Gilbert Schramm: Where we are in the Middle East

Introduction:  An overview of issues related to the Middle East. 60 minutes


East meets West (30 minutes)
A brief review of the troubled history of the long relationship between Europe and the Muslim world and the way the Islam is represented in misleading ways by Western academics, politicians, and media.


American Firsts (30 minutes)
Early US encounters with the Middle East from 1780-1920 are discussed, with special emphasis on America’s first war, US missionary activity in the Middle East and America’s role in the peace settlement after World War One (also known as the “peace to end all peace.”


Nationalism, Imperialism and WWII (30 minutes)
This discussion focuses on the European notion of the “nation” and nationalism. We go on to touch on 19th century European imperialism as a feature of nationalism. We then move to the rise of US global power, and how America’s experience in WWII, especially the holocaust, helped shape American views of the region.


American Power and Arab Independence (30 minutes)
We begin with a brief review of the region in 1945 and the problems of post-colonialism and move on to discuss markets, oil, Israel, and how the US fixation on the Cold War and communism helped create some of today’s problems in the region. We conclude with a few more observations on “the Clash of Civilizations.”


A Short Talk about Sources (30 minutes) We take a short break to talk about the sources we are using—books, websites, films, etc., and to regroup before we go on to a country by country tour of hot spots in the region. A few observations on the durability of “Orientalist” stereotypes conclude the session.


Afghanistan: War Without Winners—Background Culture and History (30 minutes)
This talk centers around the British legacy of the 19th century, efforts at modernization, and the rejection of modernism, from about 1750 to 1979.


Afghanistan: Russian Invasion and Mujahedeen resistance (30 minutes) In this episode, we back track a little to explore the evolution of the Mujahedeen in the refuge camps of Pakistan and go on to discuss resistance to Russian occupation.


Afghanistan: Rise of the Taliban and US Invasion (30 minutes)
Here we discuss the nature of the Taliban and the post 9/11 US invasion: the premises it was based on and reasons why it has failed to stabilize or bring peace to Afghanistan.


Afghanistan: Blind Spots and Blinkers (30 minutes)
This episode reviews the various lessons of our Afghan adventure, using the intercultural research presented earlier to catalogue the long list of ethnocentric assumptions and culturally conditioned mistakes that led to our current situation in the country.


Iran 1: Putting Down Democracy (30 minutes)
After a brief background starting in the 19th century, the focus here is on the democratic revival, the 1954 US coup against Mossadegh, the rise and fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Republic in 1979.


Iran 2: Shia Revival (30 minutes)
We discuss some key features of Iran’s Shia version of Islam and some of its implications for Iranian politics and social structure, before going on to talk about the revolution of 1979.


Iran 3: Who Did What to Whom? (30 minutes)
Here we concentrate on the 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran and America’s attempts to demonize the Iranian regime.


Iran 4: Nuclear or Not? (30 minutes)
The merits of the JCPOA (the Iran Nuclear Deal) and the history of Iran’s peaceful Nuclear
program and the many false charges surrounding the alleged existence of a secret weapons program are reviewed.


Iran 5: Conclusions (30 minutes)
The various reasons for America’s aggressive policy towards Iran are reviewed and a more balanced perspective on the regime is presented.


Iraq 1: The Rise of Saddam Hussein (30 minutes)
The British legacy in Iraq is reviewed and some general points about the Arab core
States (Egypt, Syria, and Iraq) are made. Saddam’s rise to power and the Iraq-Iran war are covered.