From the Editors
The New York Times says Jadaliyya "Brings New Life to Arab Studies." Read about it by clicking here.
Contesting Narratives, Locating Power (Lund Conference)
In March 2011, as President Obama’s security advisers gathered in the White House
Situation Room to brief him on the possible use of military force in Libya, “the mullahs in Tehran” were a main concern. The NYT reported that “every decision—from Libya to Yemen to Bahrain to Syria—is being examined under the prism of how it will affect...the dominating calculus in the Obama administration’s regional strategy...,” that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A dominant paradigm in US national security circles, the media, think tanks, and the academy views the Arab Spring through a refracted lens that sees Iran as ascendant, Iran as meddling, Iran as reorganizing Middle East politics along sectarian divides. How did this view come to hold such sway over analysts—even as it elides complex histories, neglects significant political economic factors, erases the contours of power and resistance in the very diverse revolutionary movements currently underway across the Middle East? Understanding the roots and legacy of this paradigm, I argue, should be part of our overall teaching of the revolutions in the Middle East. It can be a powerful moment for teaching students on the imbricated nature of power and knowledge. What I argue for is a pedagogical approach that traces the genealogy of ideas that undergird US foreign policy on the Middle East.
The production of knowledge on the Middle East and U.S. policy on the region became increasingly entwined in the Bush years. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were carefully messaged through a nexus of influence in the media, think tanks and the administration. Middle East experts who appeared in the media, wrote editorials in leading newspapers, published influential books, and issued policy briefs at think tanks often reflected the Bush administration’s views. Countervailing arguments were systematically silenced and sidelined. My paper traces the history of neo-conservative involvement in shaping US foreign policy from the 1970s through the Bush years. I argue that the “war on terror” continues to skew US foreign policy analysis on the Middle East—with sectarianism and an ascendant Iran as key pillars of this narrative.
Following the 9/11 attacks, two books became bestsellers: the Quran and Bernard Lewis’s What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. Lewis’s book offered a compelling and brief narrative of Islamic decline that fuelled terrorist rage and hatred of the West. Lewis’ success continues to affect the field. Simple and evocative explanations of regional politics can result in profitable book deals, regular media appearances, and U.S. government consultancies. Increasingly, historical, political, and economic analyses of the region have become subsumed under monolithic Islamic explanations.
As the US’ war in Iraq went badly, highlighting sectarian narratives of regional politics allowed analysts to focus on what went wrong after the US invasion, rather than questioning the very validity of the war on terror itself. Pointing to Iran as the progenitor of Iraqi sectarianism further cleansed the Bush administration’s culpability for the aftermath of its war. Increasingly, for some analysts, Bernard Lewis’s question “what went wrong with Islam” seemed to shift to what went wrong with Shia Islam.
The sectarian argument led to another conclusion embraced by staunch critics and supporters of the Bush administration alike: the real victor of the U.S.’ wars was Iran. The rising spectre of an ascendant Iran—and a menacing Shiite crescent—became prominent and enduring themes in regional analysis, a leitmotif in Wikileaks documents of US government officials discussions with some regional leaders, and a decisive factor in determining the Obama administration’s policies on opposition movements across the Middle East.
Jad NavigationView Full Map, Topics, and Countries »
Jadalicious / جدلشس
- Djerba, Tunisia: Garbage Disposal, the Environmental Crisis, and the Awakening of Ecoconsciousness
- إعادة ابتكار فلسطين: السينما من أجل السلام في جنين
- الجزائر تلقي الحجاب
- Focus sur le Mali, troisième partie: Une périlleuse démonstration de force de l'ancienne puissance coloniale
- Arrested Bedoon Activist Goes on Hunger Strike
The Diaspora, Debt, and Dollarization: Unraveling Lebanon’s Resilience to a Sovereign Debt Crisis https://t.co/Fn8tz15XHt
16 hours ago
روزا ياسين حسن: في العلاقة الشائكة بين التاريخ والتطرف https://t.co/zSOWmbghDa
17 hours ago
Anthropologists Speak Out for Justice in Palestine https://t.co/pxCO5sUZsq
19 hours ago
نارين ديركي: يكفيني أن ألمس ورقة خضراء حتى أرى https://t.co/Xx0YwmNRn0
on Monday 23 November at 03:26 PM
RT @StatusHour: STATUS/الوضع: Issue 2.3 is Live! Celebrating Our One-Year Anniversary https://t.co/acl26mIFuA
on Monday 23 November at 01:43 PM
Latest EntriesView All Entries »
- The Diaspora, Debt, and Dollarization: Unraveling Lebanon’s Resilience to a Sovereign Debt Crisis
- في العلاقة الشائكة بين التاريخ والتطرّف
- New Texts Out Now: Safinaz El Tarouty, Businessmen, Clientelism, and Authoritarianism in Egypt
- Anthropologists Speak Out for Justice in Palestine
- STATUS/الوضع: Issue 2.3 is Live! Celebrating Our One-Year Anniversary
- يكفيني أن ألمس ورقة خضراء حتى أرى
- Egypt Media Roundup (November 23)
- عصفورية إلى الأبد
- Affirming the Rights of Students to Organize, Protest, and Resist (City University of New York)
- Terror Everywhere, Humanity Nowhere
- الجلبي، عبد الرزاق عبد الواحد: سجال ما بعد الديكتاتور
- القصائدُ قرودٌ؛ هكذا كلّ واقعٍ في عين أمّه غزال
- Palestine Media Roundup (November 12 - 18)
- Turkey Could Cut Off the Islamic State’s Supply Lines. So Why Doesn’t It?
- ASI At MESA! Visit Us at Booths 20-21 and Join our Political Economy Project Reception
- Filming Revolution: An Interview with Alisa Lebow
- The Absence of Contemporary Literature in Egypt’s Education System
- عن العمارة ونهاياتها
- Arab Studies Journal Announces Fall 2015 Issue
- New Texts Out Now: Jeanette S. Jouili, Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe