Nasr fails to mention the history of U.S. involvement in violent overthrows of democratically elected leaders in Third World nations, including the coup that removed Mohammed Mossedegh in Iran in 1953. Although that event played a pivotal role in changing Iranian history, it is almost universally forgotten, or ignored, today.
Ervand Abrahamian, a City University of New York history professor, just published: "The Coup: 1953, the CIA and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations."
His book details the central role British and American intelligence and military forces played in funding and organizing the 1953 coup overthrowing Mossedegh, who was trying to restore Iran's control over its own oil resources.
That coup revived the dictatorial regime of the Shah of Iran and restored the control Great Britain and the United States had over Iran's oil.
Nasr does mention the impact of the "oil shock" of the 1970s, when imports plummeted and prices skyrocketed.
"Since then, we have coddled dictators, built military bases, gone to war and generally kept deepening our engagement in the Middle East -- all to secure oil," Nasr writes. "The costs of this strategy have been anti-Americanism, war and terrorism."
Today's problems and tensions, Nasr argues, go "back to the colonial period, when European administrators created state institutions designed to manipulate religious and ethnic diversity to their advantage.
"They handed minorities greater representation in colonial security forces and governments in order to give these minorities an intense stake in the colonial regime and, in effect, to make them its gendarmes."
European colonial leaders made major efforts to create nations that divided ethnic and national groups, especially in countries like Nigeria and Iraq. Divisions between those groups sparked hostilities that made it easer for colonial powers to exercise control.
Drones, China and the future
"The Dispensable Nation" calls Obama "one of America's militarily most aggressive presidents" who promoted many of the same foreign policies pursued by his immediate Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Nasr also questions the ballooning use of drones.
"They provoke anti-Americanism and the extremism that goes with it," Nasr writes. "Drones could be promoting the very problems that they are intended to solve."
Nasr recalls a meeting he attended with local women leaders hosted by Hillary Clinton at our embassy in Pakistan.
During the meeting, "every other question was about drones, the civilians they killed, and the humiliation they visited on Pakistan by violating its sovereignty. ... I could not see a future for a foreign policy built on drones."
Today, the Middle East is changing, but probably not in good ways.
"Power is moving from rulers to the masses, from the secular elite to Islamist challengers," Nasr points out.
Foreign influence in the region continues to change.
The hostile policies our government pursued with Iran promoted increasingly close relations between Iran and other countries like Turkey and Brazil.
In addition, "Russia and China were benefiting from sitting between Iran and America, selling their favors to both sides and profiting from the impasse."
The United States has long maintained a military and political presence in the Middle East. But today, Nasr believes, China has become the region's "new imperialist power."
Today, rising floods of Chinese imports are driving local textile companies, soap manufacturers and crockery producers out of business in countries from Nigeria to Pakistan. China exports 90 percent of the soap and crockery bought in Pakistan.
"Since 9/11, we have been focused on the Middle East," Nasr points out, "ignoring China's rise for the most part."
Nasr believes that "it will not be in our interest to leave these countries out in the cold. ... Addressing China's challenge requires us to build bridges, not push away Iran and Pakistan."
Continuing to engender ideological and political hatreds against entire nations will hurt the U.S. profoundly.
"China, more than counterterrorism and nuclear fear, should be the bedrock of America's Middle East strategy in the 21st Century," Nasr concludes.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.