Boris Smus

interaction engineering

The United States and the Middle East (audio)

A historical account of modern middle eastern history from a US lens. Covers the period between the late Ottoman Empire and September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath.

I found the course illuminating, with some clarity on various infighting rivalries within the Muslim world. Also a recap of Israeli history through an Arab lens was interesting to hear along with additional details on all of the major wars and their historical impact. I really liked the late 20th century lens on US presidents as well: fascinating to view it through the middle eastern lens.

The lecturer is quite biased toward the Arab states, which is not a stance I am used to. At the same time it is clear he tries to moderate himself to better appeal to a wider liberal audience. The argument that Israel and American imperialism is largely to blame for problems in the Middle East runs deeply through the lecturers narrative. And I suppose that this stance is not so controversial among liberals too!

Often citing nuances like the definition of Jihad, and underplaying ideological opposition in favor of external factor mentality, the lecturer makes his bias very clear in parts. The continuous emphasis on the Israeli occupation gets old fast. But his stance is not so extreme that he denies that there are genuinely endemic problems, such as bitter infighting, a general reluctance of the Arab world to come to the aid of the Palestinian cause, and homegrown (i.e. Not created by the us) terrorists like Osama bin Laden and organizations like Hamas, though he never actually calls it a terrorist organization.

Anyway mixed feeling at the end, since too many of my thoughts were wasted on decomposing the lecturers bias and not enough spent to process the actual content. Also the speaking cadence made it quite hard to listen to. Ended up going to 1.5x by the end, which I rarely do.