In New Book, Former Council Fellow Warren Bass Analyzes Pivotal Moment in America’s Middle East Policy and How it Shaped the Modern Middle East

In New Book, Former Council Fellow Warren Bass Analyzes Pivotal Moment in America’s Middle East Policy and How it Shaped the Modern Middle East

June 2, 2003 12:10 pm (EST)

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June 2, 2003 - They were three of the most memorable figures of the twentieth century: David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s indomitable founding father; Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, the charismatic Arab nationalist; and the young and dynamic John F. Kennedy. In his timely new book, Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance, Middle East expert Warren Bass illuminates these three extraordinary men and their diplomatic struggles at the height of the Cold War, offering striking new insights into the origins of today’s Middle East.

The Kennedy period, Bass writes, was no “mere place-marker between Suez and the Six Day War, between the martial frostiness of Dwight Eisenhower and the Texan warmth of Lyndon Johnson.” He shows how Kennedy sought greater influence in the Arab world, offering more foreign aid and a new diplomatic overture to Nasser, the Arab world’s leading radical.

Bass’s analysis traces the political maneuvering that brought U.S-Israel relations to their current warmth. Initially, Kennedy and Nasser engaged in a rich personal correspondence. But when Nasser intervened in Yemen’s civil war, Kennedy countered by deploying fighter jets to Saudi Arabia as a warning to Egypt. Meanwhile, Kennedy made the first major U.S. arms sale to Israel --a crucial policy shift that marks the origins of America’s alliance with the Jewish state. The support came with a caveat, however; Kennedy insisted that Israel open its nuclear weapons program to U.S. inspectors, a demand that led to a grave confrontation.

Drawing on meticulous research, Warren Bass paints a fresh, elegant portrait of a presidency critical to the foundation of the Middle East as we now know it.

“Exceedingly well told...[Bass] has written a superb book— one that a scholarly and more general audience will find fascinating and useful for understanding some of today’s realities.”

--Dennis Ross, Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“Warren Bass has written a first-rate book. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of America’s current ties to Israel and dilemmas in trying to resolve the tensions that plague the Middle East. General readers as well as specialists will enjoy and profit from this important study.”

--Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

“Warren Bass is a wonderful writer with an eye for the telling quotation and the perfect anecdote. The years he covers in this intelligent, engaging book are important and unexplored. His conclusions are clarifying and useful as we look at the Middle East today. All in all, this is a work of history that scholars, students, and citizens will greatly enjoy.”

--Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International, and author of The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy At Home and Abroad

“Warren Bass delivers a gripping account of how a chilly U.S.-Israeli relationship was transformed during the Kennedy presidency into today’s full-blown alliance. Bass illuminates Kennedy’s chess-like efforts to adequately arm the Israelis and maintain rapport with the Arabs while keeping the Soviets out, the Suez Canal open, and the oil flowing. Bass’s gracefully written analysis is filled with insights that make this an important and exciting work of history.”

--James F. Hoge, Jr., Editor, Foreign Affairs

“Elegantly written, perceptive, and timely. His analysis of a crucial moment in the region’s history, and of America’s relationship to it, will be of value to anyone wishing to understand many of our current dilemmas.”

--Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History, Columbia University, and author of Liberalism and Its Discontents

Warren Bass finished this book as a Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy and Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, The Jerusalem Report, and Slate. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and is a former Associate Editor of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Bass lives in Washington, D.C., and currently serves on the professional staff of the 9/11 Commission.

Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israeli Alliance, a Council on Foreign Relations book published by Oxford University Press.

The Council on Foreign Relations is dedicated to increasing America’s understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy. The Council accomplishes this mainly by promoting constructive debates, clarifying world issues, producing reports, and publishing Foreign Affairs, the leading journal on global issues.

Marie Strauss, Communications, Council on Foreign Relations, (212) 434-9536
Sara Leopold, Director of Publicity, Oxford University Press, (212) 726-6032

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