H-Diplo Roundtable XIX, 13 on Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations, 1945-1967

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Roundtable Review
Volume XIX, No. 13 (2017)
27 November 2017

Roundtable Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse
Roundtable and Web Production Editor: George Fujii
Introduction by Osamah F. Khalil

Nathan Citino.  Envisioning the Arab Future:  Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations, 1945-1967.  Cambridge University Press, 2017.  ISBN:  9781107036628 (hardback, $49.99).

URL: http://www.tiny.cc/Roundtable-XIX-13


© 2017 The Authors.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.


Introduction by Osamah F. Khalil, Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

In Philosophy of the Revolution, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser wrote that every nation experienced a political and social revolution. Egypt, Nasser explained, was experiencing both simultaneously.[1] How Egypt and the broader region attempted to manage these revolutions in the midst of the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the struggle for post-colonial political and economic independence, is only part of the story told in Nathan Citino’s enlightening new book, Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations, 1945-1967.

Focusing on the first two decades of the post-war era, Citino examines the contested nature of modernization and development. Envisioning the Arab Future builds on prominent studies on the origins and application of modernization theory.[2] It also expands significantly on recent works that discuss modernization theory in the Middle East.[3] Yet the book is not merely about American attempts to apply modernization theory in the region. As the title suggests, there were shared and disputed notions of the past and how to shape the future.

As a testament to Citino’s standing in the fields of U.S. and Middle East history, this transnational roundtable boasts five distinguished scholars from universities in four countries. All the reviewers hail Envisioning the Arab Future and the accolades are well-deserved. Individually and as a collection of essays, the reviews are insightful companions to this compelling work.

Begüm Adalet writes that Envisioning the Arab Future is “lucidly written and accessible, and will be a pleasure to teach across all levels of U.S.-Middle East courses.” She adds that it “draws a comprehensive and vivid portrayal of local and regional political struggles, which are too often left out of global histories of development.”

Nicole Sackley offers similarly effusive praise. Envisioning the Arab Future, Sackley explains, returns “history to the history of development” and “brilliantly” examines the constructed nature of post-war modernization.

Cyrus Schayegh declares that Envisioning the Arab Future “is a fascinating read and a truly significant contribution to Middle Eastern, Cold War, and development histories, fields that it weaves together.”

Guy Laron describes Envisioning the Arab Future as “important,” “ambitious” and “very valuable.” He states that the book’s case studies “carefully chosen by Citino, paint a depressing picture of a policy community too preoccupied with its own priorities to see the world as it was, even when it could have served its interests.”

Laleh Khalili writes that “in a series of engrossing chapters, Citino covers the age of aeroplanes (and later, briefly, space travel); urban planning; agricultural reforms; and the posture towards Communism, Nasserism and nationalism.”

Indeed, there is much to commend. Citino draws on a large base of archival research and makes excellent use of the extensive secondary literature. He also draws on a large number of Arabic-language sources. Citino’s prose is sophisticated and accessible. His creative organization of the chapters will allow the book to be assigned in undergraduate and graduate courses.

The reviewers noted some missed opportunities. Although Citino focuses on the relationship between the United States and the Arab states, Algeria is absent. Algeria played a pivotal role in inspiring and supporting national liberation movements across the broader ‘Third World.’ As Khalili and Schayegh discuss, Algerian modernizers also adopted coercive modernization campaigns that competed with the American and Soviet models.

Sackley suggested that the influence and perceptions of Israel in regional modernization should have been discussed, while Khalili sought greater discussion of how American policymakers perceived Egypt’s policy of import substitution industrialisation. Yet the reviewers rightly acknowledge that there are limitations to what can be achieved in a single monograph.

For my part, I have eagerly awaited Citino’s book since discussing it with him nearly five years ago at the Middle East Studies Association Conference and it was not a disappointment. In short, Envisioning the Arab Future is a must-read and is sure to be highly influential.


Nathan J. Citino is associate professor of history at Rice University. He received a Ph.D. in history from the Ohio State University. His previous book is From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa'ud, and the Making of U.S.-Saudi Relation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, second edition 2010).

Osamah F. Khalil is an Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is the author of America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).

Begüm Adalet is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University and the author of Measures of Modernization: American Developmental Thought and Practice in Turkey during the early Cold War (Stanford University Press, forthcoming).

Laleh Khalili received her doctorate in Political Science from Columbia University and is currently a Professor of Middle East Politics at SOAS, University of London.  She is the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford University Press, 2013), editor of Modern Arab Politics (Routledge, 2008) and co-editor (with Jillian Schwedler) of Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion (Hurst 2010). She is currently researching ports and maritime transport infrastructures in the Arabian Peninsula.

Guy Laron is a senior lecturer at the international relations department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author of two books: The Six Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East (Yale University Press, 2017) and Origins of the Suez Crisis (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). His writings have appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, History Today, and Informed Comment. He was a visiting assistant professor at Northwestern University and a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford.

Nicole Sackley is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Richmond. Her articles have appeared in Diplomatic History, History and Technology, Journal of Global History, and Modern Intellectual History.  She is completing a book entitled Development Fields: American Social Scientists and the Practice of Modernization during the Cold War.

Cyrus Schayegh (Ph.D., Columbia University, 2004) is Associate Professor at the department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton, and will join the International History department, Graduate Institute, Geneva, in September 2017. In 2005-2008, he was assistant professor at the American University of Beirut. He has published in the American Historical Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Geschichte und Gesellschaft, among other journals; authored Who Is Knowledgeable, Is Strong: Science, Class, and the Formation of Modern Iranian Society, 1900-1950 (University of California Press, 2009) and The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press, 2017); and co-edited A Global Middle East: Mobility, Materiality and Culture in the Modern Age, 1880-1940 (I.B. Tauris, 2014) and The Routledge History Handbook of the Middle East Mandates (Routledge, 2015). He is currently interested in three projects: “Globalization meets decolonization: the urban linkage, 1940s-1970s,” focusing on Beirut, Dakar and Singapore; “‘Anti-Geneva:’ the rise and decline of new European inter-imperial networks in the interwar period;” and “Fundamental historical questions,” which explores how the bourgeoning field of global and transnational history has been treating the questions of fact and narrative, scale and space, time and periodization, causality, and structure/event.


The year 2016 was a bountiful one for scholars of the intellectual and political dimensions of U.S.-Middle East relations. The publication of new work by Zachary Lockman, Osamah Khalil, Salim Yaqub, Lara Deeb, and Jessica Winegar, among others, has furnished us with fresh insight into the politics of knowledge production and expertise in foundations, universities, and think tanks.[4] These new books sketch compelling portraits of scholars, diplomats, and oilmen, from the early twentieth century up to our day. Nathan Citino’s Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations, 1945-1967 joins this growing literature and brings it into conversation with global histories of modernization and the Cold War in an original and incisive manner.

Citino’s primary contribution to the study of the Cold War is his critique of the literature’s reigning globalist perspective and its attendant neglect of regional and religious ideologies, such as Arab nationalism and Islamism. Baathists, Communists, and Muslim Brothers are equally central as the American actors in this narrative, although the book does not lose sight of unequal power dynamics. Citino’s recovery of Arab ideas and experiences challenges the prevailing American exceptionalism found in histories of development, namely their tendency to valorize the experiences of the New Deal and postwar domestic liberalism. Middle Eastern perspectives have especially been left out of transnational histories of Cold-War modernization, and Envisioning the Arab Future does a wonderful job in bringing regional debates and politics to bear on these global conversations.[5]

In his monumental account of the Cold War, historian Odd Arne Westad argued that developmental thought and practice were among the most important battlefields on the global periphery.[6] Both the United States and the Soviet Union invested in technology transfer, educational exchange programs, and infrastructural projects over the years, upholding the promise of high modernity through scientific and technological progress. In broad strokes, both sides proposed replicable stages of history, which were predicated on features of “universalism, messianism, and determinism,” and both insisted that they held the solution to global poverty.[7]

Recent historical accounts have complicated the story of a bipolar world order, showing how developmentalism was not imposed from without, but was in fact a potent rhetorical and policy tool for postcolonial leaders, such as Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana and Jawaharlal Nehru in Egypt. Frederick Cooper, for instance, has labeled development as a key “claim-making concept” for political and social movements of the colonies during the 1930s and 40s.[8] The oft-cited example in the literature is Nkrumah’s speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in 1958: “We cannot tell our peoples that material benefits and growth and modern progress are not for them…Africa has no choice. We have to modernize. Either we shall do so with your interest and support—or we shall be compelled to turn elsewhere.”[9] Still, a more pessimistic conclusion finds that a technical definition of development became the hegemonic mode of managing decolonization in the postwar period, whereby “nationalists, communists, expansionists, pan-Africanists—everyone, in fact, except developmentalists—lost the power to define their struggle, their own version of progress.”[10]

Envisioning the Arab Future forcefully enters this important debate: Did policymakers, oilmen, architects, and social scientists conform to a singular vision of development? Were there meaningful alternatives, such as small-scale projects, or were these merely “dissenting traditions” on the margins, as one recent global historical account seems to suggest?[11] How influential were local ideas and experiences for developmental thinkers and practitioners? These are crucial sites of inquiry, and Citino tackles them head-on, addressing a wide range of issues including Arab intellectuals’ and revolutionaries’ embrace of metaphors of speed and technology, community development programs in Egypt, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia, land reform plans in Jordan, and post-revolutionary nationalism in Iraq. There is an insightful temporal dimension to the themes covered in the book, as it demonstrates how understandings of the past and visions of the future determined which developmental plans would be adopted. Particularly illuminating is Citino’s account of the successive reinterpretations of Ottoman imperial and European colonial reforms by diverse actors in diverse sites, including the Council on Foreign Relations (chapter 2) and the attempts to implement the East Ghor Canal project in Jordan (chapter 4). These chapters vividly illustrate how postwar modernizers became enmeshed in local and regional histories of development, rather than foisting their ideas upon blank slates, as is sometimes implied by conventional accounts.

A central tension in the book is Citino’s recovery of these regional and local debates on the one hand, and his insistence on a shared vision of modernization that brought together Arab nationalists and Islamists with American Cold Warriors, on the other. The strong version of the latter argument is laid out in the opening chapter on speed and technological achievement, which were celebrated by both Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb (whom Citino identifies as a modernizer) and Walt Whitman Rostow, the MIT economist, security adviser to Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and author of The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, which was serialized in the Egyptian paper al-Ahram in the early 1960s.[12] Chapter 6 depicts State Department Arabist William Polk exchanging ideas about modernization with Egyptian President Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, who seized on development as a claim-making concept, admired Rostow’s work and “expressed a desire ‘to talk with Walt at considerable length’” (246), but turned to the Soviets for assistance for the Aswan High Dam when American funding was pulled from the project. In these chapters, the meaning of modernization risks becoming reduced to technological universalism, with the implication that multiple and contradictory paths to development were foreclosed. The emphasis on Rostow’s influential text and on Arab intellectuals’ travels to Europe and the United States, which equipped them with ideas about how to embark on modernization upon their return home (26), seems to suggest that developmental thought originated in the west—a narrative that is refreshingly complicated, if not altogether contradicted, by the remaining portions of the book.

One of the most compelling examples of the multidirectional nature of modernization projects is the book’s recovery of architect Hassan Fathy’s global trajectory (chapter 3). Rather than focus on the shortcomings of New Gourna, Citino situates him in a global story that encompasses his employment with Doxiadis Associates (itself an important company in the urban development of Riyadh and Islamabad), as well as his summoning by William Polk to bring his technique of “guided self-help” to a predominantly African American area in Chicago’s west side (139).[13] The episode is a revealing demonstration of the travels and failures of developmental strategies, although the treatment of Fathy’s unimplemented Chicago proposal (which Polk seems to have pitched in terms of racial liberalism) and Aramco housing for employees (which borrowed from the racially segregated oil camps of Venezuela) as equivalent examples of locally informed community development is perhaps a simplification that is otherwise belied by the complexity and richness of the chapter (141).

The book’s strengths are most visibly on display in the contrast between developmental ideas that subscribed to a linear, technologically driven path towards progress and those that were invested in some version of social justice. Although these projects were not always mutually exclusive, tensions existed between the State Department’s understanding of land reform as “better credit, farmers’ cooperatives, and extension services” and the writings of British agriculturalist Doreen Warriner, who recognized that large irrigation works would only benefit landlords in Iraq (152-153). In another instance of diametrically opposed projects of modernization, Citino shows how a “Turco-centric regional strategy” backed by oilmen and diplomats helped deflect United Nations (UN) Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s 1957 plan for Arab development, which instead proposed an equitable distribution of oil profits across the region (89). Citino rightly criticizes the experts and policymakers who “reinforced a temporal dichotomy between tradition and modernity and the ethno-geographic distinction between modern Turks and backward Arabs” (83). Similar tensions in fact played out in Turkey, where a land reform bill, which was intended to eliminate landlessness among the peasantry, was replaced by the Marshall Plan-funded transfer of agricultural machinery and a highway network that ultimately benefited the large landowners who came to power in 1950.[14] As in the Arab cases cited by Citino, Turkey’s political economy and class configurations complicated the diffusion of American plans. The comparisons in these chapters fruitfully foreground instances of multiplicity and friction in developmental thought and practice, rather than subsuming all under a Rostowian template.

Incidentally, a politics of comparison, “a prerogative previously claimed by European colonizers and one that would become U.S. cold warriors’ stock in trade” (18), was also a potent strategy for Arab thinkers and politicians, such as Colonel Fadl ‘Abbas al-Mahdawi, who chaired the People’s Court after his cousin ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim seized power in Baghdad in 1958 (chapter 5). Mahdawi used this platform to broadcast yet another understanding of development, one that “deployed socialism [as] the basis for an independent nation-state in which Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities would supposedly enjoy economic and political equality” (181). The colonel likened Iraq to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and compared Qasim’s campaign to liberate Kuwait with Indian claims on the Portuguese colonial enclave of Goa, while contrasting “Americans’ threats to use nuclear weapons with the peaceful achievements of the Soviet space program” (202, 204). In these illuminating moments, the book seems to register “the view from the other boat,” as Engseng Ho puts it, “a view of the imperial ship of state as seen from a smaller boat sailing the same seas.”[15] But Citino shows that Mahdawi also used socialist development as a “weapon against Nasserists within Iraq,” an unlikely point of similarity with Jordan’s King Husayn, who used the East Ghor Canal project as part of his “‘counteroffensive against Nasser, signifying both the Hashemites’ modernity and resistance to Israel” (165). The final chapter also chronicles the Palestinian revolutionaries’ frustrations with Nasserism and state-led development strategies more broadly after the 1967 war. As with the other actors discussed in the book, the fida’iyin’s hijackings appropriated aviation as a way of conceiving an alternative future, at the same time as their adoption of the kufiyya hearkened back to past experiences, such as the 1936-39 Arab revolt (266).[16] The book thus draws a comprehensive and vivid portrayal of local and regional political struggles, which are too often left out of global histories of development.

Citino’s text is lucidly written and accessible, and will be a pleasure to teach across all levels of U.S.-Middle East courses. It demonstrates, indisputably, that American “postwar expertise blurred the distinctions separating capitalist, strategic, and scholarly interest in the Middle East” (64). In doing so, it also holds up to the author’s insistence that we do not write and read Cold War history as the experts and policymakers of the period did, and compels us to envision different futures for our scholarship.


Review by Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London

At heart, my Iranian father was a moderniser. He had a doctorate in science from a European university, was secular (in fact virulently anti-religious), and believed fervently in public hygiene, modern architecture, and science. He had no sentimental feelings for the higgledy-piggledy alleyways of his childhood provincial town, nor for the lovely older buildings of the larger cities in which he eventually lived: they were all remnants of miasma-ridden, unhealthy, ‘traditional’ ways of living he wanted to see eradicated. He was also a Communist (of a sort) and a committed Persian nationalist (and saw no conflict between these two allegiances), and his model of the march of progress also included the eradication of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and gender inequality. My father’s version of a utopia of modernisation and progress shared with Walt Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto and with other modernisation theorists in the United States–those Mandarins of the Future, in Nils Gilman’s evocative phrase–a belief in radical transformation of both cities and countryside, an awed faith in flight (literally) and the infrastructural sublime of grand projects, and the making of new men and women, of new subjectivities.[17] Where they differed was the Communist radical critique of colonial histories of underdevelopment and the impact of (neo)imperialism on the trajectory of progress, and of course in the telos of such a modernisation process.

If Gilman’s book has traced the European origins of much modernisation theory and the development of various strands of it in different U.S. university settings, Nathan Citino shows how the articulation and implementation of modernisation theory in the Middle East was perhaps not as universally homogeneous process as Gilman implies. Rather, through careful archival research and attentiveness to the interaction of U.S. modernisers with their Arab counterparts, Citino shows the role of local political and historical specificities in the eventual outcome of Modernisationist policies (forgive the neologism of ‘Modernisationist,’ but it is clear that the practitioners of modernisation theory had a kind of ideological attachment to their vision of transformation). In a series of engrossing chapters, Citino covers the age of aeroplanes (and later, briefly, space travel); urban planning; agricultural reforms; and the posture towards Communism, Nasserism and nationalism. He ends with a brief discussion of how this modernising vision was assailed in particular by the 1967 war, the rise of Palestinian nationalism, and the gradual decline of modernisation theory as a factor in U.S. foreign policy-making.

Perhaps what is most striking to me about U.S. policies towards the Arab world in the immediate post-WWII era is the Modernisationist insistence on remaking the world in the United States’ liberal capitalist image. This task was taken on particularly through a remaking of the physical and virtual infrastructures that were necessary for capitalising the economies of the Middle East. What I mean is that the Modernisationists in the U.S. government saw urban planning, grand construction projects, speedier transportation and communication mechanisms, and virtual capitalist infrastructures (such as property regimes and legal dispositifs) as crucial to two tasks. First, these significant transformations in the social and economic relations would consolidate a particular form of liberal capitalism. Second and relatedly, the consolidation of liberal capitalist relations would forestall the attraction of postcolonial states to the Soviet Union and its alternative vision of modernisation.

Citino’s fascinating chapter on urban planning, in “villages or towns rather than city neighbourhoods” (100), gives the reader four examples of the social engineering that went into the process of forging new planned communities. These were Palestinian politician and entrepreneur Musa Al-Alami’s Arab Development Society near Jericho, ARAMCO housing in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, Egypt’s agricultural settlements in the Tahrir Province, and the model village of New Gourna also in Egypt. Citino reminds the readers that many instances of such planned communities were in fact intended to reinforce gender roles and expand U.S.-style notions of domesticity; not all planned communities–or communes–would necessarily do so, but the Modernisationists’ version would. This, of course, comes as a bit of a surprise (or not), given that so much of the discourse of modernisation today is predicated on notions of liberated womanhood and the routing of ‘traditional’ gender roles for women. But the chapter is also fascinating in its carefully detailed account of how such planned communities in the end instantiated not only liberal capitalist regimes of property ownership, but also put into place mortgages, which were new to the region and which in turn resulted in the residents being incorporated into new modalities of debt acquisition and capitalist economic relations.

This emphasis on new property regimes is also present in the discussion of the agricultural reforms in the Arab world, where the contention seems to have been between a Jeffersonian notion of transforming Arab peasants into yeoman farmers, and visions of transforming regional farming into friction-free, technically advanced, hyper-industrial agriculture. Citino documents the struggles within U.S. development and diplomatic bodies over what sort of land tenure ‘reforms’ should be implemented in the Arab world. What is novel about Citino’s research is that he shows the extent these Modernisationists –many of whom were of Arab origin– borrowed accounts of Ottoman social or economic life developed by orientalists (such as Hamilton Gibb of Oxford and Harvard or indeed Bernard Lewis of Princeton) to craft their modernisation policies not as universal one-size-fits-all programmes, but as regionally specific plans for transformation of what they considered backwards places in need of liberal improvement.

Just as important is the fascinating story Citino tells about the coming of jet planes, and their influence not only on actual travel, but also on imaginaries of space, place, and belonging and belief. The discussion of flight bookends Envisioning the Arab Future, with the earlier chapter tying the story of global travel to the emergence and spread of modern ideologies, and in particular Islamism and nationalism. The latter chapter tells the story of the hijacking of European and U.S. planes by the militants of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and particularly guerrilla and hijacker Leila Khaled, and uses this story as a kind of metaphor for the denouement of the age of modernisation. My own recent research on maritime infrastructures also points to the singular importance of palletised (though not much speedier) maritime transport in the late twentieth century as transforming not only urban landscapes in the Arab world but also global geographies of trade, travel and finance. Perhaps as significant were the road construction projects, many of them spearheaded by both civilian and military U.S. agencies throughout the Middle East, which were intended to spread the regional states’ infrastructural powers to the far reaches of the postcolonial territories, and also provide a readily available military logistics infrastructure for future U.S. wars. I myself grew up near the CENTO road in Mashhad, Iran, which was intended to connect the Baghdad Pact countries (or the countries of the Central Treaty Organization) to one another under the tutelage of the United States. Roads and other modalities of transport were necessary infrastructures for the new processes of capitalisation, but they also provided the physical scaffolding necessary for geopolitical alliances.

Citino’s story covers a great many Arab states in the region and his attentiveness to how the U.S. observed and took advantage of the contestation between communists and Arab nationalists of various allegiances and nationalities (especially in Iraq and Egypt) is laudatory. But as I read this riveting account of the modernisation era (and took copious notes), I wanted to ask Citino many questions about themes he chose not to cover in the book (especially educational modernisation at all levels; educational exchanges between local universities and those in the United States, and indeed the role of U.S. university education in spreading the gospel of modernisation; as well as state feminist policies encouraged by the U.S. Modernisationists). However, setting aside what Citino excluded (if for no other reason than to keep the book at a reasonable length), I also wanted to hear about three subjects that I felt would actually be relevant to how he so ably weaves his analysis of geopolitics and his recounting of Modernisationist policies together.

First and foremost are Modernisationist contestations about industrial policy. As I read this wonderful book, which at last incorporates the Middle East into the vexed history of modernisation theory and its global implementation, I kept thinking about Albert O. Hirschmann and his writings about development theory in Latin America.[18] So much of the story Citino tells is contemporaneous with Hirschmann’s extensive critical writing on development projects in Latin America. And surely the U.S. Modernisations had strong views about the kinds of industrial policies that states chose to –or were forced to– adopt after the Second World War. Citino’s rich chapter on Egyptian leader Gamal ‘Abd-al Nasser (“The ‘New Men’”) indeed discusses in great detail how State Department Arabist William Polk viewed Nasser and many of his reforms. However, I craved a more sustained discussion of how, for example, Egypt’s import substitution industrialisation (ISI) was viewed by the Modernisationists.

A second lacuna, I felt, is Algeria. The Algerian War of Independence was raging during the very years this book so ably covers, but Algeria and the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) are only discussed in a couple of sentences and only in relation to Iraqi Colonel Mahdawi’s Third Worldist solidarities. But Algerian modernisers –like the Communist believers in modernisation–provided an alternative model of modernisation which overlapped with the Modernisationist vision–especially as regards their love for infrastructural transformations, the technological sublime, and the sweeping repudiation of what was seen as a backward, ‘traditional,’ and unsalvageable past. How did U.S. policy-makers encounter this Algerian model of postcolonial development? And just as importantly, how did the U.S. counter the allure of the Communist vision of modernisation in the Middle East? While I really want to know how the Middle Eastern encounter with the U.S. model of modernisation influenced the Communist utopias of progress in the region, I also want to know how the Communist utopian vision at the very least attenuated and shaped the specific agendas of U.S. modernisation theory beyond the region.

Finally, I am not entirely certain that the “postwar vision of modernisation” (285) actually declined in such a radical way. So much of the writing about the Middle East –at the very least in the press, but also frequently in non-area-specialist social sciences– continues to sneak in the dastardly binary of ‘modern’ versus ‘traditional’ and the fantasies of liberal improvement that were so central to modernisation theory. Certainly, U.S. policymakers’ visions of how to improve the Arab states, their politics, societies and economies, are not too far from the 1960s vision of the modernisation theorists. Perhaps more dispiritingly, the bromides that were so central to modernisation theory continue to survive not only in Arab vernacular understandings of the plight of the region, but also in the policy articulations of its elite. Walt Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth and the dependence on strong men and military modernisers survives another day to blight the face of the region.


What do we talk about when we talk about the history of development? Basically we talk about the things that make some countries rich and some poor. It is a thorny issue. Down below bubble all those explosive, centuries-long questions: Are poor countries to blame for being poor? Are they poor because their people are less talented or less-industrious than people in rich countries? Were they made poor or did they begin poor?

In his latest book, Nathan Citino wades into this discussion. This is an important work about the efforts to promote inclusive growth in Arab countries throughout the 1950s and the 1960s. Citino’s study investigates not only inter- and intra-elite debates of these questions but also surveys the efforts on the ground to promote development. It is a heart-breaking story of high-hopes dashed and Citino narrates it with an assured hand. This is an ambitious book, both empirically and theoretically. Citino surveyed both American archives and Arab literature to cover the Arab-American dialogue over development projects. He also engages the most cutting-edge scholarship in development studies and political science, as well as diplomatic, intellectual, and global history. The underlying conclusion that emerges out of all of this is clear: the Arab-American conflict came about not because of ‘the clash of civilizations’ but rather as a result of squandered opportunities. The most important among these was the proposal by United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, to divide oil profits equally between Arab countries. However, American policymakers such as Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and oil executives did their best to put cogs in the machine.

Citino also examines how the American elite liked to imagine the Middle East in ways that suited its needs. One such example was the claim made by academics, such as H.A.R. Gibb, and State Department officials, like George C. McGhee, that what the Middle East really needed were benevolent autocrats. The main historical example that they used was Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who allegedly pulled his country by the bootstraps by the sheer power of his will. For many Middle Eastern hands, encouraging the rise of such modernizing dictators seemed like the cheapest way to promote development, sparing Washington the need to enlarge foreign aid to achieve this goal. That was one reason why, at least initially, CIA agents and State Department diplomats liked Gamal Abd al-Nasser. The young Egyptian Colonel seemed to be an Arab reincarnation of Ataturk.  

Similarly, American efforts to promote agricultural development, especially in Jordan, got into trouble because of a shallow understanding of land ownership in the Arab world. In Iraq, the American inability to discern the difference between nationalists and Communists had led to U.S. covert efforts to destabilize a country that was rather unstable to begin with. These case-studies, carefully chosen by Citino, paint a depressing picture of a policy community too preoccupied with its own priorities to see the world as it was, even when it could have served its interests.

The best chapter in the book, in my opinion, is the last. It is a tour-de-force of intellectual and social history in which Citino connects many of themes that appear elsewhere in the book. The disruptive influence of the 1967 June war that is foreshadowed in previous chapters is underlined here. Nasser’s brand in the Arab world received a deathly blow in 1967. However, it turns out that it was not just one man’s reputation that was tarnished. An entire blueprint–silently acceptable by both Arab and American elites–that saw repressive regimes as a reasonable price to pay for accelerated modernization, lost it legitimacy. Nasser and other fellow revolutionaries in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Algeria had over a decade to put their house in order and create states that could withstand Israel’s military might. Six action-packed days in early June 1967 showed that they had miserably failed. All this created space for harsh critique by Arab baby boomers.

The discussion of the similarities between the rebellion of American and Arab baby boomers against the existing order is one of the book’s most impressive achievements. I was especially riveted by the killer quotes from the memoir of Leila Khaled, who as a young activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine participated in no less than two aircraft hijackings: “Nasserism was becoming inward-looking, repressive, managerial… Economically bourgeoisie it became a spent force in historical terms.” (270). It is worth noting that what Citino is doing in this chapter–comparative history–is part of global history’s bread and butter. Citino is somewhat sceptical about the value of global history and worries that a global vantage point might cause historians to lose sight of the uniqueness of different cultures and societies. Nevertheless, I think that Envisioning the Arab Future is an excellent example of the kind of contribution that regionalists can make to the field of global history. All of Citino’s case studies are global phenomena that had a regional expression. As I argued elsewhere, during the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. supported modernization-promoting despots (I called them “ISI-dictators”) not just in the Middle East but also in other areas of the Third World: Syngman Rhee in Korea, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, and Ramon Megsaysay in the Philippines.[19] Likewise, American efforts to promote land-reform were a uniform policy in the underdeveloped world. And as Citino himself notes, America tried to create model-villages not just in Jordan but also in Vietnam (with results that were far more catastrophic than they were in Jordan).

Another heretic thought that I want to raise concerns Hammarskjold’s proposal for regional cooperation. Was it really a lost opportunity? Citino emphasizes Washington’s role in foiling this plan, but what about other Arab countries? Would Saudi-Arabia or the emirates have accepted that scheme? Probably not. State logic maintains that their rulers would want to decide what to do with their oil-profits rather than be committed to giving them away to a regional fund. Citino notes that Hammarskjold, unlike McGhee, saw Egypt–and not Turkey–as the natural leader of the Middle East and indeed, Nasser gave his blessing to Hammarskjold’s plan. That was no coincidence. Egyptian diplomacy under Nasser tried to push through the Arab League exactly these kind of ideas for regional cooperation. Thus, in 1961 Egypt tabled a proposal for a full economic union under an Economic Unity Council. This blueprint never materialized because of disagreements between Arab countries rather than Western intervention. Nasser realized that one way to circumvent this obstacle was to undermine conservative Arab regimes and encourage the rise of like-minded movements in the Arab world. Again, the reason that he was unsuccessful was not so much the Eisenhower Doctrine. The endeavor was simply too ambitious and Egypt’s resources too meager. This too was a global phenomenon. Other Afro-Asian countries that tried to lead the Third World, or at least the world regions in which they were dominant, were equally unsuccessful. Just like the American policy makers that Citino covers, leaders in China, India, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia tended to view poor countries in too uniform terms and failed to see that the great disparities between them would make it very hard to create a common platform.[20]

The last point I want to raise is the tendency to view the process of development as a cultural construct rather than a material process. There is a lot of useful information about the networks of knowledge and cooperation between American and Arab policymakers, recreated here by Citino’s painstaking archival research. And there is also plenty of discussion about how these decision makers imagined modernity and how they hoped to bring it about. However, I would have liked to know more about the profit question: Were these American officials affiliated with corporations that stood to gain from industrial growth in the Middle East? I would make the same argument with regard to speed as a metaphor; a theme that is recurrent in the text. Speed, as Citino points out, was directly related to the revolutionary appearance of air travel on a massive scale. However, air travel is also an industry and I would have liked to know more about the economic transformation of the Middle East that resulted directly from the introduction of air travel. This could have foregrounded a discussion about why it took airports and airline companies so much time to respond to the new challenge posed by international terrorism.

As any writer knows, there is only so much one can do in a given space, be it an article or a book. There will always be people who would want the author to cover this or that topic in greater detail or wonder why the book does not fully subscribe to their particular worldview. Even given my questions and criticism, it is clear that Nathan Citino has written a very valuable study, one that will be debated by scholars of various disciplines and regional interests. I have benefited greatly from reading it and want to thank the editors of H-Diplo for giving me the opportunity to review it.


Writing Regionalism into the History of Modernization: A Review of Nathan Citino’s Envisioning the Arab Future

In 1900, Methodist minister and Chautauqua movement leader Jess Lyman Hurlbut published a guide to the Holy Land featuring “one hundred stereographed places in Palestine.” A proselytizer for ‘Biblical history,’ Hurlbut imagined the popular nineteenth-century technology of the handheld stereoscope to possess “magical…power to give us a vivid realization of the actuality of the Biblical narrative.” Its illusion of three-dimensional depth through two juxtaposed photographs would enable Americans at home to “stand…in the very presence of Palestine” and “think [themselves] into those far-away lands.” Through stereoscopes and accompanying guides, Hulbert and other turn-of-the-twentieth-century Western travelers attempted to construct a Near East fully knowable to Western imperial eyes. Hulbert’s guide superimposed Orientalist tropes and apocryphal Biblical meaning onto street scenes in contemporary Jerusalem, Damascus, and Hebron.[21] Yet the stereoscope, as art historian Jonathan Crary notes, differed from still photography in that “the disjunction between experience and its cause…the composite, synthetic nature of the stereoscopic image could never be fully effaced.”[22] By the 1920s, the stereoscope had lost out to photography and film as a techne of seeing, in part because of its inability to hide the constructed-ness of its virtual reality.

It is precisely this constructed-ness—the awareness of overlap and difference between perspectives set side-by-side—that Nathan J. Citino mines so brilliantly in his new history of modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations between World War II and the 1967 Six-Day War. Envisioning the Arab Future offers a history of postwar modernization in “stereoscope vision” that “considers how American development strategies and the superpower rivalry combined with patterns in Arab history” (287, 10). It begins with a critique of U.S. diplomatic historians for depicting development as an American ideology and set of policies and practices gestated within the United States and exported to ‘the Third World’ during the Cold War. While highlighting U.S. power and intellectual assumptions, such an approach, Citino argues, risks re-inscribing the “mental categories of the Cold War” by “portray[ing] developing countries…as sharing underlying similarities based on their economic backwardness and relationship to Cold War politics.” To focus on the third world as an object of historical analysis misses a “diversity and complexity” of different national and regional histories and perspectives (145, 179-180). At the same time, Citino identifies regional lacunae in recent work by international historians who focus on the transnational construction and circulation of development expertise. Like the U.S. ‘export’ narrative, such global histories bring into focus some important features of the history of development, while blurring or effacing others.

Citino’s method is to introduce regionalism—in this case, the regional history of the Middle East—as an “intermediate frame of reference” between the nation and the world.” (6) The method demands wide and deep reading in multiple historiographies and archives. Envisioning the Arab Future draws on Arab-language sources, from newspapers to memoirs, and research in eighteen archives from Egypt and Lebanon to the United States and Great Britain. Attuned to the latest U.S. scholarship, Citino nonetheless privileges themes in Middle Eastern historiography. The book is organized around seven chapters that explore the cultural meanings of speed and travel, the legacies of Ottoman history, intra-regional ideological and political rivalries, and the challenge of Islamism and Palestinian revolutionaries to Arab socialist and secular nationalist regimes. The chapters overlap temporally, but they all further Citino’s larger argument. That is, from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, Arab and American elites shared assumptions and practices with which they imagined and competed over the future of the Middle East. Those assumptions and practices broke down in a “crisis of modernization” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (253)

Other reviewers in this roundtable will no doubt address the contributions Citino makes to the history of the twentieth-century Middle East. My aim in what follows is to highlight what Citino offers historians of international development. In Citino’s hands, stereoscopic vision becomes a mechanism for decolonizing histories of development. Envisioning the Arab Future demonstrates how to place U.S. and third-world actors in the same frame and explore both the shared and differing contexts and political assumptions they brought to their encounters. It explores development as a political vernacular deployed not only in superpower rivalries but intra-regional struggles. It recovers the role of history—both imperial legacies and narratives about the past—in the construction of modernization theory. It reminds diplomatic and development historians of the analytical power of cultural analysis, and it challenges both the timing of, and cultural essentialism with which, many scholars place Islamism in histories of U.S.-Arab relations.

Like most histories of development, Envisioning the Arab Future is a history of elites, but one that casts a much wider net to reveal a diverse range of American and Arab modernizers. Along with Egyptian President Gamal Nasser, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Citino peoples his history with Arab diplomats like Khalid al-‘Azm (known as the Red Pasha), Communists Salah Madhi Daklah and Nabih Rushaydat, and intellectuals and development project leaders like Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy and Lebanese rural sociologist Afif Tannous. British orientalists, Iraqi military officers, American oil executives, lawyers, and geologists, and Palestinian fida’iyin also figure prominently. Citino even includes Islamists, notably the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb, in his pantheon of postwar modernizers.

These Arab and American elites shared experiences and assumptions about the mechanisms of modernization, even as they contended over the purpose of social transformation. Citino dispels notions of Arab isolation by emphasizing the importance of global travel in shaping Arab worldviews. Drawing on the work of Ussama Makdisi, Cemil Aydin, On Barak, and others, Citino emphasizes the long history of interchange between Americans and Arabs and between Arab elites and the world, from American missionary projects (American University in Beirut was founded in 1866) to Arab travel to Europe, the United States, and Asia.[23] This traffic accelerated after 1945, as new U.S. programs like Fulbright student exchanges and private enterprises such as Arab American Oil Company (ARAMCO), brought thousands of members of the Arab elite to tour or study in the United States. Arabs and Americans also both participated in emerging global circuits of development expertise. Citino is particularly impressive in documenting how Arab experts both drew on and contributed to these global networks, from Bandung to Calcutta, from California’s imperial valley to West Africa.  Arab modernizers also traveled to Poland and the Soviet Union, followed the careers of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and hosted delegations from China and North Vietnam. Indeed, Citino’s account implies that, through non-aligned conferences and visits to the ‘Second World’ of Eastern Europe, Arab modernizers could more fully claim the label ‘cosmopolitan’ than their American counterparts.

Citino depicts American and Arab modernizers as sharing a firm faith in the power of a secular elite to engineer social and economic transformation through large-scale development projects. Citino offers, as the paradigmatic example of this shared faith, the friendship of Nasser and the prominent U.S. Arabist William Roe Polk. Nasser and Polk were champions of accelerating economic growth through state-led industrialization, population control, military leadership, and the forging of what Polk termed ‘new men’ from the furnace of the Egyptian army and planned rural communities. A powerful paternalism—that frequently shaded into disdain for both peasants and an Arab periphery described pejoratively as mutakhallif or “retarded, backward, underdeveloped”—undergirded this vision. (26) Both Nasser and Polk viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a fading remnant of a ‘traditional’ Arab past. And Nasser, who justified Egypt’s military intervention into Yemen as enabling Yemen to break “’the shackles of under-development,’” was particularly taken by Walt Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth (236, 246).[24] 

Rostow’s theory of historical economic stages and its famous metaphor of economic ‘take-off’ holds a central place in Citino’s history of Arab visions of modernization. Citino argues that the intellectual assumptions that undergirded Rostow’s iconic text—about “the interdependence of social, economic, and political change” and the ability to uncover and forge a unilinear path to the future—defined not only U.S. modernization theory but also Arab thought and politics in the years after World War II (18, 54). Citino makes the case that, like Rostow and other American modernizers, Arab elites spoke the language of social ‘systems’ and imagined modernization as “linear, structural” change wherein transformation in one realm of society had cascading affects throughout “the system.” (45) Moreover, where other historians have connected secular nationalist leaders with American modernizers, Citino reads Arab sources to make the case that, in the postwar Middle East at least, systems thinking extended also to those who rejected secularism. Egypt’s Sayiid Qutb, for example, re-formulated Islam as a “system [nizam] superior to either of the superpowers’ materialistic prescriptions.” (39) Where Walt Rostow posited a trajectory from “The Traditional Society” to “the Age of High Mass Consumption,” Qutb constructed Islamism that rejected consumption as the measure of modernity.[25] Here Citino builds on work in Middle Eastern historiography to complicate the binary of tradition and “modernity” to understand development thinking. Instead of accepting Nasser’s judgment of Islamism as backward-looking, Citino demonstrates how Islamists, like their secular counterparts, “appropriated the language of postwar modernization” to envision a postwar Arab future different than its past. (288)

If systems thinking could unite a diverse array of elites, it could never bridge intractable divisions about the political aims of modernization. One of Citino’s key insights is showing how, in the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s, development functioned as a discourse and set of practices with which to fight political battles and shore up political legitimacy. Contentions over the aims of modernization could pit U.S. foreign policymakers against Arab leaders, but development could also provide an arena for intra-regional rivalries. “[D]ifferent contemporary agendas could attach to the same development project” (146). Citino offers the East Ghor canal project to resettle Palestinian refugees expelled from Israel on newly irrigated land in Jordan as a case in point. Where the Eisenhower administration understood the project as “a public symbol of Jordan’s pro-Western orientation and willingness to deescalate the conflict with Israel,” Jordan’s King Husayn viewed East Ghor to as means to challenge Nasser for leadership of the Arab Middle East by “promoting Jordan as Israel’s leading Arab rival when it came to ‘making the desert bloom’” (164-165). The Kennedy administration failed to see how the Qasim regime in Iraq used connections to the socialist world to promote Iraqi state patriotism or pan-Arab nationalism; the Johnson administration grew frustrated when development projects failed to turn Nasser’s “energies inward” away from the conflict with Israel (227). The stubborn myopia of U.S. policymakers—who, wearing Cold War lenses, were blind to the local, political agendas that Arab modernizers had for development—is a running theme of Envisioning the Arab Future.

Yet, as Citino shows, both American and Arab modernizers understood development as a political project and an opportunity to shore up political legitimacy. In a deeply-researched chapter, Citino traces the trajectories of four community projects in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to explicate how elite “planners sought validation by appearing to take the wishes of locals into account and by demonstrating respect for their ways of life.” (99) From ARAMCO’s suburban “American Camp” in the Arabian desert to the Egyptian Tahir Province agricultural settlement:

…local knowledge about human and natural environments took on political value. Far from ignoring local knowledge, planners compiled, scrutinized, and brandished it as a defense against charges of paternalism (99).

Here, Citino enters into an historiographic debate about the nature of elite power in development practice. Challenging historian James C. Scott’s widely-cited depiction of state-led development projects as “authoritarian high modernism,” Citino argues that American and Arab modernizers were acutely aware of the political context of their schemes.[26] ARAMCO established an office to “collect and manage local knowledge” and how advocates and detractors of the Tahir settlement argued over its ability to “respect peasants’ ways of life” (122-123). Concern for popular acceptance, Citino writes, led modernizers to attempt to “distinguish…their own, locally focused efforts from what they portrayed as the malign influence of distant and impersonal bureaucracies” (101). In Citino’s depiction, development projects involved not only state power and violence, but also efforts at cultural legitimation. Such efforts at legitimation were more for the benefit of donors (such as the Ford Foundation) and political support from the urban middle class than for the poor, who were the objects of such schemes.

Citino concludes that model village projects had little support from the poor themselves. In the political debates over development, subaltern voices come through, Citino suggests, through acts of resistance, such as the attack on the U.S.-backed Arab Development Society by Palestinian refugees chanting anti-American slogans in 1955 and the attacks against ARAMCO’s American camp during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. This reader wondered whether such actions were, in fact, less symbolic attacks against these sites of planned modernization than against U.S. imperialism more broadly. But Citino’s efforts to include them are important, nonetheless. They demonstrate the imperative, in the face of limited archival sources, of writing the poor back into histories of development.

One of the larger aims of Envisioning the Future is to return history to the history of development. The history of the Middle East operates in two registers in this book. First, Citino uses his wide-ranging knowledge of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Ottoman and European imperial history to examine the particular regional contexts that shaped modernization efforts in the Middle East after 1945. Second, he documents the shared fascination of American and Arab modernizers with history as a mechanism for political legitimation and as a guide for the future. Arab elites drew on examples from U.S. history to, in Nasser’s words, “‘compensate for the past and catch up to the future’” (2). In land reform debates, for example, Egyptian Free Officer Sayed Marai invoked U.S. President Thomas Jefferson’s agrarian vision; Murai’s opponent Magdi Hasanayn countered with references to industrial farming in California’s Durham colony; another Syrian alluded to the “’the wild west of America in Gold Rush days.’” (144-145)

The traffic in historical precedents moved in both directions. While Arab elites drew selectively from U.S. history to advance local agendas, U.S. social scientists, policymakers, and corporate leaders consumed and repackaged the Middle Eastern past to suit Cold War goals. Challenging standard scholarly interpretations of modernization theory as a mix of American liberalism and Parsonian social science, Citino demonstrates the significant role politicized narratives about Ottoman and Egyptian history had in shaping core postwar ideas and assumptions about modernization. Citino depicts how exchanges between American and Arab intellectuals fed U.S. visions of the military as a modernizing social force, the Arab periphery as backward, and of Ottoman land reform as destructive. He identifies British Orientalist H.A.R. Gibb, the political scientist Dankwart Rustow, Arabist William Polk, and Lebanese-American sociologist Afif Tannous as critical importers and translators. Through Arab regional experience and studies with Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian scholars, Gibb, Rustow, Polk, and Tannous brought these narratives to central sites for the construction of modernization theory and U.S. policy, notably the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Chicago’s Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs (ASIIA), and the U.S. Department of State. Citino’s close attention to individual biography and intellectual genealogy reveals the imprint of narratives of Ottoman imperial decline and Kemalist rebirth on such central texts of modernization theory as Daniel Lerner’s Passing of Traditional Society and Rustow’s Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey.[27] Citino’s research thus joins other recent historical scholarship on community development and cultural anthropology to depict more diverse roots and branches for social scientific theories of modernization.[28] At the same time, Citino does not lose sight of asymmetries of power. It was American policymakers and corporate leaders who selected and amplified (through platforms like CFR and ASIIA) those narratives that bolstered their own political and economic agendas in the Middle East, and then rearranged “historical materials…like the bricoleur” as political circumstances changed (95). In the case of Turkey, social scientists re-envisioned Atatürk from “the father of the Turkish example to a generic military modernizer” as U.S.-Turkish relations deteriorated over the course of the 1960s (93). Throughout, Citino brings our attention to such examples of modernizers re-scripting the past—both the distant imperial one and their own personal careers as modernizers—to serve their political agendas. The intellectual work of writing the history of development, Citino suggests, requires peeling back the layers of “development mythology” (103).

Adept at diplomatic and intellectual history, Citino is also a keen and creative reader of culture. Other historians, notably Christina Klein, Melani McAlister, and Andrew Rotter, have explored the cultural representations of Asia and the Middle East in the postwar American imagination, but the cultural history of development and modernization remains largely unwritten.[29] Where Klein, McAlister, and Rotter focus on U.S. sources, Citino applies his stereoscopic method to culture by examining how Americans and Arabs found cultural and political meaning in travel, domesticity, speed, and revolution. Citino reads political cartoons, memoirs, court transcripts, and photographs in attempt to show how “American and Arab perceptions of one another [were] mutually constitutive” (9). Gender is an important category of analysis for Citino: He illuminates how ideologies of separate spheres supported American and Arab modernizers’ claims to respect “tradition”; how the Arab Development Society and a new generation of fida’iyin offered up competing visions of Palestinian masculinity; and how “gestures of masculine camaraderie” cemented relationships between American and Egyptian elites (241). But it is Citino’s examination of the airplane as a metaphor for the rise and decline postwar modernization that is perhaps his most exciting and innovative re-interpretation of the history of U.S.-Arab relations. Bringing together readings of Arab sources with scholarship by Yoav Di-Capua, Jennifer Van Vleck, and other cultural historians of aviation, Citino makes a compelling case that for “Arabs and Americans alike, fascination with the cutting-edge technologies of speed influenced the dominant descriptions of societal progress” (54).[30] He shows how Rostow’s famous metaphor of economic ‘take off’ was more than a useful visual analogy; it tapped into cultural connections that associated speed—and particularly the jet airplane—with progress and expertise. The image of take-off, Citino argues, “functioned as a self-evident argument for elite authority, because technical skill was essential to managing a complex system through a dangerous process of transition” (255). It was precisely this symbolic power and claim to legitimacy that Palestinian fida’iyin consciously sought to attack through a series of international airline hijackings after 1967. Egypt’s and Syria’s humiliating defeat in the war against Israel—in which they lost most of their combined air force—“eliminated any political value that aerospace may have held for Egypt and other Arab countries as a modern symbol of state authority” (265). The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine capitalized on this political crisis by reversing Rostow’s metaphor, to highlight U.S. underdevelopment of the Middle East and Arab leaders’ complicity in it. The Front understood their guerilla tactics as symbolically meaningful attacks on American and Arab elites’ systems of technocratic oppression.

In a volume filled with impressive research and rich with new interpretations, there is little with which to contend. I do have, however, two questions for Citino. The first is about methodology. Citino makes the case that Americans and Arabs shared a romance, and then subsequent disillusionment, with the image of society as a system. In the first chapter, he uses the appearance of the term ‘system’ in writings of Islamists like Qutb and U.S. social scientists like Daniel Lerner as evidence for a shared thinking in systems (46). In the final chapter, he draws parallels between African-American and student radicals in the United States and fida’iyin and Islamists in the Middle East to depict a shared “crisis of modernization” in the late 1960s. In both parts of the world, protestors condemned ‘the system,’ decried state power, and talked a new language of liberation. Each was part of a “more comprehensive break with postwar structuralism” that [Daniel] Rodgers describes as the ‘age of fracture’ in the United States and that [Elizabeth] Kassab labels the second Nahda in Arab thought”[31] (274). While appreciating Citino’s wide reading of both U.S. and Middle Eastern histories, the connections here seem to me to rely too much on comparison. Citino’s interpretation here would have been stronger with more evidence of political and intellectual exchange across national borders. On what routes did these ideas circulate? There is some evidence of African-American consumption of Palestinian nationalism. But how did fida’iyin and Islamists ingest the global politics of 1968?

My second question revolves around the place of Israel in Citino’s account of the postwar Middle East. One of the aims of Envisioning the Arab Future is to “broaden the discussion of postwar Arab history beyond anti-Zionism” and to demonstrate that “U.S. relations with the Arab world encompassed more than just battles over Israel” (289, 5). Citino is right that the centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict in U.S. diplomatic histories has obscured other important connections between the United States and the Middle East. Yet, in sidelining the state of Israel and the longer history of Zionist activity in Palestine, Citino misses an opportunity to investigate what role Zionist developmentalism played in this story. Did the interwar Zionist ideas and projects, that Jacob Norris traces in Land of Progress, filter into Arab modernizers visions of development? [32] How did American images of the Israeli kibbutz and popular narratives about Israel as the ‘land of milk and honey’ shape how U.S. policymakers approached Arab development projects? My goal here is not to re-center Israel in this history, but a full history of postwar modernization in the Middle East would seem to need to wrestle in some way with both Israeli actors and perceptions of Israel. But that would also require more research, adding to an already full account.

Ultimately, neither of these critiques amount to more than quibbles. More than a regional case study, Envisioning the Arab Future is an important and exciting reinterpretation of the history of modernization and postwar international development. It both enhances and undermines the stereoscopes in our histories.


Nathan Citino’s Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations, 1945-1967 is a political history that contributes very significantly to Middle Eastern, Cold War, and development history, and helps to bring these fields into conversation. Broader in timespan, geography, and vision than his debut monograph, the acclaimed From Arab Nationalism to OPEC, it makes, in this author’s view, four arguments, discussed below.[33] Some are primary to Citino, others secondary; all are thought-provoking.

This review falls into two parts. The first one introduces, and adds a few notes to, those four arguments, ending with the most central one: the Cold War was not a “single, encompassing geopolitical order” (3), quoting Heonik Kwon’s The Other Cold War.[34] Hence, there is much “value [in] combining regional and Cold War histories” (4). The second part reflects on that last argument, on “the dialogue between regional and global influences in the politics of postwar Arab modernization” (1).

One of Citino’s arguments is that modernization projects were not simply imposed top-down. He here targets works like James Scott’s Seeing like a State, referencing recent monographs like Daniel Immerwahr’s Thinking Small.[35] Chapter 3, “City of the Future,” on new model communities, and Chapter 4, “Yeoman Farmers,” especially “challenge historians’ insistence on drawing clear distinctions between the centralized, rational schemes of planners and the local knowledge by which particular human settlements lived and thrived” (97). “Many postwar settlements … were the result of an unequal but nevertheless important exchange” (99) between society and the state, corporations such as ARAMCO, or philanthropists like Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy. In those chapters as elsewhere, Citino stands on solid archival ground.[36]

A second argument is that “the theme of modernization … reveals that U.S. relations with the Arab world encompassed more than just battles over Israel” (5). Indeed, the Arab-Israeli conflict is marginal to Citino’s stories. Still, it sometimes finds a way through the back door. For example, President John F. Kennedy offered economic aid to Egypt “as an incentive to reduce tensions with Israel” (212), and Lyndon B. Johnson supported Jordan’s Ghor Valley project to “ameliorate the Arab-Israeli problem in U.S. foreign policy” (162). Arab modernization and the Arab-Israeli conflict are not neatly separable. This is clear to Citino: in the Introduction, he lists anti-Zionism as part of the “regional setting” that helped shape Arab modernization (6). It is implicit in his periodization, too: his story ends in the late 1960s, because the 1967 Six Day War’s blow to the authority of Arab states shifted modernization practices and discourses. And it is why Arabs have often explained defeats against the Jewish state by pointing partly to development-related issues.[37]

Those two arguments are ultimately secondary to Citino’s monograph. Primary are the two arguments discussed next. One is that “[R]ather than being fundamentally divided by culture … Americans and Arabs contended over the aims and meanings of modernization within a shared set of widely held concepts from the postwar era about how societies advance” (1). Both Arabs and Americans saw the post-war decades as a high modernist “Age of Speed” (Chapter 1); here Citino leverages Arabic sources to maximum effect, for instance, regarding air travel. More broadly, although Citino’s book is not an intellectual history, he shows that both Arabs and Americans in the 1940s-1960s believed in linear progress. (However, many Arabs like the Islamist Sa‘id Qutb and Fathy, who both visited America, doubted American beliefs that the United States’ present was their societies’ future.) And both Arabs and Americans believed in the feasibility of comprehensive societal modernization, including through macro- or micro-development projects.

This argument could be linked to Charles Maier’s point that the mid-century decades saw in both communist East and capitalist West a “Fordist zenith,” a firm belief–rooted in the 1930s; peaking in the 1960s–that more productivity meant more wealth for all. This was a shared “romance of economic development.”[38] At the same time, this reviewer would have liked to hear a bit more about variations. Citino notes these en passant. Iraqi cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, for instance, talked not first of an economic-materialist solution to the day’s problems but of a “spiritual and moral doctrine” (41; see also 48, for Qutb).

Further, Citino’s argument about shared concepts has a gender component. It is not central to his book – but it is there, twice. First, in Chapter 3, in the Palestinian Musa Alami’s plan to render young Palestinian men more productive on an experimental farm near Jericho. And the second time in Chapter 6, on “The ‘New Men’,” those “Western-trained cadres who combined technical skills with modern attitudes” and, quite often, with an authoritarian and/or military bent (214). Referencing Robert Dean’s notion of an ‘ideology of masculinity,’ which according to that historian helps explain U.S. foreign policy decision-makers’ behavior in the 1960s, Citino states that the individual central to that chapter, William Polk, shared “gestures of masculine camaraderie” (241) not only with Americans but with Arabs, too.[39] This triggers a question. How do we square notions of gender-based bonds between male U.S. and non-Western policy makers with notions of a culture-based disconnect between elite white Americans and non-Western elites?[40] Also, did U.S.-Arab “male bonding” (241) help to cause shared U.S.-Arab views of modernization or–a more cautious view–‘just’ prop it up? And is Citino’s case a post-colonial, gender-based parallel to historian David Cannadine’s riposte to Edward Said: that British-Indian (upper) class-based bonding was a fact of life in colonial India and helped structure that polity?[41]

I now turn to a fourth and last argument, to “the dialogue between regional and global influences in the politics of postwar Arab modernization” (1). Regional influences included “development policies on the part of some Arab governments as attempts to counter encroachment on their sovereignty by other Arab states”[42] (6) as well as “the Ottoman legacy, the history of anti-colonialism and anti-Zionism, the implications of oil development, and the ideal of pan-Arab unity” (6). Citino here draws on Odd Arne Westad’s pioneering The Global Cold War, and references related works by “Guy Laron, Paul Thomas Chamberlin, Craig Daigle, and Roham Alvandi, who usefully place the Middle East into a global context” (2).[43] But he criticizes them, too. Building on “scholars [who] have analyzed how the Cold War combined with regional struggles for decolonization and economic progress” (4), including Bruce Cumings and Gregg Brazinsky on Korea, David Biggs on Vietnam, and Greg Grandin and Tanya Harmer on Latin America, he argues that

A global approach employed by itself, however, carries certain disadvantages. First, emphasizing the superpowers’ clashing modernities tends to neglect regional and religious ideologies – such as Arab nationalism and Islamism – and to marginalize their importance in ahistorical narrative dominated by Washington and Moscow. … Second, presenting third world countries as equivalent objects of superpower competition neglects how varied experiences with European colonialism and anticolonialism prior to 1945 influenced the postwar politics of development. … Third … disaggregating the third world offers a critical approach to analyzing American power by exposing gaps between sweeping U.S. doctrines and the diverse circumstances faced by postcolonial societies. (3)[44]

These critiques are well taken. What is more, Citino puts his money where his mouth is. Chapter 2, “Imperial Legacies,” analyzes how U.S. modernization theorists’ views of the Ottoman past and of early Republican Turkey and its authoritarian president, Kemal Atatürk, helped shape U.S. perceptions of the Arab present, possible futures, and America’s place in a long history of Middle East modernization. Further, in chapters 3, 4, and 6, as well as in Chapter 5, “The People’s Court,” and Chapter 7, “Changing Course,” Citino points to regional contexts of distinct nation-states’ modernization projects. Thus, Jordan’s King Hussein used the Ghor Canal project, and the Iraqi Colonel Fadl ‘Abbas al-Mahdawi used the pulpit of the People’s Court in Baghdad, to attack Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s modernization acumen and pan-Arabism.

Turning now to this review’s second part, I would like to make four points about that last of Citino’s arguments.

First, as Citino bills his monograph not simply as an analysis of U.S.-Arab relations, but more broadly as a Cold War story, one may complete–or revise?–his account by touching on regional non-U.S. aspects. One concerns French North Africa, especially Algeria. The 1954-1962 war there was fought throughout the time Citino covers. Also, the first, and main, foreign bureau of Algeria’s National Liberation Front was in Cairo; the United States became politically sucked into the war; and the war became a crucial political issue for Arabs (and other non-Westerners) and helped expand the notion of the Arab World to include North Africa. It also sped up coercive modernization campaigns like village resettlements, the villages de regroupement.[45] As important is Great Britain. From 1882/1918 Europe’s strongest power in the Middle East, it remained influential through the late 1950s if not into the 1960s. And despite some tensions with Washington, it was a keystone for U.S. policy in the region and the junior ally of Washington. In World War II, U.S. officials partook in the gigantesque British-led Middle Eastern Supply Center, which partly drew on British lessons from World War I, and which after World War II became “the central mechanism behind the diffusion of Keynesian notions of economic planning” in Middle Eastern countries. And after the war, U.S. ascendancy notwithstanding, Britain sustained its own development projects, as the unmentioned Paul Kingston laid out in Britain and the Politics of Modernization in the Middle East, 1945-1958.[46] How did all of this factor into U.S.-Arab modernization relations? And how did respective Soviet projects, beyond being a threat to Washington, which Citino notes?[47] To be sure, such aspects are not strictly speaking central to a monograph sub-titled “Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations” (my emphasis). But if one wishes to examine how the “global Cold War” (6) intersected with regional aspects in modernization, as Citino does, one should zoom out beyond the United States. This may include also, to add three more aspects, modernization projects by West Germany, Eastern European countries, and international organizations. Characteristically, the work of Massimiliano Trentin and Amy Staples, among others, are absent in Envisioning the Arab Future.[48]

Second, although Middle Easterners and Americans shared modernizational ideas, Citino divides them into two clearly separate groups: Middle Easterners here, Americans there. This is instinctually correct: Kennedy was an American, after all; Nasser, an Arab. It also reflects the fact that Citino’s is a political history whose protagonists are highest-level government officials and government-related individuals: men like Fathy, Hussein, Kennedy, Mahdawi, Nasser, Polk, and Dankwart Rustow, a founding father of U.S. modernization theory. Put differently, separating Middle Easterners and Americans–an implicitly nation-state-centered move–works for a history of the politics of U.S.-Arab modernization relations, for the question of his actors’ political identity, which is what Citino’s book is about.

But what if we were to extend Citino’s subject matter to ideas? Here, I think, that division would work less well. Ideas crisscross nation-state boundaries. So do people, including those protagonists of Citino’s who led transnational and/or émigré lives. Fathy developed his ideas not simply in the Arab world but also travelling, for the Doxiadis firm, in Africa and America. Born in Berlin in 1924, Rustow spent 1938-1946 in Istanbul as a German Jewish refugee, passing his baccalaureate there and picking up Turkish and Ottoman, as Citino notes, which primed him for later research on Turkey. He was not simply an American, then. His trajectory could be fit into Udi Greenberg’s transnational history The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War.[49] On a related note, as Begüm Adalet’s recent dissertation has shown, modernization theorists like Rustow (to whom she dedicates an entire chapter) who worked on the Middle East and repeatedly visited that region were influenced by Turks interpreting Ottoman and Turkish history for them.[50] Finally, there were U.S. institutions in the Middle East, most importantly the American University of Beirut (AUB) and American University of Cairo, founded in 1866 and 1919, respectively. They cannot be clearly labeled either American or Arab, and their academics–Arabs, Americans, and others–exploited living in intersecting worlds to be double gate keepers. This matters doubly because especially AUB institutions like the Social Science Research Section and the Economic Research Institute played a role in Middle East development at least into the late 1950s.[51]

From here, the next step–my third point–is to ask: what is Citino’s ‘region?’ It is not, by his own reckoning, culturally or religiously (let alone racially) defined, but political, i.e. roughly equivalent to the Arab state system.[52] While this choice is perfectly legitimate, it appears that its execution could have been more optimal. Empirically, Citino mostly focuses on single nation-states: Fathy’s and the Tahrir project’s Egyptian villages, Mahdawi’s Iraqi court, or Hussein’s Jordanian peasants, for instance. He discusses even the inherently region-wide issue of “new men” mainly through the Egyptian example, though he here does point out a supra-national (rather than ‘only’ inter-national) regional dimension, too. Still, for a book that stresses “the regional” so much in its Introduction, the chapters could have followed through more, and focused squarely on regional dimensions–debates, political fights, etc.–of nation-state projects. All told, Citino’s region is a bit, but not much, more than the sum of its nation-states.

This point has a historical aspect. Citino treats the region as a given. It exists fully formed when we enter his story. But the Arab state system–and the Middle East as a however defined region more broadly–was not simply ‘there’ in 1945. The Arab world, al-‘alam al-‘arabi in Arabic, was a term barely used before the 1940s, and the (post-colonial) Arab state system really emerged in that decade, too. ‘The region’ thus cannot simply be used as a ‘frame of reference’ (6) for U.S.-Arab modernization. Rather, it was partly shaped and even created–inclusive discussions of grey zones and frontiers: Algeria, Iran, Turkey–by that process.

There is one more aspect to this issue, grounded in Citino “inserting regionalism as an intermediate frame of reference between the nation-state (diplomatic historians’ traditional focus) and the world” (6). Here, he treats the region not just as a geographical arena, but as a heuristic device that helps him identify modernization specificities in Arab nation-states. He pays “attention to regional particularities and their relationship to universalizing ideologies” (6); and he “considers how American development strategies and the superpower rivalry combined with patterns in Arab history” (10). But none of Citino’s political regional particularities–to list them again: “government attempts to counter encroachment on their sovereignty by other Arab states, … the Ottoman legacy, the history of anti-colonialism and anti-Zionism, the implications of oil development, and the ideal of pan-Arab unity” (6)–were in their very nature region-specific. Regions other than the Arab world, too, functioned as shared if not competitive arenas for multiple nation-state modernization projects and had relevant pre-Cold War pasts.[53] The weight of strategic resources like oil or rubber was felt politically also, for instance, in Venezuela or in Malaya, where it helped make Britain wage a bloody, decade-long “forgotten war.”[54] Anti-colonial and anti-settler-colonial sentiments existed elsewhere; some were even linked up to Middle Eastern experiences, as when Ottomans’ (including Arabs’) and anti-British Indians’ sentiments met from the very late nineteenth century.[55] And Arab modernization’s timeframe and key themes were not specifically Arab. As Citino himself notes, modernization peaked from the 1940s to late 1960s around the world;[56] and the fascination with speed, the focus on new men, especially strongmen with an authoritarian bent, and an interest in agricultural reforms were manifest across the post-colonial world.[57]

But none of this means that there simply was no regional specificity or that Citino is plainly wrong. The following issues did create a particular Arab experience of modernization: peaks as well as ebbs and flows within the timeframe of the 1940s-70s; the exact content of key themes like agricultural reforms; the very nature of the regional system, i.e. an exceptionally powerful pan-movement, pan-Arabism; and the specificity of the Israeli presence and of the Ottoman past, including the fact that the former had caused an enormous refugee diaspora and that most Arabs were ill-disposed toward the latter. These issues mattered not simply individually, though, but in combination. In sum, it was the fusion of regional versions of globally extant issues that was specifically Arab.

What does this mean, fourthly and finally, for how to conceptualize a region? In answering this question, we may take inspiration from an Europeanist heuristic concept, the historical meso-region. It is not a perfect fit, for its medium size–it is “larger than a single state yet smaller than a continent—Scandinavia or the Balkans being classical examples”[58]–in principle fits most neatly Europe.[59] Even so, it usefully underlines that even broad regions “do not form an area defined by permanent geographic borders, but constitute an abstract space constituted by structures–a space whose historical development is distinguished from its neighborhood and other historical regions by these structures. It is a fluid zone with flowing transitions.”[60] Historians need to be wary of reifying it.[61] And they need to heed transnational linkages. These feature often in Citino’s monograph, in fact – and system(at)ically point beyond his region. Besides the afore-noted Fathy, Qutb, and Rustow there are, to add two more examples, Mahdawi’s “tributes to women guerillas fighting alongside Castro in Cuba [and] celebrations of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflights” (181), and the charter of Egypt’s Arab Socialist Union, which proclaimed that the country’s “‘new pioneering experiment’ … has already had ‘far-reaching effects on the liberation movement in Africa, Asia, and Latin America’” (229).

To sum up, Citino’s monograph is a fascinating read and a truly significant contribution to Middle Eastern, Cold War, and development histories, fields that it weaves together. As crucial, it helps to open up the field of U.S. foreign relations by illustrating how U.S. ideas and policies were not simply imposed top down. But the book could have gone further–and perhaps should have, given that the title is a “global Cold War” history. Ultimately, Citino’s account stands mid-way between traditional, explicitly U.S.-centric readings of the United States’ role in the world and truly global readings that go beyond bilateral ties, systematically taking into account third parties when analyzing a bilateral relationship.[62]


Although I have enjoyed contributing to previous H-Diplo roundtables as a reviewer, it is a particular privilege to have my own scholarship selected to be the focus of one. I wish to thank Thomas R. Maddux and Diane N. Labrosse for organizing this roundtable and for offering their service to the scholarly community over many years. Thank you also to Osamah F. Khalil for graciously agreeing to write an introduction. Khalil’s recent book makes a valuable contribution to the issues discussed here and deservedly receives attention in its own H-Diplo roundtable.[63] I am particularly grateful to Begüm Adalet, Laleh Khalili, Guy Laron, Nicole Sackley, and Cyrus Schayegh for their careful readings of my work. The excellent comments, questions, and criticisms they raise reflect a serious investment of their valuable time. One of my goals for the book was to contribute to a conversation among historians of the Cold War, international development, and the modern Middle East. The reviewers assembled for this roundtable not only represent those fields, but also form a subset of the scholars whose work I most admire. From my point of view, their participation amounts to an important measure of success for Envisioning the Arab Future.

The Middle East regional perspective featured in the book and which I argue deserves greater attention is, above all, historiographical. Over the last generation of scholarship at least, the field once called ‘U.S. diplomatic history’ or ‘American foreign relations’ has undergone wide-ranging rethinking and the introduction of new approaches. This reformation, complete with the new ‘America in the World’ nomenclature, involves redefining the discipline as more than just a subfield of U.S. political history and as encompassing not only official policy but also non-state actors, non-elites, and transnational phenomena. Advocates of placing the U.S. in global perspective claimed that doing so would help to overcome the field’s professional isolation and successfully challenge American exceptionalism.[64] Formulating historical critiques of U.S. power remains a vitally important objective, particularly for those of us who study the part of the world where the U.S. fights its wars now.

The field’s cosmopolitan evolution raises serious questions, however, about its relationship to the vast bodies of literature on societies with which the U.S. has long been in contact and that have been significantly affected by the expansion of U.S. power. My basic assumption was that intensive reading in Middle East historiography and Arabic sources was a prerequisite for posing new kinds of questions about how U.S. power acted on and was inflected by Arab societies during the twentieth century. By borrowing questions from regional historiography, I sought to move beyond a focus on the formulation of U.S. diplomacy and the role of American cultural images of the Middle East, the pair of issues that dominate existing scholarship. As a measure of the influence exerted by Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), historians of U.S. policy in the Middle East have thoroughly investigated the degree to which negative stereotypes about the region’s societies have accompanied and served to justify expanding American power.[65] But as my Rice University colleague Ussama Makdisi writes: “It is one thing to criticize American representations of foreign cultures; it is an entirely different matter to study American engagements with them.”[66]

One benefit of taking cues from regional historiography is that doing so ascribes agency to a range of elite Arab actors across a political spectrum. My book tries to historicize postwar Arab development debates by showing how elites from Baghdad to Washington, D.C. waged ideological conflicts during the early Cold War within the bounds of shared concepts concerning modernization. Reading in regional literature and Arabic sources therefore offers a useful way of criticizing pernicious (and remarkably durable) assumptions that fundamental cultural or civilizational differences separate Arabs from Americans. As the book shows, too, Arab modernizers formulated visions after World War Two with reference to historical contexts other than America’s New Deal, the domestic touchstone widely cited in studies of U.S. development policies.[67] Another benefit is that engagement with Middle East historiography highlights the significance of Islamist and Arab nationalist visions for modernization that would otherwise be marginalized in a global, Cold-War narrative.[68] I would argue that without such an engagement, it is difficult if not impossible to understand the origins of today’s Islamist movements. The Cold War, decolonization, third-worldism, and the worldwide struggle for development make up an essential global context for the U.S.-Arab encounter after 1945. The book portrays regional and global frameworks as complementary and as ultimately inseparable. It does not seek to provoke a dichotomous debate about which is more important, although it may contribute to conversations about how regional, global, and other geographic frames of reference are by themselves inherently problematic.

For me, the greatest benefit of closely reading regional historiography is that it provides new perspectives from which to criticize U.S. exceptionalism.[69] Placing U.S. policies for modernizing the Middle East in the context of previous European and even Ottoman imperial initiatives reveals how socio-economic reform as a discourse of power long predated the rise of the United States. It also illustrates how postwar development initiatives took on particular meanings in given places, sometimes as the result of an intersection between New Deal liberalism and other societies’ reform legacies, such as that of the Ottoman Tanzimat in the modern Middle East. I selected my case studies–on Cold-War travel; the Ottoman imperial legacy and oil; model communities; land reform; Iraqi nationalism; Arab Socialism under ‘Abd al-Nasser; and hijackings–because they offered possibilities for bridging regional historiography with the study of U.S. power after World War Two. This approach offers one valuable way of rethinking American history in global perspective. Envisioning the Arab Future is a down payment on taking regional historiography seriously in the study of U.S. power in the Middle East. Like all worthwhile scholarly agendas, this approach must necessarily be pursued as a collaborative project.

Many of the criticisms raised by roundtable participants concern important topics that I left out but which surely deserve treatment in the study of postwar modernization in the Arab Middle East. All of these comments are legitimate and point to directions for further research. Contributors also raised objections to certain interpretations or comparative examples. Begüm Adalet observes that by comparing the ideas of Sayyid Qutb, ‘Abd al-Nasser, and William Polk, the book risks reducing modernization “to technological universalism.” The account of Arabs’ travel experiences also “seems to suggest that developmental thought originated in the west.” Just as descriptions of London and Paris served nineteenth-century reformers as useful points of reference, postwar Arab travelers could invoke strategically-drawn images of New York and Washington, D.C. (as well as Moscow and Leningrad) as foils useful in debates back at home. What is especially interesting to me is the way that different Arab modernizers positioned themselves rhetorically between the ‘modern’ West and various ‘backward’ elements from their home countries, the Middle East region, and the global third world. Rather than straightforward imitation of the West, this positioning helped postcolonial elites to define third-way modernizing paths and updated the strategies that Makdisi attributed to Ottoman Tanzimat reformers from a century earlier.[70]

Regarding ‘technological universalism,’ I was quite surprised, given their obvious political differences, by the similar language that many elites used to describe societal change. As I try to show in the first chapter, “The Age of Speed,” this language evoked forward motion, velocity, and modern conveyances as metaphors for an advancing, integrated social ‘system’ often associated with the modernizing authority of the postcolonial state. Far beyond Walt Rostow’s ‘takeoff,’ Arab and American modernizers used twentieth-century technologies of speed, and their own travel experiences, to imagine modernization. Today’s historians similarly use cutting-edge technologies as metaphors, but as the basis for decentralized representations of change over time. The infrastructure of social media and the Internet provides the template for the node-and-network narratives used by many scholars to tell transnational stories.[71] The various communities described in chapter 3 are admittedly dissimilar but together reflect modernizers’ view that model towns could embody a social system in microcosm, including clearly-defined gender roles that supposedly reflected how the poor ‘really’ lived. Adalet’s own scholarship deftly complicates Turkey’s historical reputation as providing a coherent Cold-War model for third-world modernization and contributes to a growing body of literature about postwar Turkey and its ambivalent relationship with the U.S. that incorporates gender and alternative uses of the Ottoman legacy.[72]

Following a lovely, vivid portrait of her modernizing Iranian father, Laleh Khalili shares some of the questions that occurred to her about topics not covered by the book. All of these are valid, and I can only reply that I selected examples with the aim of challenging the myths of essential cultural difference between Arabs and Americans, and the exceptional, modernizing quality of U.S. power in the Middle East. I also sought out neglected sources and stories about U.S. officials, oil executives, scholars, and philanthropists, and followed their exchanges with Arab interlocutors. The book addresses the economic development strategies of Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq, but it does not measure those strategies against economic theories of import substitution industrialization (ISI) or compare them to the practices of countries outside the Middle East. Albert Hirschman, and others such as Argentinian economist Raúl Prebisch, deserve attention as critics of these formulas in any broader treatment of economic development.[73] Christopher Dietrich’s important new book, published in the same series as mine, offers a sweeping study of anti-colonial elites’ search for an economic counterpart to political decolonization.[74] Guy Laron’s work also more systematically considers the ISI strategies of Egypt and other developing states, including some outside the Middle East.[75]

Without question, Algeria is relevant, and the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) appears in the book as important to the anti-colonialism of Iraqi Leftists and the Black Panthers, some of whom landed in Algiers. I chose not to write on Algeria partly because, for much of the period covered by the book, Algeria was regarded by the U.S. as an issue in European diplomacy linked to relations with France. The main reason, however, is that we already have excellent scholarship by Matthew Connelly and Jeffrey James Byrne on Algeria’s struggles for decolonization and development.[76] They explain why American views changed, for reasons having to do with the rise of the third world as a factor in global politics and at the United Nations, although further research about Algeria in Arabic sources would be useful. Education, and also public health and medicine, are topics deserving of greater attention.[77] Some material about educational exchanges wound up on the cutting-room floor. The book does present new evidence concerning FBI surveillance of Arab student groups in the U.S. This activity followed appeals to the Justice Department by a pro-Israel organization seeking to make Arab student groups register as foreign agents.

The broad questions Khalili raises near the end of her comments address how communist and U.S. development strategies were mutually constitutive, in the Middle East and beyond. I think Khalili’s question is why the Middle East is important for Cold-War history generally. The book challenges a strictly bipolar portrayal of the cold war and considers the limits of any ‘global’ account of it. But these large questions deserve further exploration together with other scholars who study various parts of the world after 1945, perhaps as a conference panel or in another face-to-face conversation. I wholeheartedly agree with her observation that modernization never really went away. As Michael Latham notes, the ‘ghosts of modernization’ continue to haunt the region and U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.[78] Although faith in the modernizing state declined in many places by the late 1960s, the promise of universal uplift has remained politically useful to U.S. actors in the Middle East and elsewhere. It alternates with its ideological twin, cultural essentialism, as the justification invoked by U.S. officials for political and military interventions. And leaders from Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt to Bashar al-Asad of Syria to Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia continue to cite the promise of development to legitimize their authority, using strategies similar to those employed by the postcolonial Arab elites described in the book.

Consistent with his own fine work cited earlier, Guy Laron raises questions concerning the material, as opposed to culturally constructed, aspects of modernization. The book addresses materiality mainly through analysis of the region’s two most valuable resources, water and oil. But it also tries to illustrate how material and cultural aspects of modernization could be intertwined. Scarce water resources in the Jordan valley imposed constraints on the agricultural development of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and other riparian states. But strategies for tapping the Jordan also became linked to political battles not only between Israel and Arab countries, but also between Nasser and Jordan’s King Husayn, and their opposing revolutionary and evolutionary interpretations of Arab nationalism. The book portrays regional inequality as a consequence of the infrastructure of oil extraction established by Britain and the United States. But it also explains how capitalist interest in oil resources motivated U.S. oilmen, officials, and scholars to formulate useable interpretations of the Ottoman legacy. Air travel as an industry deserves greater attention to complement accounts of how its speed affected modernizers’ perceptions, language, and development schemes. One of the Arab figures who lobbied the U.S. State Department against redistributive land reform policies, and represented Lebanon at a U.S.-sponsored land reform conference, was the chairman of Middle East Airlines Najib Alamuddin.[79] American University of Beirut political scientist Waleed Hazbun is currently researching ‘aeromobility’ and the political economy of commercial air travel in the Middle East.[80]

Laron is right to raise questions about the viability of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s regional development plan intended to invest oil wealth more widely throughout the Arab Middle East. Further details will be provided by follow-up work based on research in Hammarskjöld’s papers which are available at the National Library of Sweden. These sources reveal that the Secretary General did not originate the plan for an oil-funded Arab Development Bank so much as he synthesized proposals made following the Suez crisis by a range of actors, including many from Arab countries, for regional development. The Arab-Israeli conflict, and especially the Palestinian refugee crisis, posed formidable obstacles to Hammarskjöld’s efforts. So did the rivalry between Nasser and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Sa‘id. But those efforts did constitute a missed opportunity whose implications have affected the region ever since. Today’s ostensibly sectarian conflicts rest on foundations of inequality between major oil-exporting and non-exporting states, in which the former bankroll civil wars rather than development.[81] This political economy of sectarianism offers another example of how material and cultural factors are indeed related.

I wish to thank Nicole Sackley, whose own work has influenced my ideas, for her generous and thorough discussion.[82] Those lacking the time or interest to read my book would do well to consult her review. Sackley also raises two sets of questions. The first concerns the comparative approach of the final chapter, in which I address the parallel and linked revolts by African Americans and Palestinians against their societies’ dominant postwar ideologies: Cold-War liberalism and Nasserist pan-Arabism, respectively. Although imitation contributed to the proliferation of hijackings in the late 1960s, and African-American activists including Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver made sojourns in the region, Sackley is correct that the last chapter generally pays less attention than previous ones to the circulation of ideas. My aim was to better understand the 1945-1967 period by looking ahead to survey the political and intellectual currents that emerged during the 1970s. As she notes, Daniel T. Rodgers served as my guide in the case of the U.S. and Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab in the case of Arab societies.[83] More research is needed to complement existing work on the global networks that linked revolutions during this period. Sean L. Malloy’s book on the Black Panthers, cited earlier, details their global revolutionary ties, and Martin Klimke’s study of transnational student movements in the U.S. and West Germany charts their mutual radicalization during the Vietnam-war era.[84]

For the Arab world, Paul Thomas Chamberlin’s innovative study connects the Palestine Liberation Organization to revolutions in Vietnam and elsewhere, while Abdel Razzaq Takriti’s Monsoon Revolution offers the fullest existing depiction of an Arab revolutionary movement in global context.[85] Further research on revolutions across political, regional, and linguistic boundaries can build on these studies. Sackley’s other questions concern the place of Israel and Zionism in U.S.-Arab relations. There are several examples from the book in which Arab modernization is conceived explicitly as competing with Zionist development: Musa al-‘Alami’s Arab Development Society; Tahrir Province villages; Jordan’s East Ghor Canal; Nasser’s Arab Socialism. By focusing on modernization, the book does not seek to displace the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 as the central event of postwar Arab history, nor to minimize U.S. complicity in Palestinian dispossession. In fact, the final chapter features the unresolved issue of Palestinian statelessness as central to the decline of Nasserism. It describes hijackings by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the interpretations of them as anti-American acts published by Ghassan Kanafani in the PFLP’s Arabic magazine al-Hadaf. But the book also employs modernization as a way of moving beyond conventional treatments of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a regional diplomatic problem for the U.S. It regards criticism of U.S. support for Zionism as essential to, but not sufficient as, a historical analysis of U.S. power in the Middle East. Understanding the roots of economic inequality and authoritarianism requires also looking at land reform, oil extraction, intelligence operations, and other informal and official interventions collectively pursued under the banner of modernization.

Cyrus Schayegh’s comments about Envisioning the Arab Future are particularly welcome, because two of his articles helped to inspire it.[86] He succinctly summarizes the book’s arguments and contributions before raising a series of questions and criticisms supported by a historiographical discussion covering literature on the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. in the world. Schayegh makes a compelling case for the value of what he calls “truly global readings” of history as a way of transcending parochial nationalisms. His own important new book examines the “historical meso-region” of Bilad al-Sham, roughly Greater Syria, and its evolution through the process of “transpatialization,” or the ways in which “cities, regions, states, and global circuits reconstituted and transformed each other” in a series of stages during the period 1850-1950.[87] If previous experience is any guide, then this new scholarship will change the way many of us think about Middle Eastern history. Although I cannot address all of the points he raises here, those on gender, the nation-state, and, especially, the limitations and problems of regional history in my book deserve a response.

My treatment of gender serves several purposes. It seeks to undermine the Orientalist myth of a ‘culture-based disconnect’ between Arab and American elites by citing the mutual references to gender in interactions between those elites. Gender-based economic activities also served a practical role in modernizing visions, such as the consumerist domesticity prescribed for women in Egypt’s Tahrir province villages and the plans for training girls in handicrafts that al-‘Alami proposed as part of his Arab Development Society (ADS). In a larger sense, clearly-delineated gender roles typified the structural conceptions of society shared by U.S. and Arab modernizers across a political spectrum, assumptions that later faced challenges in the 1960s and ‘70s. But perhaps gender’s most important significance in this book is that it illustrates the rhetorical positioning that I described earlier as central to Arab elites’ role as modernizers. On one hand, they pursued anti-colonial politics and criticized western societies; on the other, they acknowledged the West as a source of modernization while interpreting its lessons for subaltern groups in their own societies such as women, peasants, and workers. The book recognizes the dual role contained within the expression “anti-colonial elite.” In this way, incorporating gender acknowledges the positive but limited agency exercised by (male) postwar Arab modernizers.

Schayegh is right to zero in on the book’s ambivalent characterization of U.S.-Arab relations: it argues against essentialist difference at the same time that it maintains a nationalist distinction between Americans and Arabs. To do otherwise, I believe, would misrepresent the enormous disparities in power present in those relations during this period as opposed to, say, early missionary encounters.[88] There are numerous examples in the book of U.S. official and informal power amplifying the voices of particular modernizers. While only a student, William Polk had access to Arab intellectuals such as Qustantin Zurayq because of Polk’s links to the National Student Association and the Rockefeller Foundation. Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy became a global modernizer through his work on the Ford Foundation project The City of the Future. Lebanese sociologist Afif Tannous influenced U.S. land reform policies in the Middle East through his relationship with Assistant Secretary of State George C. McGhee. Al-‘Alami’s ADS expanded as it produced fruits and vegetables purchased by the Arabian American Oil Company, and so on.

The nation-state did serve as the principal unit in which modernizers deployed development schemes during this period, but one of the most interesting aspects of my research has been learning about the ways that modernizers thought with the region. This was particularly apparent in successive U.S. interpretations of the Middle East using the Ottoman legacy and the example of Turkey. Various elites thought about how to tap oil producers’ income for region-wide development. Urbane, city-based notables such as Khalid al-‘Azm defined modernization against such ‘backward’ peripheries as the Maghrib and the Arabian peninsula. King Husayn reconfigured Jordan’s East Ghor canal project according to his shifting relations with Nasser’s pan-Arab nationalism. My analysis of East Ghor situates it within the history of the upper Jordan valley and the Hawran region, which sprawls across the Yarmuk and connects northwest Jordan to Damascus as a phantom limb of Ottoman-era political and economic ties. Even Colonel Fadl ‘Abbas al-Mahdawi, seeking to legitimize Iraq as a multiethnic, socialist nation-state against Nasser’s pan-Arabism, looked eastward to India as a kindred anti-colonial, modernizing example. Schayegh is absolutely right to remind his readers that a region is “not an unchanging geographic given,” and that spatial terminology ought to be grounded in social, political, and economic practices.[89]

A fundamental choice on my part was the decision to read intensively in Arabic sources, as opposed to extensively researching the myriad actors who participated in postwar Arab development. In part, this choice was dictated by my language ability. I lack the language skills of scholars such as Timothy Nunan and Guy Laron, whose recent, multilingual studies represent the state of the art in international history.[90] I hope that my approach will bring greater attention to Islamist and other Arab voices that have so far been neglected, at least in the U.S. foreign policy literature. Envisioning is a work of U.S. history, whatever gestures it makes in the direction of other fields. In that sense, Schayegh is basically correct that the book represents an intermediate step between “traditional, explicitly U.S.-centric readings of the United States’ role in the world and truly global readings that go beyond bilateral ties.” But I disagree with the teleology of this statement, because U.S. cold warriors were themselves globalists. In the Middle East, they perceived manifestations of the global threats of communism and revolution. To combat them, they deployed out-of-the-box strategies also pursued elsewhere, from defense organizations and counterinsurgency techniques to economic development schemes such as hydroelectric dams, agricultural reform, and community building. The widest geographic framing for U.S.-Arab relations is not necessarily the most helpful for cultivating a critical scholarship, if it inadvertently reinforces cold warriors’ interpretations of the third world as homogeneous and their tendency to take the global extent of U.S. power for granted.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. historians have clamored to learn more about the Middle East and to develop critical perspectives on America’s empire in the region. Some have borrowed interpretations from the Vietnam War era, or otherwise portrayed post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy as continuous with previous military interventions in southeast Asia.[91] While these approaches have considerable merit, Envisioning the Arab Future represents my attempt at critically interpreting U.S. policies in an explicitly Middle Eastern historical context. For their part, Middle East historians have increasingly studied the imperial role of the Americans as successors to the Ottomans, British, and French. But 9/11 also added urgency to Middle East historians’ long-term attempts at breaking out of a regional, area-studies framework, one associated with the cultural stereotypes Said criticized, and at writing the Middle East into global history. Schayegh’s new book adds significantly to this trend.[92]

Both of these agendas, coming to grips with Middle Eastern history and finding ways of transcending traditional accounts of the region, involve challenging the exceptionalisms that have long characterized these respective fields. American officials, and some historians, portrayed the U.S. as a non-imperial power whose expansion was synonymous with modernization; Orientalists described the Middle East, especially the Arabic-speaking part of it, as a distinct civilization set apart from the rest of the world by cultural traits associated with ‘Islam.’ Between this pair of anti-exceptionalist agendas, historians in the two fields can cultivate meaningful exchanges. As this roundtable illustrates.


[1] Gamal Abdel Nasser, Falsafat al-Thawra (Cairo: Dār wa-Matābi‘ al-Sha‘b, 1966).

[2] David C. Engerman, Nils Gilman, Mark Haefele, and Michael Latham, eds. Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003); Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Michael Latham, Modernization Theory as Ideology: American Social Science and “Nation Building” in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from Cold War to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).

[3] Matthew F. Jacobs, Imagining the Middle East: The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Osamah F. Khalil, America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016); Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle over Third World Industrialization, 1945–1956 (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013); Ben Offiler, US Foreign Policy and the Modernization of Iran: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and the Shah (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

[4] Zachary Lockman, Field Notes: The Making of Middle East Studies in the United States (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016); Osamah Khalil, America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016); Salim Yaqub, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016); Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar, Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

[5] For exceptions, see Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle over Third World Industrialization, 1945-1956 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013); Nick Cullather, “Damming Afghanistan: Modernization in a Buffer State,” The Journal of American History 89:2 (September 2002): 512-37; Jennifer Van Vleck, “An Airline at the Crossroads of the World: Ariana Afghan Airlines, Modernization, and the Global Cold War,” History and Technology 25:1 (2009): 3-24; Cyrus Schayegh, “Iran’s Karaj Dam Affair: Emerging Mass Consumerism, the Politics of Promise, and the Cold War in the Third World,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54:3 (2012): 612-643.

[6] Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

[7] David Engerman, “Ideology and the origins of the Cold War, 1917-1962,” in Melvyn Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, eds. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, volume 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[8] Frederick Cooper, “Writing the History of Development” Journal of Modern European History 8 (2010): 5-23.

[9] Michael Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 65.

[10] Nick Cullather, “Development? It’s History,” Diplomatic History 24:4 (Fall 2000): 641-653, 643.

[11] Daniel Immerwahr, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015).

[12] W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960.

[13] For a critique of New Gourna, see Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). On Doxiadis’ projects, see Pascal Menoret, Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Matthew Hull, Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

[14] Begum Adalet, Measures of Modernization: American Developmental Thought and Practice in Turkey during the early Cold War (forthcoming, Stanford University Press).

[15] Engseng Ho, “Empire through Diasporic Eyes: A View from the Other Boat” Comparative Studies of Society and History 46:2 (2004): 210-246, 213.

[16] For a discussion of the role of memory in Palestinian nationalism, see Laleh Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Rosemary Sayigh, Too Many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (London: Zed Books, 1994), among others.

[17] W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960); Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1994).

[18] For example, Albert O. Hirschman, The Strategy of Economic Development (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958); Development Projects Observed (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1967); or A Bias for Hope: Essays on Development and Latin America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971).

[19] Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle over Third World Industrialization, 1945-1956, (Washington, D.C. and Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 58.

[20]  Guy Laron, “Semi-peripheral countries and the invention of the ‘Third World,’ 1955–65,” Third World Quarterly 35:9 (2014): 1547-1565.

[21] Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, Travelling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope (New York: Underwood, 1900), 13-14. On Hurlbut’s travels, see Burke O. Long, Imagining the Holy Land: Maps, Models, and Fantasy Travels (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 27-29, 38-40. On the imperial or Orientalize gaze, see Mary Louis Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 1992); Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism. (New York: Vintage, 1993); Derek Gregory, “Emperors of the Gaze: Photographic Practices and Productions of Space in Egypt, 1839-1914” in Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographic Imagination, eds. Joan Schwartz and James Ryan (London: I.B. Taurus, 2003), 195-225.

[22] Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge; MIT Press, 1991), 129, 133.

[23] Ussama S. Makdisi, The Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013); Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); On Barak, On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

[24] W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960), 4, 73.

[25] Rostow, 4, 73.

[26] James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

[27] Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (Glencoe: Free Press, 1958); Robert E. Ward and Dankwart A. Rustow, ed. Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964).

[28] On community development, see Daniel Immerwahr, The United States and the Lure of Community Development (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2016); Nicole Sackley, “The Village as Cold War Site: Experts, Development, and the History of Rural Reconstruction,” Journal of Global History 6 (2011), 481-504. On cultural anthropology and the uses of tradition, see John S. Gilkeson, Anthropologists and the Rediscovery of America, 1886–1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 218–37; Nicole Sackley, “Cosmopolitanism and the Uses of Tradition: Robert Redfield and Alternative Visions of Modernization during the Cold War,” Modern Intellectual History 9:3 (2012), 565-595.

[29] Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Andrew Rotter, Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).

[30] Yoav Di-Capua, “Common Skies, Divided Horizons: Aviation, Class and Modernity in Early Twentieth Century Egypt,” Journal of Social History 41 (Summer 2008): 917-942; Jennifer Van Vleck, Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendency (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013).

[31] Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2011); Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Contemporary Perspective (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

[32] Jacob Norris, Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development, 1905-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[33] Nathan Citino, From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa’ud, and the Making of U.S.-Saudi Relations (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).

[34] Heonik Kwon, The Other Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 7.

[35] James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). Daniel Immerwahr, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015). Citino could have drawn, too, on studies of late colonial development that have reflected on this point since the early 2000s, including Monica van Beusekom, Negotiating Development: African Farmers and Colonial Experts at the Office du Niger, 1920-1960 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). For a recent development history literature review, see Joseph Hodge, “Writing the History of Development. Part I: The First Wave,” Humanity 6 (2015): 429-463, and “Part II: Longer, Deeper, Wider,” Humanity 7 (2016): 125-174.

[36] The only partial exception is Citino’s analysis of the Egyptian Tahrir Province Organization; here, his primary source base is principally one monograph published post facto, in 1975, in Arabic.

[37] Qustantin Zurayq, Ma’na al-nakba [The Meaning of the (Palestinian) Nakba] (Beirut: Dar al-’ilm li-l-malayin, 1948).

[38] Quotes: Charles Maier, “The World Economy and the Cold War in the Middle of the Twentieth Century,” in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, ed. Melvyn Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 50; David Engerman, “The Romance of Economic Development and New Histories of the Cold War,” Diplomatic History 28 (2004): 23-54. For a related point, see Dirk van Laak, “Planung. Geschichte und Gegenwart des Vorgriffs auf die Zukunft,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 34 (2008): 305-326.

[39] Robert Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

[40] An example is Andrew Rotter, Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).

[41] David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979). For the question of using culture to explain causalities in diplomatic history, see e.g. Robert Dean, “Commentary: Tradition, Cause and Effect, and the Cultural History of International Relations,” Diplomatic History 24 (2000): 615-622 (on Rotter’s afore-cited monograph).

[42] Here, Citino cites my “1958 Reconsidered. State Formation and Cold War in the Early Post-Colonial Arab Middle East,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 41 (2013): 421-443.

[43] Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle over Third World Industrialization, 1945-1956 (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013); Paul Thomas Chamberlin, The Global Offensive: the United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012); Roham Alvandi, Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: the United States and Iran in the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[44] Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, 1990); Gregg Brazinsky, Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); David Biggs, Quagmire: Nation-building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010); Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

[45] Matthew Connelly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Jeffrey Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), esp chs. 1 and 2; Helmut Nimschowski, “Egypt and the National Liberation Revolution of Algeria,” in Egypt, the Revolution of July 1952 and Gamal Abdel Nasser, ed. Martine Robbe and Juergen Hoesel (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1989), 88-93; Zeynep Çelik, Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations: Algiers under French Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 123-129.

[46] Quote: Robert Vitalis and Steven Heydemann, “War, Keynesianism, and Colonialism: Explaining State-market Relations in the Post-war Middle East,” in War, Institutions, and Social Change in the Middle East, ed. Steven Heydemann (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 103. Paul Kingston, Britain and the Politics of Modernization in the Middle East, 1945-1958 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). See also Gerwin Gerke, “The Iraq Developmental Board and British Policy, 1945-50,” Middle Eastern Studies 27 (1991): 231-255. For World War II U.S.-UK post-war planning, see also Raouf Abbas, “Anglo-American Plans for Post-World War II Middle Eastern Economic Development,” in L’économie de la paix au Proche-Orient. Vol. 1, ed. Louis Blin and Philippe Fargues (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose / CEDEJ, 1995), 41-54.

[47] See e.g. Elizabeth Bishop, “Talking Shop: Egyptian Engineers and Soviet Specialists at the Aswan High Dam” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1997), or the work of Rodney Wilson, “Western, Soviet, and Egyptian Influences on Iraq’s Development Planning,” in Iraq: The Contemporary State, ed. Tim Niblock (London: Croom Helm, 1982), 219-240, and Wilson, “Development Planning in the Middle East: The Impact of Foreign Influences,” Conflict Studies 156 (1983): esp. 11-13.

[48] Massimiliano Trentin, “‘Tough Negotiations:’ The Two Germanies in Syria and Iraq, 1963-74,” Cold War History 8 (2008): 353-80; idem, La guerra fredda tedesca in Siria: diplomazia, economia e politica, 1963-1970 (Padova: CLEUP, 2015); idem and Matteo Gerlini, ed., The Middle East and the Cold War: Between Security and Development (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012); idem, Jan Adamec, and Przemyslaw Gasztoldsen, Syria during the Cold War: The East European Connection (Fife: University of St Andrews, Centre for Syrian Studies, 2014); Amy Staples, The Birth of Development: How the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Health Organization Changed the World, 1945-1965 (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2006). See also Marc Frey, Sönke Kunkel, and Corinna Unger, ed., International Organizations and Development (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

[49] Udi Greenberg, The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

[50] Begum Adalet, “Mirrors of Modernization: The American Reflection in Turkey” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2014), especially chapter 1.

[51] Aleksandra Kobiljski and Cyrus Schayegh, “Concluding Remarks: Writing AUB History in a Global Age,”, in 150 Years AUB: Commemorative Volume, ed. Nadia El Cheikh and Bilal Orfali (Beirut: AUB Press, 2016), 329-336; Schayegh, “The Inter-war Germination of Development and Modernization Theory and Practice: Politics, Institution Building, and Knowledge Production between the Rockefeller Foundation and the American University of Beirut,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 41 (2015): 649-684; Schayegh, “The Man in the Middle: Developmentalism and Cold War at AUB’s Economic Research Institute in-between the U.S. and the Middle East, 1952-1967,” in 150 years AUB. Commemorative Volume, ed. Nadia El Cheikh and Bilal Orfali (Beirut: AUB Press, 2016), 105-119.

[52] On the high “level of interaction” across the region, see Fawaz Gerges, The Superpowers and the Middle East (Boulder: Westview, 1994), 9. See also Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, The Crystallization of the Arab State System, 1945–1954 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[53] Harmer, Allende’s Chile; Joseph Hodge and Gerard Hödl, “Introduction,” in Developing Africa: Concepts and Practices in Twentieth-Century Colonialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 1-34; Peter Zarrow, After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese States, 1885-1924 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012).

[54] Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007).

[55] Azmi Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans, and Britain (1877-1924) (Leiden: Brill, 1997).

[56] David Engerman and Corinna Unger, “Towards a Global History of Modernization,” Diplomatic History 33 (2009): 375-385; Michael Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Cold Ear to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).

[57] Bradley Simpson, Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Nick Cullather, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).

[58] Quote: Stefan Tröbst, “Introduction: What’s in a Historical Region?,” European Review of History 10:2 (2003): 173. The literature on historical meso-regions was first developed in the 1970s but has been fine-tuned since the end of Europe’s Cold War division in 1989. A recent, very useful English introduction is Stefan Tröbst, “Historical Meso-Region,” (2012), in http://ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/theories-and-methods/historical-meso-region/stefan-troebst-historical-meso-region. For the Middle East, compare Cyrus Schayegh, The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, October 2017).

[59] This is because “historical meso-regions … are compatible with the plurality of Europe without fragmenting and dividing it [such that] all remains is an unmanageable hodgepodge of individualities:” Holm Sundhaussen, “Die Wiederentdeckung des Raumes: Über Nutzen und Nachteil von Geschichtsregionen,” in Südosteuropa, ed. Konrad Clewing and Oliver Jens Schmitt (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2005), 18.

[60] Arno Strohmeyer, “Historische Komparatistik und die Konstruktion von Geschichtsregionen,” Jahrbuecher fuer Geschichte und Kultur Suedosteuropas 1 (1999): 47.

[61] Sundhaussen, “Wiederentdeckung,” 23.

[62] Magisterial: Corinna Unger, Entwicklungspfade in Indien: eine internationale Geschichte, 1947-1980 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015). Programmatic: Engerman and Unger, “Towards a Global History of Modernization.” For a recent critique of U.S.-centric histories from another Western – European – viewpoint, see Nicolas Barreyre et al., ed., Historians across Borders: Writing American History in a Global Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014).

[63] Osamah F. Khalil, America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).

[64] For examples, see recent issues of Diplomatic History, the journal of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR); Thomas Zeiler, “The Diplomatic History Bandwagon: A State of the Field,” Journal of American History 95 (March 2009): 1053-1073; and Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, ed. Frank Costigliola and Michael J. Hogan, 3rd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). See also Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); and Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006).

[65] See Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978). For essential works on the U.S. and the Middle East, see Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The U.S. and the Middle East since 1945, 3rd ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, & U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945, Updated edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); and Matthew F. Jacobs, Imagining the Middle East: The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). See also the historiography described in Douglas Little, “Impatient Crusaders: The Making of America’s Informal Empire in the Middle East,” in America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations since 1941, ed. Frank Costigliola and Michael J. Hogan, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 212-235.

[66] Ussama Makdisi, “After Said: The Limits and Possibilities of a Critical Scholarship of U.S.-Arab Relations,” Diplomatic History 38 (June 2014): 659.

[67] See Sarah T. Phillips, This Land, This Nation: Conservation, Rural America, and the New Deal (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Nick Cullather, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle Against Poverty in Asia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010); and David Ekbladh, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

[68] The essential work remains Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007). But see also The Regional Cold Wars in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East: Crucial Periods and Turning Points, ed. Lorenz M. Lüthi (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center/Stanford University Press, 2015); and Heonik Kwon, The Other Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

[69] Important inspiration on this theme came from Robert Vitalis, America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).

[70] Ussama Makdisi, “Ottoman Orientalism,” American Historical Review 107 (June 2002): 768-796.

[71] See, for instance, Laleh Khalili, “The Location of Palestine in Global Counterinsurgencies,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 42 (August 2010): 413-433; Outside In: The Transnational Circuitry of U.S. History, ed. Andrew Preston and Doug Rossinow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); and Michael Farquhar, Circuits of Faith: Migration, Education, and the Wahhabi Mission (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

[72] Begüm Adalet, Hotels and Highways: The Construction of Modernization Theory in Cold War Turkey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming); Perin E. Gürel, The Limits of Westernization: A Cultural History of America in Turkey (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017); Nicholas Danforth, “Multi-purpose Empire: Ottoman History in Republican Turkey,” Middle Eastern Studies 50 (July 2014): 655-678, and “Malleable Modernity: Rethinking the Role of Ideology in American Policy, Aid Programs, and Propaganda in Fifties’ Turkey,” Diplomatic History 39 (June 2015): 477-503.

[73] See Edgar J. Dosman, The Life and Times of Raul Prebisch, 1901-1986 (Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008). See also Sylvia Maxfield and James H. Nolt, “Protectionism and the Internationalization of Capital: U.S. Sponsorship of Import Substitution Industrialization in the Philippines, Turkey, and Argentina,” International Studies Quarterly 34 (March 1990): 49-81.

[74] Christopher R.W. Dietrich, Oil Revolution: Anticolonial Elites, Sovereign Rights, and the Economic Culture of Decolonization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

[75] Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle over Third World Industrialization, 1945-1956 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), and “Semi-Peripheral Countries and the Invention of the ‘Third World,’ 1955-65,” Third World Quarterly 35:9 (2014): 1547-1565.

[76] Matthew Connelly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), and “Our Own Special Brand of Socialism: Algeria and the Contest of Modernities in the 1960s,” Diplomatic History 33 (June 2009): 427-447. On the Panthers in Algeria, see Sean L. Malloy, Out of Oakland: Black Panther Party Internationalism during the Cold War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017), 130-160. See also Todd Shepard, The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006).

[77] On the American University of Beirut and the American University in Cairo, see Khalil, America’s Dream Palace, chapter 4; Heather Sharkey, American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013); and Betty S. Anderson, American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014).

[78] Michael Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 186-220.

[79] See Najib Alamuddin, The Flying Sheikh (London: Quartet Books, 1987). Thanks to Hicham Safieddine for this reference.

[80] Waleed Hazbun, “Jet Set Frontiers: Tourism, Hijackings, Petrodollars, and the Politics of Aeromobility from Beirut to the Gulf,” paper presented at SOAS University of London, October 2015. Thanks to Waleed Hazbun for sharing his paper.

[81] See Marc Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East (New York: PublicAffairs, 2016).

[82] Nicole Sackley, “Village Models: Etawah, India, and the Making and Remaking of Development in the Early Cold War,” Diplomatic History 37 (September 2013): 749-778.

[83] Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2011); and Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). On the 1970s in U.S.-Arab relations, see Salim Yaqub, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). See also Daniel J. Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[84] Martin Klimke, The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United State in the Global Sixties (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

[85] Paul Thomas Chamberlin, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965-1976 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). See also Karma Nabulsi and Abdel Razzaq Takriti, The Palestinian Revolution, 2016, http://learnpalestine.politics.ox.ac.uk.

[86] Cyrus Schayegh, “The Many Worlds of ‘Abud Yasin; or, What Narcotics Trafficking in the Interwar Middle East Can Tell Us about Territorialization,” American Historical Review 116 (April 2011): 273-306, and “1958 Reconsidered: State Formation and the Cold War in the Early Postcolonial Arab Middle East,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 45 (August 2013): 421-443.

[87] Cyrus Schayegh, The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017), 2, 20.

[88] See Ussama Makdisi, Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008).

[89] Schayegh, The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World, 91.

[90] Timothy Nunan, Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Guy Laron, The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

[91] See, for instance, Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past, ed. Marilyn B. Young and Lloyd C. Gardner (New York: The New Press, 2007); Lloyd C. Gardner, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II (New York: The New Press, 2009); and Andrew J. Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (New York: Random House, 2016).

[92] See Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); and Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860-1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).