Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East

In This Review

Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East
By Michael Doran
Free Press, 2016
320 pp.

In this richly researched, brisk, and insightful book, Doran argues that during the Suez crisis of 1956, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and his advisers were in the grip of a misleading diplomatic paradigm, operating under a flawed set of assumptions about how international politics worked. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, they believed they could appease the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser by extracting concessions from his British, French, and Israeli adversaries. Instead, U.S. protection only whetted Nasser’s geopolitical appetite, and Eisenhower eventually rued his administration’s folly. Ike’s Gamble is broadly persuasive, but it loses traction in places. The author sweepingly characterizes, and sometimes dismisses, the work of other historians but seldom tells readers who they are. Moreover, although Doran deftly exposes Nasser’s cynicism and aggressiveness, he downplays the defensive aspects of the Egyptian leader’s position. During the period in question, Egypt endured Israeli sabotage and an invasion launched by British, French, and Israeli forces. Meanwhile, Egypt’s ally Syria faced subversive attacks launched by Iraq, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Doran acknowledges most of those realities but, echoing the U.S. policymakers he criticizes, does not permit them to dislodge his own favored paradigm. Still, the book offers a forceful and challenging interpretation of the Suez crisis that no student of Middle Eastern history can afford to ignore.