American Orientalism by Douglas Little

Subtitled “The United States and the Middle East Since 1945”, Little’s book served as the textual and lecture bases for my class on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East since 1945. While the book is mostly arranged thematically than chronologically, we were still assumed to read it out of order so my review will reflect that fact.

Little enjoys old, B-rated movies relating to the Middle East and is a big fan of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad; both of which is heavily reflected in his diplomatic history. This helps further his belief that Americans have historically had an orientalistic view of the region and the people who live there. In addition, the book focuses on four major themes — orientalism, Israel, oil, and the Cold War — and how they have come to dominate policy decision about the Middle East.

It is some times difficult to follow his chronology when reading several chapters at a time, but I’m not sure whether this is because I read it out of order or because of Little’s own writing structure. Each chapter follows a theme and can stand on its own, which made it very easy to read the book out of order, but reading multiple chapters together more difficult.

The book is very well-annotated, which makes it easier to follow up a point of particular interests, but this might not be a bonus for the average read. (You know, readers who are not using the book for research papers and essays.)

I learned at lot in Little’s class and through his book (even if they were repetitive at times) so if you’re at all interested in U.S. intervention and policy in the Middle East, I would suggest you read it. It certainly does not sugarcoat anything.

Book Mentioned:

  • Little, Douglas. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 3rd ed. Print. 441 pgs. ISBN: 9780907858981. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © University of North Carolina Press. Retrieved: November 18, 2010.
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