Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present by Michael B. Oren


  • 1625: "the earliest documented attack [on New World merchants] occurred...when Moroccan corsairs captured a merchant ship sailing from the North American colonies." - 19
  • "French leaders were keen to promote their own Mediterranean trade and feared the impact of American competition," so they did not assist the young U.S. against Barbary pirates, in spite of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Alliance - 21
  • John Adams, minister to Tripoli, on war with North African pirates, "We ought not to fight them [the Barbary States] at all unless we determine to fight them forever" - 27
  • "Under the specter of imprisoned sailors in North Africa and imperiled American ships, delegates from twelve of the thirteen states gathered in Philadelphia in May 1787. Their purpose was to consider replacing the Articles of Confederation with a more centralized national character -- to rectify the very weakness that had humbled the United States before Barbary" - 29
  • March 27, 1794: "Washington signed into law a bill authorizing an outlay of $688,888.82 for the building of six frigates 'adequate for the protection of the commerce of the United States against Algerian corsairs.'" - 35
  • 1902: "The term 'Middle East' was coined by an American admiral....Before that time, Americans (and Europeans) spoke of the area as simply 'the East' or, more commonly, 'the Orient.'" - 41
  • 1800: William Bainbridge takes the George Washington to Algiers to deliver tribute and is forced to convey the Algerians' own tribute to the Ottomans;  he "thus became the first American serviceman to behold the epicenter of Ottoman power [Istanbul]" - 53
  • "Jefferson maintained the hope of building an international coalition against Barbary, of working 'in rotation' with the European powers to rid the Mediterranean of corsairs." - 54
  • May 14, 1801: Tripoli declares war with the U.S. - 55
  • September 1801: William "Eaton [ first consul to Tunis]...met Hamid Qaramanli, the exiled brother of Tripoli's sovereign...[and] suggested that the United States help Hamid reclaim his rightful throne and retain him as a trustworthy ally." - 65
  • 1823: Pliny Fisk opens the first American-style school in Lebanon - 94
  • "In Lebanon, opposition to the Americans' activities mounted from the Maronites, a Catholic sect traditionally associated with France and which ran its own lycee-style schools." - 95
  • "While the struggle against North Africa compelled Americans to choose between bribing the pirates and fighting them, the Greek war [for independence] posed an even more fundamental question. Should the United States give precedence to its economic interests in the Middle East or should it forget financial considerations and uphold its democratic ideals?" - 108
  • May 7, 1830: "America's first-ever Treaty of Navigation and Commerce with the Ottoman Empire. This granted extraterritorial rights ('capitulations') to the United States and permission to trade in the Black Sea." - 115
  • "A common word for cloth in the Persian Gulf area was merkani and in Turkey, americano." - 116
  • "American missionaries in the Middle East viewed Manifest Destiny not as a blueprint for conquering territory but rather as a warrant for capturing souls and minds." - 131
  • in response to an attack on an American family's farm in 1858, the U.S. send consul Edwin "De Leon [who] was also a Jew, a member of a venerable Sephardic family who owed his post to the State Department's now established notion that Jews formed a natural link between Christian American and the Muslim Middle East." - 167
  • "The same urge to safeguard the United States from the ecological devastation of the Middle East led [George Perkins] Marsh to pioneer the American conservationist movement and the creation of a national research institute on nature, the Smithsonian." - 169
  • January 1863: while the U.S. was occupied with the Civil War and unable to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, "Emperor Napoleon III...dispatched thirty thousand troops to Vera Cruz with orders to occupy Mexico City. With them marched a battalion of five hundred Egyptians whose services had been volunteered by the Egyptian ruler Sa'id Pasha" - 186-7
  • with the assistance of veterans of the American Civil War, "By 1873, Egypt had all the appurtenances of a late nineteenth-century Western-style army, including staff and naval colleges, commands for submarines and mines, and a system for conveying orders." - 199
  • "A total of forty-eight Civil War officers, both blue and gray, worked, explored, and, occasionally fought for Egypt. They built an army, erected schools, and blazed new trails into Africa." - 208
  • 1868: "Though the documentary record on the episode is vague, the first American attempt to assist Arabs in achieving independence occurred in Syria" - 247
  • August 4, 1873: "Ottomans opened the first Middle Eastern embassy in Washington" - 249
  • On Britain's invasion of Egypt, 1882, "Though American warships were not involved in the attack, their very presence in Egyptian waters that July, genially exchanging salutes with British destroyers, indicated the degree to which Washington had resigned itself to Egypt's inevitable submission." - 262
  • "The missionaries' failure was illuminated by the case of Alexander Russell Webb. A former New Yorker and consul to the Philippines, Webb converted from Presbyterianism to Islam in 1888. He returned to his native city five years later, stout, bearded, and turbaned, and proceeded to establish one of the nation's first mosques and Muslim newspapers." - 287
  • "The symbiosis of faith and power in America's Middle East involvement became increasingly pronounced toward the end of the nineteenth century." - 290
  • 1883: "Persia's Qajar rulers appealed to Washington for help in resisting British and Russian attempts to dominate the country." - 290
  • "Nations, in his [Teddy Roosevelt's] worldview, were like individuals, some weak and others stalwart, and the latter were obliged to defend the former." - 311
  • January 1906: responding to German-French disputes over primacy in Morocco, "the United States, which had never participated in the great-power conferences on the Middle East, became a cosponsor of the international deliberations on Morocco that convened in Algericas, Spain." - 316
  • After Teddy Roosevelt's speech in Cairo in 1910 support British rule and dissuading Egyptian nationalists, "Hundreds of those nationalists subsequently gathered outside the former president's hotel for the first major anti-American demonstration ever in the Middle East." - 318
  • "Just as the Wilson administration extended assistance to the Armenians irrespective of their political aspirations, so did it relieve the Yishuv [Palestinian-Jewish population] without ever taking a position on Zionism. But as American doughboys marched to the front in Europe, and as European statesmen secretly drafted maps of the postwar Middle East, Washington found that it could no longer remain nonpartisan on Palestine." - 359
** I stopped taking notes after WWI because the author admits in the introduction that his coverage of post-WWI Middle East is weak in comparison to other books on the subject. **

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