Many people think that Jewish lobbying, pressure and influence dragged a reluctant Uncle Sam into the Middle East. Think again.
Now it's true that American opposition to Zionism has a long and distinguished pedigree. In the 19th century, American missionaries built a network of colleges and hospitals across what was then the Ottoman Empire and what today we call the Middle East. The missionaries and their students helped develop modern secular Arab nationalism. The idea was that if Arabs stopped thinking of themselves as Muslims and Christians, but developed a communal inter-religious identity, this would allow Christian Arabs to play a larger role in political life and, the missionaries hoped, one day open the doors to present the gospel to the Muslims. Many of the great leaders of Arab secular nationalism, including the (French-educated) Michel Aflaq, founder of the Ba'ath Party that once ruled Iraq and still rules Syria and whose beautiful tomb in Baghdad (at right) was built by Saddam Hussein, were Arabs of Christian origin.