli conflict, inter-Arab rivalries, and the struggle between the powers, the Middle East seems inherently to present itself as disorderly, so complex are even the native currents that make for instability there. Thus whether it is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or a US Army Area handbook, the accepted view has come to find disorder and instability in need of pacification and stabilization.12 But since the US has interests "that command concern" a policy must steer a course between maintaining "traditional friendships" and maintaining a net dollar inflow of some $1.7 billion per year from the Middle East.13 In addition there are politico-strategic interests such as containing the Soviet Union, cultural interests, and so on. More recently Arab petroleum has become essential for US home consumption, at least from the mid '70s on, even as OPEC militancy tightens its demands for increased revenue and ownership.14 With a US investment in it through the decade of at least a hundred billion dollars (relatively cheap oil, military assistance, institutional) the Middle East and its disorders therefore present some difficulties for policy-makers.
After Vietnam there is an evident consensus that, according to a 1970 paper by Campbell, "a foreign presence could be a political liability in countries characterized by nationalist sensitivity". He goes on to say that the Pentagon acquiesced in this judgment, the key to which "could be found in the effects of technological change on military geography".15 Thus since there was a general regional coalition aligned with the US -- Spain and Turkey are mentioned by Campbell, but Eqbal Ahmad has persuasively shown the paramount importance to this strategy here of Iran, Greece, Ethiopia, and Israel16 -- a more delicate policy, less obtrusively dependent on conventional military means, is possible. For the unstable environment is now accepted as a starting point of policy; this is a roundabout way of saying that the causes of instability will perforce remain deliberately untouched, through benign neglect, in the safeguard of US interests. Hence:
... American policy will have to prove itself amid interlocking struggles for political power involving both the big and the small powers against a background of crisis which is more or less continuous but stops short of war. American policy and strategy will therefore be primarily political, with the double aim of preventing war and preventing any major shift in the world balance, whether that balance is viewed in political or military terms. Fundamental to those purposes are a necessary minimum of control over the level of conflict between the Arabs and Israel; maintenance of present commitments to NATO countries and of relations of confidence and solidarity with them, including some tolerable regulation of the present awkward situation of Greece and of the Greece-Turkey-Cyprus imbroglio; support for the economic and social progress of all Mediterranean countries; maintenance of open channels of communication to all of them, hostile as well as friendly -- and in all probability, a measure of cooperation with the Soviet Union. This last point could be the key to success or failure in all the others, but such cooperation requires two willing partners. The instruments for such a grand strategy are primarily political, economic, diplomatic.17 This "mixed situation" requires subtle crisis management of a particular kind, as we shall see.
The central principle for policy making is that there must be as protected and sustained a flow of income as possible, viewed as both economic and strategic, from the Middle East to the US. This consideration overrides all others; it is the one value whose importance is accorded a priori objectivity, and not unnaturally a kind of freedom from examination. Therefore since crisis in the Middle East still enables this flow there is good sense in preserving the crisis in its present form. Furthermore some objectivity and permanence is given the crisis because of its association with the production of income. A small example will suffice here. Since December 1969 the United States has not strenuously maintained that the return of Israeli-occupied territory to Egypt be one condition for a settlement. It had done so before, notably in UN Resolution 242, of November 1967, and in the Four Power negotiations. The change signified the degree to which US policy had adapted to the crisis; and a return to earlier principles would now mean an expensive alteration in the "balance" US policy had taken for granted,18 all this despite the presence in the State Department of legendary Arabists!
Conversely though, the reasons for such a view of things cannot be ascribed to a Zionist conspiracy, or even to Jewish pressures on US policy.19 Those pressures play a role but only to the extent that they coincide with the over-all US interest. I realize that I am suggesting a greater degree of selectivity and discrimination in US foreign policy, to which Vietnam gives the lie. But one must not forget that there is a much older and discriminating relationship between the US and the Middle East that guarantees at least a greater amount of interaction and knowledge than between the US and Southeast Asia. There are institutes, university regional studies curricula, cultural dynamics of very long standing, and enormous funds available for all sorts of projects from foundations. (The Lilly Foundation, for instance, accorded $25,000 in 1970 alone for "private diplomacy" in the Middle East). All this then makes it practical for even so lumbering and cumbersome a complex as the foreign policy body of the US to put into effect a viable programme for the Middle East.
We can distinguish two main approaches which a prodigiously generous supply of intelligence keep viable. Both approaches are multidimensional and work together, but they are most profitably understood as an up-dated version of the conflict-of-powers moves I enumerated earlier. I shall call these approaches coordination and isolation. Both of them depend heavily upon identifying and predicting levels of tension, although clearly a level of tension -- for example, between Jordan and the Palestinians -- is not unacceptable simply because it is violent. Perhaps because of Vietnam, a rule is that US military intervention is a last resort, never an immediate response. Above all, an optimum result is to employ regional and adjacent (NATO for instance) forces in the crisis: this, of course, is the famous linkage principle. The overall effect can be viewed as the result of "an engineering approach".20
A. Analysis. The analysis of antagonistic forces has now discarded the old communist-vs-free polarity as a conceptual tool. Regional homogeneity is not assumed except, as I said above, insofar as it contributes integrally to the flow of economic and strategic income from a region. For the purpose of identifying components of the crisis, diversity is the norm. Here we can begin to see the fruits of what Glen H. Fisher has called the behavioural science approach in foreign affairs.21 Sociological, anthropological and psychological methods expose a region in all its ethnic and subcultural diversity, pointing to the interests, dynamics, and sensitivities of each unit. Since the Middle East is manifestly a mosaic society, it is not only important to tell the groups apart, but also to record each group's self-perceptions. To this end we have studies of the Palestinians such as Quandt's and studies of how Palestinians are seen by Israelis, and by themselves.22 If, as is often the case, regional institutions can do research of this sort -- so much the better.23 There is nothing secret or esoteric about this research (which is often produced in the routine of business, cultural and educational relations between the US and the Middle East) primarily because no discrete part of it has real value without the rest. Presumably only the sponsor -- the Department of Defence, RAND, Hudson, Ford Foundation, etc. -- has all the results immediately available. Yet we might digress a moment to remark (with Senator Fulbright, Admiral Rickover, and others) that the total amount of research is so vast as to defy the digestive capabilities of even the largest organisation. Fulbright put his finger on it by saying that even though the aggregate was irrational, the sheer power demonstrated in sponsoring the research was a way of controlling it.24
Ethno-sociological analyses feed next into higher levels of interpretive analyses: the economic and the military-strategic. RAND, for example, has since 1954 conducted Project Sierra "to examine possible limited war situations in Southeast Asia, the Far East, and the Middle East with particular reference to Air Force effectiveness".25 In later years the Institute for Defence Analysis conducted a "study of the problem of literacy training for conscripts in underdeveloped countries ... [which was] applied to the ground forces of a country in the Middle East". And with this went another IDA study done for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on "the multiplicity of military and political problems facing the US in the Mediterranean, Middle East,Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea begun in July 1968".26 There are literally dozens more such projects -- Rainbow scenarios, strategic forecasts, etc. -- undertaken by universities, and by large corporations like Douglas Aircraft, Westinghouse, and General Electric. To these must be added research done on economic, sociological, agricultural, and demographic features of the Middle East, features whose influence on the US position is felt to be decisive. A comprehensive analysis of this sort underlies a RAND series on the Middle East, underwritten by the Ford Foundation and Resources for the Future.27 The annual expenditures, roughly guessed at, is in the several millions of dollars.
It is difficult to assume that many of these projects are disinterested scholarly research. It is equally difficult to understand how critics of US policy in Vietnam cannot see, and will not be critical of, the US attitude common both to Vietnam and to the Middle East. The major difference between the two areas is that Vietnam is manifestly a battleground, but the Middle East seems not to be. Yet US policy in the Middle East -- as the general nature of the analyses suggest -- conforms closely to conflict game plans discussed, say, by Thomas Schelling in The Strategy of Conflict. Furthermore, Vietnam has been judged a series of costly mistakes (as the Pentagon Papers amply demonstrate) which it has become the duty of a major power to avoid. An impressive demonstration of the link between Vietnam and the Middle East is a series of studies done at M.I.T. on the control of small wars. Having amassed a large amount of data, the authors proceed to construct a model of small wars. The model's function is to predict and select stages in the war for the US to use in planning pressure upon the combatants ("nipping them in the bud"). No distinction is made between one war and another; all are considered equally small and "dangerous", and therefore in need of pacification.28 Obviously then, every bit of information about a region is useful intelligence, from meteorological characteristics to social stratification, in the pursuit of a Pax Americana,29 presumably a plan with optimum cost effectiveness.
B. Decision Making: Some good hints on the relation between vast pools of accumulated research findings and implemented policy can be garnered by the recent history of US relations with the Middle East. The countries of the area have never really been treated as a group, much less as the vaunted Arab-Israeli dichotomy, simply because only the most cursory observer will fail to miss the divisions that animate the place. US policy therefore proceeds along many axes, each with it own options for intervention, active support (economic, social, military), tacit support, containment or isolation. In the eastern Mediterranean there are eight Arab countries, aside from the Gulf States. Between these states there are numerous ties, some antagonistic, some not. In addition there are dozens of minorities extending in some cases (Druses, Christian sects, Shiites, etc) across frontiers. To these have to be added elites and interest groups both inside and outside the governments. By the time one adds Israel to this pattern, as well as the active interests of other states (France, Britain, USSR, Japan, India, Iran) policy options cease to be of the either-or type, and become instead and-and propositions. By contrast the policy of the Arab states and Israel seems increasingly limited to one-dimensional assent or abstention. Since policy options are frequently a direct product of information the following evidence of limited Arab initiatives (despite the enormous sums expended on military hardware by the Arab League) is significant: there is not a single institution in the Arab world devoted exclusively to the study of the US, a country whose involvement in the Arab world far outstrips that of any other power. Compared to the institutions and programmes in the US whose exclusive job is to monitor the Middle East, this is lamentable. The main point, however, is that because they have never fully explored their options the Arabs have had to deal with the powers and Israel as if there were a true collective Arab coordination. In reality this inauthentic collectivity makes the Arabs vulnerable to the divisive policies of the powers.
With regard to Israel, for a great many obvious reasons, the US there has thoroughly insinuated its market and strategic interests. The defence of Israel, which according to Fulbright means a literally unprecedented supply of military assistance, has become a plank in the platform of every major political candidate in the USA. The key to this policy is that the Israeli air force -- the object of evident Pentagon approving interest.30 -- is seen as a unique cost effective deterrent to Soviet moves in the Mediterranean.31 After all why do it expensively by direct intervention if it can be done far less expensively by an ally already there? Israel furthermore is the only power between France and the Indian sub-continent to have a nuclear option, and this, as Fuad Jabber shows, could scarcely have been achieved without aid solicited from the US and the West generally.32 One clue to the extent to which Israel and the US have interlocking military-industrial establishments is that after Canada and the United Kingdom, Israel is the recipient of the largest amounts for DOD research.33 Since 1968 it is estimated that Israel has received at least $1.5 billion in military goods from the United States; thus "by these calculations the US has sent a greater value of weapons to Israel than to any of the three forward defence countries that formerly accounted for 90% of US military transfers in the region (Turkey, Greece, Iran)".34
The growing complexity of arms dealing by the powers is a subject too often reduced to the false US-USSR/Israel-Arab states symmetry I mentioned above. In the years since 1967 the US has supplied arms to Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, aside from those to Israel. While there is no gainsaying the supply to Soviet arms to some Arab countries, I think it can be confidently said the US-supplied arms are delivered with two principle objectives in mind, both of them more flexibly adaptable to US interests than the monolithic (and only modestly successful) Soviet policy of arming Arab for defence against Israeli attacks. The two US objectives in arms supply are (1) preserving an internal balance within the Middle East and (2) outflanking the Soviets to the East and South. I have already discussed the reasons for such a policy; what requires comment now is the policy's implementation, particularly (2). One consistent tactic is to deepen splits amongst the Arabs, thus making states with sharply different constitutions, populations, economics, and avowed foreign polices (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia) unwittingly similar in the positions they adopt. Any force challenging these regimes, either externally or internally, is labelled radical, and an unspoken alliance develops, for economics and class balances are deeply threatened by change.
The case of Jordan since 1967 is classical in the intricacies of its front-line position not only facing Israel, but also its neighbours, the Palestinians, the more distant Arab states, and the US. An indication of the pressures upon it in September 1970, and the high importance attached to them by Washington, is the fact that during that single month the National Security apparatus of the US government met 21 times; for a period of ten months, between March and December 1971, the same group met only 25 times to deal with the East Pakistan crisis.35 Moreover there are grounds for believing that in September 1970 the US, Israel, and Jordan had a concerted plan of action, which would have entailed appropriate military responses had the Palestinians and the Syrians gained the upper hand. During those days in September it must have seemed that the Middle East was poised on the brink of a popular social revolution. The Palestinian insurgency was at its apex, and it IS, I suppose, to the credit of the US, Jordan and Israel that all three governments took the fedayeen for a genuine revolutionary force.36 Even the slight chance of a' revolutionary victory in Jordan suggested a wave of dissidence right through the area; together with Nasser's acceptance of the cease-fire in July, a stroke that was intended to parallel in diplomatic terms the Palestinian challenge, these movements threatened the calm by replacing a seemingly ingrained Arab habit of sheer stubbornness with a suddenly fresh initiative.
Had Jordan fallen, Syria, Iraq and Egypt would have presented Israel and the US with a battery of new difficulties: an offer of peace in the west, plus escalating demands from the east, unrest on the West Bank, and renewed Soviet support for a resurgent Arab position. The wider repercussions included threats to the oil, as well as to all of the Gulf monarchies. The US response to the Jordanian crisis was impressive, for it set in train a remarkable series of events that almost literally destroyed every progressive movement in the Arab world, and of course strengthened the US-Israel position accordingly. The Sixth Fleet and US troops in Europe were placed on much publicized alerts. Any rents in the Jordanian monarchy's power were repaired immediately:
Jordan's economy had lost about $25 million through the 45 days of fighting and economic disruption (Le Commerce du Levant, Beirut, 1171). The US immediately offered $5 million in economic aid, and replenished lost military supplies. Then Spain gave Jordan 240 tons of rice and 30 tons of sugar, and Iran, which had always refused to buy Jordanian phosphates, changed its mind (ibid, 2/71). Tapline in principle agreed to raise its payments to Jordan for oil transit rights, to the tune of perhaps $4 million per year (ibid, 3/71). Then Taiwan offered to furnish agricultural products in great quantity, if Jordan would only pay for shipping (ibid, 6/71). And finally, the World Bank's soft-loan branch, the International Development Association, offered $6 million for highways in Jordan (ibid, 7/71).37Economic aid was only part of the picture. The army was later provided with "nearly ninety M60 tanks, about two hundred M113 armoured personnel carriers, about forty thousand M16 automatic rifles, together with considerable radar and other modern equipment". As a result -- and this is the pattern elsewhere among the Arab states -- there was a shift in Jordanian military priorities. In order these became "major forces in the north, facing Syria and Iraq; internal security; Israeli borders a distant third priority".38 Since September of 1970, the harsh turning inward of the Jordanian regime upon demands for social justice has been followed by similar developments in Sudan, Egypt, Iraq and Syria. This cannot at all be discordant with the general lines of US policy.
With the defeat of the Palestinian resistance in Jordan it remained for Israel to secure its hold upon the West Bank and Gaza, which together comprise the choicest of the territories occupied in 1967, the most heavily populated, and the most complex to administer. In its 1970 report on Development and Economic Situation in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and North Sinai the Israeli Ministry of Defence states that "the areas are a supplementary market for Israeli goods and services on the one hand, and a source of factors of production, especially unskilled labour, for the Israeli economy on the other". Israel's political and economic absorption of this new colony very closely corresponds to this assertion. Agricultural, industrial, employment and import-export plans for the West Bank have kept the territories in a vice-like hold: industrial development is carefully inhibited, Arab labour is significantly less well-paid than Jewish labour, type and quantity of produce is tailored for the Israeli market, labour is kept to a semi-skilled and unskilled level, and generally the West Bank is looked to as an economic conduit between Israel and the Arab World.39
Since as Michael Bruno has remarked "the most natural markets for Israel would be the Arab countries, but these are closed to Israeli trade", and since Israel's traditional (i.e. citrus fruits, polished diamonds, textiles, plywood, cement, tires) exports fare badly abroad, there will have to be a shift to "growth" industries: "electronic equipment, scientific instruments, fine chemicals, and the like -- for which transportation costs are of less importance, skill and know-how could be developed, and potential markets exist".40 Israel's economic links are strongest with the West generally, in particular with the US and the European Economic Community. The continued presence of Israel on the West Bank (there are now almost 50 Israeli settlements there, and great amounts of Arab land have already been expropriated in Hebron,Jerusalem, Nablus, etc.) suggests therefore a more lasting dependent involvement between Israel with its satellites and the Western economies. With Israel supplying management and know-how, and the Arabs inexpensive labour, the Middle East will serve the US as an intermediate link to Africa and perhaps later to the subcontinent. (Israel has already begun to export US electronic and military products -- manufactured in Israel on a concession basis -- to African countries.41) On the whole the picture has strong analogies with plans for the incorporation of Vietnam into the US economic orbit once "stabilization" has occurred.42
At present Israel and Egypt allocate over 20% of their GNP's for defence purposes, which not only benefit the defence establishments (no different there) but also outside suppliers like the US and the USSR. Much of the focus of attention in the press has been on Arab-Soviet economic dependence, although US-Arab economic relations have gone largely unnoticed. The facts are, however, that Arab-USSR relations are relatively pale and less substantial in the years 1967-70 than a) the increase in US imports to the Arab countries b) the decrease in Arab exports to the US c) the consistently lower exports from each Arab country to the US and d) the quarter of the total US trade surplus between 1967 and 1970 that came from the Arab states.43 A further insight into the worth of the Arab-US trade exchange is gained when one remarks how perfectly it fits the sociology of relations between advanced and less developed economies. As usual the whole-scale purchase and transfer of technology from one cultural level to another impoverishes the poorer partner even as it feeds his illusions of progress. For not only are the services of acquired technology poorly distributed to the population, but technology itself is raised worshipfully to a dangerous eminence that overrides far more urgent social and political considerations. A major US conglomerate, for instance, presently supplies Israel with very advanced weaponry, holds the concession for the state-owned television service in a neighbouring Arab country, and stations its regional representative in still another Arab capital.
Far from holding its own precariously in the Middle East, therefore, the United States is synonymous politically, psychologically and economically with power capable literally of absorbing every inherent difficulty presented to it in the Middle East. Social unrest, the enormous gap separating elites from the population at large, minority aspirations and majority afflictions, military ambition and the stark reality of poverty: all these are flattened into statistics and made to work in the interests of perpetuating US dominance. Whatever follies presently exist in each area of the Middle East are protracted, since US policy is calculated institutionally to nurture "balance" rather than change. To its Western allies the US is inclined to be generous -- as in the parcelling out of oil sub-concessions, military sales, etc. -- but only within a coordinated umbrella whose reaches extend nearly everywhere.44
The logical concomitant of a fully articulated policy of coordinated presence for the US and its allies is that forces hostile to this presence be isolated from each other and away from any means of interfering with that presence. What the US and countries or groups allied with it cannot absorb are intractable revolutionaries both of the left and, interestingly, of the right. That is, any group that sees itself as not driven by motives immediately translateable into technological advance or new capital. Pressure upon the radical Palestinians, for example, since their heyday in 1968 and 1969 has always first taken the form of incentives to settle down and share for a change in the profitable movement in goods and services. Most recently the carrot took the shape of a Palestinian state, which has tragi-comically been put forward by three regimes, not a single one of whom has any moral or historical right to dispose of Palestine by secret agreement or by proxy blue-print.45 Failing compliance with such pacification schemes, the Palestinians -- whose financial and intellectual strength came importantly from a significant slice of the technocratic elites in the Gulf, a fact not unnoticed in the US -- were all but destroyed. What was noticeable, however, was the convergence of unanimity by all the Middle Eastern regimes during 1970 and 1971 on the wisdom of so isolating and destroying opposition.
The isolation of opposition then has been proven possible on a local, controlled scale opposed to the earlier type of an expanding conflagration. I think that this is a development of capital importance in the Middle East, and this change from the past is unfailingly linked to the US policy "of achieving a stable and progressive order in the area. The risk of war cannot be exorcised until the environment is transformed by fundamental changes in the relations of states and peoples of the region. Such transformations are occurring in Europe, under the powerful influence of the ideas and arrangements of the European Community. Similar efforts have been launched in other areas of the world -- in Central America and in South-east Asia, for example".46 That an environment transformed to suit these prescriptions may not be to the Middle East's advantage, or that a just war or a change in the structure of government may not be unprofitable -- these eventualities are wholly ignored. If, as Rostow says, "peace is not the natural state of affairs in the Near East",.47 there is no reason why controlled war against either an expanded peace or a conflict (which diminish the US presence) cannot be made the fate of the area. Limited war, after all, can take relatively peaceful economic and political forms.
IIIIn seeking to broaden or to narrow at will the opportunities for change in the Middle East, the US since 1967 has been extraordinarily alert to the consequences of its policy in the region as well as sensitive to the interplay of political forms within each country. Every attempt has been made, by research and analysis, to understand the potential in present social instability that could develop into political movements capable of challenging the US presence. There is little doubt that such a systematic programme has-evolved partly as a result of already existing US resources for the penetration and manipulation of markets and societies. Therefore to argue that the US presence in the Middle East is dictated simply by executive fiat is incorrect, since its investments, institutions and historical personality in the area are regional instances of its global attitudes and political structures. It remains for the present generation of radical historians and political scientists in the United States to attempt an understanding and a transformation of these attitudes, as well as of the processes from which they derive; but this, hopefully, not by avoiding the complexities of the Middle East. For the peoples of the region, the present task, I believe, is essentially the acquisition and diffusion of information without which their politics will be childishly ineffectual. Until precise determinations are made about the US, its policy, its meaning, its allies, its foreign and native instrumentalities in the area, there is not much use merely in hoping for a people's war or a revolution. So artfully has illusion obscured the complex but intelligible realities of economic and political life in the Middle East, so powerful have been the authentic sentiments for deep social change, that glib analogies with Vietnam, Cuba, Algeria, and China have predominated without doing very much good. There is now the most urgent political need for seeing precisely which forces have been manipulated, which isolated, which detoured; that these forces are to be found everywhere, amongst both Arabs and Israelis, has been a truth far too often overlooked in the rush towards poorly clarified objectives.
1. Foundations of British Policy in the Arab World: The Cairo Conference of 1921, (Baltimore, 1970), p. 244.
2. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, (Garden City, N.Y., 1935), pp. 78, 91 and passim.
3. The best recent account of this background is to be found in A.L. Tibawi, A Modern History of Syria, Including Lebanon and Syria, (New York, 1969).
4. Elie Kedourie, "The Unmaking of the Sykes-Picot Agreement", in England and the Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire 1914-1921, (London 1956), and his "The Capture of Damascus, 1 October 1918", in The Chatham House Version and Other Middle-Eastern Studies, (New York, 1970).
5. See his The Game of Nations: the Amorality of Power Politics, (London, 1969).
6. William B. Quandt, Palestinian Nationalism: Its Political and Military Dimensions, (Santa Monica, November 1971). p. iii.
7. ibid, p. 118. For a different viewpoint see my article, "Les Palestinians face aux responsabilites de la defaite", Le Monde Diplomatique, October 1971.
8. ibid, p. 7.
9. ibid, p. 118. For a RAND study comparing the Vietcong and the Palestinian Guerilla movement see W.M. Jones, Predicting Insurgent and Government Decisions: the Power Block Model, (Santa Monica, 1970). Back of Jones and Quandt is Rebellion and Authority: An Analytic Essay on Insurgent Conflicts, Chicago, 1970) by Nathan Leites and Charles Wolf, Jr., two important RAND theoreticians of insurgency who employ a "systems" approach. For a series of essays dealing with these issues -- both pro and con -- see Revolutionary War: Western Response, edited by David S. Sullivan and Martin J. Sattler, (New York, 1971). A peculiarly American approach is found in Revolutionism ("a logical political phenomenon in an environment of instability and unknown constants") by Abdul A. Said and Daniel M. Collier (Boston, 1971). There is a good useful study, which unaccountably ignores the Middle East, of the methodology, institutions and mentality of American military foreign policy by Michael T. Klare, War Without End: American Planning for the Next Vietnams, (New York, 1972).
10. Richard J. Barnet, Roots of War, (New York, 1972), p. 72
11. ibid, p. 3.
12. "The Middle East," in US Foreign Policy: Compilation of Studies (Vol. 2), Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Washington). See also the following House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearings: The Near East Conflict, (July, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 1970), The Indian Ocean: Political and Strategic Future, July, 20, 22, 27, 28, 1971), The Middle East, 1971: The Need to Strengthen the Peace, July, 13, 14, 15, 27; August 3; September 30; October 5, 28, 1971), Soviet Involvement in the Middle East and the Western Response, (October 19, 20, 21; November 2,3, 1971), A Sino-Soviet Perspective in the Middle East, (April 26, 1972). Also, hearings before this Committee on the annual Foreign Assistance Act are useful evidence of similar views of the Middle East.
13. In this connection I have used American Interests in the Middle East a pamphlet issued in Washington by the Middle East Institute, 1969. A more sophisticated but wholly similar, definition of US interests and obligations is found in John C. Campbell and Helen Caruso, The West and the Middle East, (Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 1972).
14. Campbell and Caruso, op. cit., p. 42. Moreover a domestic shortage of natural gas has made Algeria crucial as a source of supply. See The New York Times, June 29, 1972. For an interpretation of the larger picture from the Third World perspective see Pierre Jalee, Le Pillage du tiers monde, (Paris, 1965). Also Harry Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism, (New York, 1969), and Jacques Berque, Depossession du monde, (Paris, 1964).
15. John C. Campbell, "The United States and the Mediterranean", in Military Forces and Political Conflicts in the Mediterranean, (The Atlantic Institute, Paris, 1970). p. 15.
16. Eqbal Ahmad, in Africa Asia, September 1970.
17. Campbell, op. cit, pp. 21-22. See also Quandt's other RAND paper US Policy in the Middle East: Constraints and Choices, (Santa Monica, 1970).
18. A remark by a Soviet negotiator goes as far as saying that up to December of 1969 the US was arguing that Sharm el-Sheikh was Egyptian territory. Thereafter the claim was never repeated.
19. That these pressures are being refined is illustrated by an announcement in the New York Times, of July 9, 1972, that the Synagogue Council of America wished to establish a "think-tank", one whose tasks would be an effort "to illuminate the avenues and processes in the American political system that are available for the advancement for Jewish interests".
20. The phrase is Stanley Hoffman's in his Gulliver's Troubles, (New York, 1968).
21. Public Diplomacy and the Behavioural Sciences, (Indiana, 1972).
22. There are at least half a dozen such RAND studies publicly available, dealing with such subjects as West Bank refugee sociology, Arab radical thought (done by an Arab), inter-Arab politics, and the Palestinian Resistance, etc.
23. See Defence Department Sponsored Foreign Affairs Research, Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, Part 1, May 9, 1968, and Part 2, May 28, 1968 for a very partial listing of such projects.
24. See ibid, (Part 1) pp. 17-18 and ff.
25. W.G. Weiner, On Gaming Limited War, (RAND Paper P2123, 1960).
26. Annual Report for 1968, Institute for Defence Analysis, p. 18; Annual Report of 1969, p. 27.
27. Parts of this have appeared, published by American Elsevier: c.f. Economic Development and Population Growth in the Middle East, edited by Charles A. Cooper and Sidney S. Alexander (New York, 1972).
28. Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Amelia C. Leiss, The Control of Local Conflict: A Design Study on Arms Control and Limited War in the Developing Areas (M.I.T., 1967); Robert R. Beattie and Bloomfield, Cascon: Computer-Aided System for Handling Information on Local Conflicts (December 1969); Bloomfield and Leiss, Controlling Small Wars: A Strategy for the 70's, (New York, 1969).
29. This is the title of a study (dated 1966) undertaken by Douglas Aircraft. Defence Department Sponsored Foreign Affairs Research, Part 2, p. 32.
30. See IDA Annual Report, 1970.
31. Eqbal Ahmad, op. cit.
32. In his Israel and Nuclear Weapons: Present Option and Future Strategies, (London, 1971).
33. This is based on fiscal 1968; see DOD Sponsored Research Foreign Affairs Research, Part 1, p. 37.
34. "Dealing Arms in the Middle East, Part II", Middle East Research and Information Project, (MERIP) Report, 9, May-June, 1972, p. 21. Part I, in MERIP 8, March-April, 1972 ought to be consulted also. The source given for the $1.5 billion figure in Secretary Laird's testimony before the Subcommittee on Appropriation, House of Representatives, on Foreign Assistance for 1972.
35. I owe these details to Peter Johnson's unpublished paper, "The United States and the Middle East," March 1972, p. 17.
36. On the common programme of the three, see the New York Times, October 16, 1970, p. 1 and Stewart Alsop, "Why is Israel for Nixon?", Newsweek, July 10, 1972, p. 100.
37. Peter Johnson, op. cit., p. 17.
38. William Beecher, "Jordan: On the Razor's Edge", Army, Vol. 22, no. 1 January 1972, pp. 4243.
39. For the best, most detailed and recent study of Israeli economic policy in the occupied territories -- a study from which some of the details I have cited above are taken -- see Sheila Ryan "Constructing a New Imperialism: Israel and the West Bank", MERIP, 9, May-June, 1972.
40. Michael Bruno, "Economic Development Problems of Israel, 1970-80" in Economic Development and Population Growth in the Middle East, edited by Charles A. Cooper and Sidney S. Alexander, p. 117. Alexander teaches at M.I.T., Cooper is Minister-Counsellor for Economic Affairs, US Embassy, Saigon, and Bruno teaches at the Hebrew University. Interestingly, Bruno later wrote an impassioned attack on the lsraeli government's policy towards the Arabs in the occupied territories. He says: "At some point along the way, the future image of the State was forgotten, fundamental values became blurred, and the nation lost the moral and social compact that directed it for so many years ... It is a more liberal and enlightened version of Rhodesia or South Africa, but it's not the state in which I would like to educate my children", Quoted from Davar, April 7, 1972 in New Outlook, Vol. 15, no. 4, May 1972, pp. 47, 48.
41. For an excellent account of the joint ventures in the Middle East and Africa between Israel and such US arms and electronics manufacturers as Motorola, Chromalloy, Sylvania, and Control Data, see Larry Lockwood, "Israel's Expanding Arms Industry -- New Threat to the Third World", The Journal of Palestine Studies, forthcoming.
42. Noam Chomsky's article, "Indochina: The Next Phase", Ramparts, Vol. 10, no. 11, May 1972, draws a picture remarkably similar to this.
43. These observations are based on statistics compiled for the years in question from US Department of Commerce, Highlights of US Export and Import Trade, monthly, FT990, December 1968 and December 1970. I am indebted to Professor Naiem A. Sherbiny for bringing them to my attention.
44. In this connection it is instructive to see how the US and France, to name only one friend, can orchestrate their interests sufficiently to allow for the special interests of each. A good example of this coordination is found in the proceedings of a Franco-American conference held in 1971 at Beaulieu, and published as Numbers 5 and 6 of Politique Etrangere. The special title is Interets et Politique de la France et des Etats-Unis au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord, (Paris, 1971).
45. Israel (suggested by many liberal, and even some government officials), the United States (for an example see Palestine Entity? by Don Peretz, Evan Wilson, Richard, J. Ward, published by the Middle East Institute, Washington, 1970), and Jordan (King Hussein's plan of March 1972).
46. Eugene V. Rostow, "Vietnam and the Middle East", in his Law, Power and the Pursuit of Peace, (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1968), pp. 82-3.
47. ibid, p. 76.
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