Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment?

Surveying U.S. Middle East policy since the era of Franklin Roosevelt, Gerges sees a constant tussle between “regionalists,” who are highly sensitive to the peculiarities of the Middle East, and “globalists,” whose approach to the region has stressed the unquestioning backing of Israel, first as a Cold War ally and later as a partner in the “war on terror.” The globalists have generally prevailed, never more so than during the George W. Bush years. Gerges prefers the regionalists but recognizes that President Barack Obama has not changed the balance between the two. He sees Obama’s Cairo speech of 2009 as an embarrassment because the hopes it raised have gone unfulfilled. Bending to a desire for continuity in U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama divorced the American response to the Arab uprisings of 2011 from that conflict, despite the organic link between the two. One key premise of the book is questionable. Gerges asserts that “America’s ability to act unilaterally and hegemonically has come to an end.” But the United States has never had that ability, except perhaps for a very brief moment at the end of the Cold War. In reality, U.S. policy in the Middle East has been a string of frustrations interrupted by occasional successes, such as the Camp David accords and Operation Desert Storm.

Latest Commentary & News analysis