Ron Paul, Foreign Policy, and the History of US Engagement in the Middle East
I noticed that few of the comments on Brandon Zuffini's post addressed Ron Paul's historical claims or attempted to place them in a broader context. Probably just as well, because to do so would require a doctoral-length dissertation.
Fortunately, I just happened to have one in my basement. You can now buy it on Amazon, and since you've all been so kind in encouraging me to promote my work here, so long as it's topical, I'll promote it--and this is topical, oddly enough.
I'm trying to put out a Kindle version, too, but having some technical problems; if I succeed, I'll let you know. And I'm sorry it's so expensive. The length of it makes it impossible to sell it for less: Amazon won't let me.
Now, fair warning, this isn't a fun read. It's a doctoral dissertation. It sat, unread by anyone, in Oxford University's Social Science Library for nearly a decade. I know this, because I went once to see how many people had checked it out, and discovered to my horror that not one single soul had signed the check-out slip. Not one.
Think about that: four years of work in the archives, four years of the chronic, low-grade anhedonia of graduate student life. The ivy turns green, gold, rust and then green again, year in and year out, as other people move on with their lives and careers; as other people buy homes and start families; as other people live real lives; and there I am, still, in the archives, surrounded by photocopies and drafts and vaguely asthmatic from the dust and the moss, still trying to finish the dissertation.
At last, finally, just as I am at risk of being swallowed by the ivy entirely, it is done, submitted, approved! I am Dr. Berlinski--at last! And then no one ever read it. Ever.
However. I think, at long last, that this research may be of broader interest to Americans. When items like this are in the news--US announces Saudi arms deal amid Gulf tensions--and when Ron Paul discusses our military relationship with Saudi Arabia as if it emerged ex nihilo following the invasion of Kuwait, I really do think that the research I did might help people to put these events, and these claims, in context. Likewise, the controversy that surrounds our military assistance to Egypt and to Israel is almost always discussed without reference to the history of these programs, and it just doesn't make sense absent reference to that history.
Moreover, if anyone wants to evaluate the claim that our policy in the Middle East is or has always been driven by a powerful Jewish lobby, powerful oil companies, or the military-industrial complex, I think this dissertation would be worth your time. It's not a short, dramatic video; it's not even a slightly tedious documentary; it's sure not a page-turning thriller. But it is a serious answer to the question, "Are any of those claims true, and if so, to what extent, and if not, why not?"
Here's the abstract:
In the two decades following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the United States exported a vast compass of conventional weapons to the states directly involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This thesis establishes the reasons for these decisions and identifies the agencies and individuals within the United States government by whom arms policy was constructed and sustained.
The forces that shaped the United States' policy may be viewed as falling along a continuum. One side of this continuum represents pressure from competing domestic groups, the other the strategic consideration of maintaining power globally, particularly with respect to the Soviet Union. The evidence presented here suggests that arms transfer policy emerged from considerations on the latter side of this continuum, for it was designed in agencies of the executive branch, such as the Defense Department, whose employees were chiefly preoccupied with the threat posed to American interests by Soviet activities. The programs instigated by the executive branch, for reasons structurally endemic to the arms transfer process, were unusually shielded from domestic pressure and resistant to revision in Congress.
The thesis finds that as the motivation for arms policy, domestic politics, particularly the activities of ethnic interest groups, have been overstated in the secondary literature. While contributing in some part to the refinement of policy, these pressures failed to determine its essential shape. Instead, anticommunism—a governmental conception of the American national interest defined not as the aggregate demands of the United States' constituent interest groups, but in strategic opposition to a geographic and ideological rival—provided the fundamental impetus to the United States' behavior.
Brandon, there are a lot of answers to Ron Paul in there for you. To thank you for your service to our country, I'd be happy to send you a free copy.
But if you'd rather I just bought you a drink next time we see each other, I'll understand.