At the dawn of World War I, the United States was only a rising power. Our reputation was relatively benign among Middle Easterners, who saw no imperial ambitions in our presence and were grateful for the educational and philanthropic services Americans provided. Yet by September 11, 2001, everything had changed. The United States had now become the unquestioned target of those bent on attacking the West for its perceived offenses against Islam. How and why did this transformation come about? And how did each of the factors that make the Middle East so complex contribute to this transformation?
This series of 24 lectures by an award-winning scholar is a narrative history of U.S. political involvement in the Middle East from World War I to the present day. Presented from a historian's balanced perspective, it will strengthen your ability to place today's headlines into historical context, evaluate what is most likely to happen next, and understand those oncoming events when they occur.
Step by step, with attention to the viewpoints and motivations of each nation and leader involved, the lectures explore
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©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses
Let me start by saying that I have a platinum audible membership which I renew several times a year (in other words, I have listened to hundreds of audible titles). It is now 3AM and I have just finished this Great Course "The United States And The Middle East," which I have been consuming voraciously in a whirlwind session of listening. This "Great Course" is not only the best Great Courses title I have listened to (and I have listened to about half of the Great Courses titles), this is the best book on tape that I have ever listened to in my life. I make this statement based on how much my entire worldview has shifted while listening to this program.
I had no idea to what extent America has been "romantically involved" with nearly every major country in the Middle East. It's like "Melrose Place" and "Grey's Anatomy" combined. We have had so many "affairs" with so many different "parties" it's no wonder that our intentions are seen as slightly "less than pure" at this point. We are like a serial philanderer who has slept with every woman in his office, but has amnesia and instantly forgets about it the next day. We go into work and every single woman is glaring at us angrily and we have absolutely no idea why. Meanwhile, everyone else in the office knows exactly why Cindy at reception hates us.
I used to wonder why it seemed like Islamic terrorist attacks against the United States were a relatively recent phenomenon. Why didn't 9/11 happen in the 1980's? Why did the attacks against the US embassies in Africa, the bombing of the USS Cole, the bombing of the WTC, and 9/11 all happen in the last 25 years? Why do the terrorists hate us? Aren't we good people? What the heck is going on in the Middle East? All of these questions are answered in this lecture series, and the answers are enlightening. Spoiler alert: our approach in the Middle East has been less like Superman and more like the Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately after the rage wears off and we transform from the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, we have no idea that when we were trying to save a guy from drowning, we also smashed an extension bridge and injured two dozen motorists. At the end of the day, Americans are good people and eternal optimists. If only we could just get a little better at paying attention to recent history, we could stop repeating foolish mistakes in the Middle East.
The topic was fascinating. The lecturer however was subpar. His pace was somewhat slow and stilted, but more disappointingly his approach to the topic became increasingly lopsided as the lecture progressed. I like to think I am a balanced person who tries to see all perspectives--this topic offered many opportunities to present both sides (the Israeli and Palestinian conflict for instance). Unfortunately, this lecturer seemed more focused on convincing listeners that the United States is bad and Israel is worse, than on objectively presenting a balanced view of history. While I realize that he has opinions, I don't think that should get in the way of a complete discussion of relevant viewpoints.
I know a great deal of the history of the middle east through personal research. But I wanted to learn more of the specific broad details of the events that lead us to were we are today. That's what I got out of these lectures. The narrator is very easy to listen too and very easy to understand. Some will say he doesn't speak perfect but he is human and does a great job speaking so in depth. If your looking for a great understanding of why things are they way they are in the middle east, North Africa to Afghanistan, invest in this series.
This course is a great introduction to anyone interested in the history of US-Middle East relations which has so shaped the world we live in today. From WWI, the resulting fall of the Ottoman empire, to the Iranian revolution, the Oslo peace failures and 9/11, Professor Salim Yaqub gives us a balanced and insightful narration of events.
What really caught my interest in this presentation was Professor Yaqub's recounting of the reasons that lead to the Iranian revolution and the extreme feelings against Americans in the region. I was already aware that our strong support for the rather unsavory Shah was a main factor, but some of the finer details suprised me: for example, I had no idea that bad driving by our GIs resulting in ridiculous levels of death by vehicular manslaughter was one of the sparks that set off the proverbial powder keg.
Really the one qualm that I had with this presentation was the Professor's extremely slow reading speed. Even at 1.5X speed the recording still seems to run at a pace slower than normal conversational speed. He could have gotten so much more information in 12 hours.
i love biographies
In this series of lectures, professor Salim Yaqub tells us the story of this confusing link between US and the middle east. One have never imagined that this relation started so early as the missionaries of US even before 1914. He explained the transfer of power from great Britain to US in the last century. He clarified that critical moments in the middle east in which the US was regarded as an enemy and these moments in which some of the middle Easters called for its help. So entertaining to hear these lectures to understand the minds behind the american diplomacy machine in the region
Geopolitics, history, and philosophy junkie. I love smoothly flowing prose that moves me effortlessly from one idea to the next.
A pedestrian stroll through the major events in Middle Eastern-US history. I would recommend it as a 101 course to get one started. I found it shallow and lacking subject depth. Professor Salim Yaqub's performance was not much better.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This part of modern history is usually full of contradictory testimonies from contradictory sources. This course helps set the framework of what happened without speculation.
Admittedly only half way through and undecided on whether to finish. So far is it more of a point by point critique of U.S. policy in the Middle East than an unbiased factual accounting. Conspicuously missing so far is much critique of the Middle East culturally and religiously as well as the influence of those factors on policies and events. The Middle East's lack of any civil societies coupled with backward cultures and religion make anything but dictatorial governance next to impossible. Even the most altruistic plans would go sour in that part of the world. I would also point out that the U.S. government is not a charity or NGO. Their policies should benefit the U.S. first and foremost. Overall, the lecturer was making a case against the U.S. more than acting as an unbiased observer of history.
This was a great lecture series, and I fully recommend it with one caveat: at times, the speaker uses complex sentence structures that further complicate the already complex nature of the material. It's not incomprehensible, but when absorbing materially aurally it helps the listener when sentences are put forth simply. Now I love a good dependent clause as much as the next person, but when you're getting up to four or five, and you're offering parenthetical asides - and interjections here and there - and we have unfamiliar names and less than familiar settings (which even a decent knowledge of middle eastern geography (disregarding the many changes to the boundaries (vacillating as they do))), cogent delivery is key. <--satire. Don't let this dissuade you though. It was a very revealing overview. Just don't expect to listen at 1.5x speed.
"Can this man read?"
Generally I enjoy the 'Great Courses' but in this case, whilst there was a good coverage of the facts of the history, there was little or no insight or opinion offered.
Add to this the fact that the speaker, who presumably had written the course, didn't seem to be able to read his notes and repeatedly tripped up over his text, this proved extremely distracting and annoying.
Get a speaker who has some insight and can read.
"It's all about oil!"
It was a good overview from the U.S. having no involvement in the Middle East to the way it is now and it does seem to be all about oil (then Israel and attempts at peace).
It was very slow so you'll find that speeding it up to 1.5x makes it easier to listen to, although I listened to it at 2x quite easily.
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