Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations; 1820-2001

In This Review

Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001
By Ussama Makdisi
PublicAffairs, 2010
432 pp. $28.95
Purchase

The title of this history of U.S.-Arab relations and those of its chapters -- winding downward from "Benevolent America" to "Betrayal" -- might suggest that it is just one more overheated polemic about Israel and the Palestinians. Not so. This is the work of a historian not so much pleading a case as bringing to life the mindsets and interactions of Arabs and Americans while highlighting the less well-known Arab side of the story. Telling that history requires touching on subjects usually filed in other historical folders. Makdisi neatly weaves a number of them -- Arab immigration to the United States, U.S. missionaries in the Middle East, the oil company Aramco, U.S. universities in the Arab world -- into a more conventional history of Washington's diplomacy in the region. He does indeed argue that U.S. support for Israel has strongly shaped U.S.-Arab relations, and that is in itself a useful corrective, given the tendency in many quarters to discount that factor.