Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East
By Rashid Khalidi
Beacon Press, 2009, 320 pp.
Sowing Crisis offers a compelling revisionist interpretation of the Cold War in the Middle East. Instead of telling the story in terms of an ultimately successful U.S. strategy of containing the Soviet Union, Khalidi depicts two superpowers jockeying for position in the Middle East, producing proxy wars and undermining the prospects for democracy. Both superpowers, by treating the different regional actors in terms of their ties to the other superpower, misread the regional reality. This bipolar organizing theme is not, however, pushed to the point of overlooking that regional reality in all its complexity. One of Khalidi's strengths is his understanding of that regional reality. Even so, Sowing Crisis may well not give the diverse regional actors their due agency in shaping or misshaping events. As for the Middle East after the United States "won" the Cold War, Khalidi views the George W. Bush administration, with its "unilateral and interventionist policies," as having substituted the "global war on terrorism" for the earlier call to arms against international communism. Although right on target in his criticism of the Bush administration, Khalidi depicts the Bush years as less an aberration than a sharp ratcheting up of a long-lived U.S. Middle East policy that has ever been too intrusive.