Poslední úprava: doc. PhDr. Jiří Vykoukal, CSc. (08.06.2016)
American Foreign Policy and the "Arab Spring"
Instructor: Dr. Anna Viden
Office Hours: Tuesdays 14-16
Target audience: MA-students and advanced BA-students who wish to gain a better understanding of U.S. Middle East Policies.
This course, which takes an International Relations perspective, aims to provide the conceptual tools and the historical background necessary to help you understand the current U.S. foreign policies with regards to the "Arab Spring" (or the "Arab Awakenings", which is a more correct term). More specifically, we seek to make sense of the initial reluctance of the Obama administration during its first term to embrace the demands for regime change in the authoritarian regimes of the MENA-region. Additionally, we will try to understand the rationale behind the Obama administration’s unwillingness during its second term to intervene more forcefully in the Syrian conflict and to take a clear stance against the military regime’s repressive measures against political opponents in Egypt. Lately, the Obama administration is desperately seeking to find a strategy in regards to ISIS (or ISIL) that the war-fatigued American public can accept. In relation to these developments, we can observe modifications in the Obama administrations Syrian policy as it is considering boosting the Syrian rebels’ military capacity in order to push back ISIS. Some analysts are even suggesting that the Obama administration might consider cooperating with Bashir Assad in this endeavor-obviously a tremendously controversial proposition.
The Obama administration’s contradictory positions with regards to the Arab Awakenings and the situation in Syria and Egypt in particular, are illustrations of the inherent tensions between values and interests which historically have characterized U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Why has theUnited Stateswhich represents itself as a beacon of liberty and democracy supported autocratic regimes such asSaudi Arabia,Egypt,JordanandMorocco? Why has theUnited Statessupported the status quo of these regimes despite apparent human rights abuses, and lack of political and religious freedoms? How has theUnited Statesjustified the support of these regimes to the American public and to the outside world? Why does theUnited Statesseem to fear the transition to democracy in countries such asTunisia,Egypt,Yemen,Libya,BahrainandSyria? What are the perceptions of Islam and its compatibility with democracy amongU.S.decision makers and the American public? How doU.S.policy-makers negotiate between the perceived and real threats posed toU.S.national security interests by Islamic extremists on the one hand and the objective to promote freedom and democracy on the other? Is it realistic to assume that the Arab Awakenings will force theU.S.to finally address the tensions between values and interests which is manifest in itsMideastpolicies? These questions and other related issues will be addressed in this course.
However, in order to understand the rationale behind U.S. Middle East policies it is necessary to explore why the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf in particular, has been of central importance to the United States since the mid-1940s. Additionally, it is essential to take into account overarching geopolitical paradigms and frames such as the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Post-Cold War and the War on Terror, which directly have influenced U.S. foreign policy makers. This means that this course will have historical as well as current IR and-foreign policy analysis components. Some of the central concepts and theories which will be addressed in this course are realism, idealism, isolationism, interests and values, democracy promotion, American exceptionalism, benevolent hegemony, political Islam and Islamic extremism.
Required Literature: You are not required to buy any specific literature for this course. The course literature (scholarly articles, newspaper and magazine articles, book excerpts, think-tank reports, and copies of primary documents) will be posted to SIS prior to our class meetings. News reels and films (both documentary and cinematographic) will also be used as course material.
Final exam 70%
Your knowledge of the course material will be tested in a 24-hour take-home exam. The exam will consist of 10 short definitional questions and one longer essay question which you will be able to choose from a list of topics.
You will be graded on your active participation in class. Participation is mandatory, which means that absence will only be accepted if deemed justified (illness, family emergency etc.). It is your responsibility to consult with me in advance if you are unable to participate in any class-session. Active participation means active participation in class discussions. You will also be asked to present a portion of the readings to the class as a whole.
How to make the most of the class:
I expect you to be punctual and to come prepared to the class meetings. You are also expected to follow the current events in the Middle East and the concurrent debates taking place in the United States in relation to these events. These debates take place on TV, in newspapers, in scholarly reviews, in magazines, at the websites of think tanks, on blogs and on the radio. Your knowledge about the events and the debates will be tested in the final exam. You are also expected to actively participate in class activities and class discussions. Use of cell-phones and social websites such as Facebook, twitter and messenger will not be accepted in class. Ample instructions will be given in advance for this exercise.
Week 1: Thursday October 2: Course Introduction
Presentation of syllabus: Outline of the course, goals, expectations, and assignments.
Short discussion of the Arab Uprisings (why, how and where did they start?) and of the initial reaction of the Obama Administration to these events?
Readings: Blake Hounshell. "What will the U.S. do about Egypt?" Foreign Policy, January 25, 2011. Accessed September 19, 2014. Accessible at
Week 2: Thursday October 9: The Discourse on Benevolent Hegemony
This class will focus on the discourse on benevolent hegemony employed by the United States to justify its expansion in the Middle East after 1945. You will watch a "propaganda movie" (Desert Venture) from 1948 where this discourse is frequently used.
Readings: Melani McAlister. "Introduction", in Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945-2000. Berkeley University of California Press (2001), 2005, 1-8.
"The Moment of NSC-68", in Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945-2000. Berkeley: University of California Press (2001), 2005, 47-60.
Week 3: Thursday October 16: The Influence of Oil on U.S. Mideast Policy
We will explore the influence of oil on U.S. Mideast policy and specifically focus on how U.S. oil interest has played into the conflict between interests and values. In order to do so we will examine the debate provoked in the United States by King Saud’s visit to the United States in January 1957. We will also discuss the negative reactions provoked by the Saudi oil workers’ strikes against ARAMCO’s discriminatory labor policies in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s.
"An Islamic Pope" in Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, 61-77.
Nathan, J., Citino, "Saudi Arabia and the Anglo-American "Postwar Petroleum Order", in From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa’ud, and the Making of U.S.-Saudi Relations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, 1-17.
Little, Douglas. "A Tale of Four Doctrines: U.S. National Security, the Soviet Threat, and the Middle East", in American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2008.p117-157.
Week 4: Thursday October 23: The Influence of Oil on U.S. Mideast Policy
We will continue to explore the role of oil in U.S. Mideast Policies. We will focus on a watershed event- the 1973 oil embargo- and how it has affected future U.S. - Middle East relations.
Miles Ignotius. "Seizing Arab Oil". Harper's Magazine, mars 1975.
"Memo from the President’s file: from Henry Kissinger, Meeting with the Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi," July 24, 1973, 10:43 a.m.-12:35 p.m., Nixon National Security Files, Mandatory Review Release, Nov. 2007, National Security Archives.
Andrew Higgins. "In Quest for Energy Security". Wall Street Journal. February 4, 2004.
Week 5: Thursday October 30: The Image of Arabs, Muslims and Islam among U.S. Policy-makers, U.S. Media and the American public
Wewill examine representations of Arabs, Muslims and Islam among U.S. policy-makers, U.S. media and the American public. We will discuss concepts such as Orientalism, political Islam and Islamic extremism.
Bernard Lewis. "The Return of Islam". Commentary. January, 1976, vol. 61, p. 39-52.
Week 6: Thursday November 6: U.S. Mideast Policy and Political Islam
We will continue to explore U.S. Mideast policy and Political Islam.
Fawaz Gerges, Islam and Muslims in the Mind of America", in America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures: Clash of Interests? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.p. 37-55.
"The Intellectual Context of American Foreign Policy", in America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures: Clash of Interests? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.p. 20-35.
"Framing American Foreign Policy", in America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures: Clash of Interests? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.p. 1-11.
"The Carter, Reagan and Bush Administrations’ approach to Islamists", in America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures: Clash of Interests? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.p. 59-83.
Mohammed Ayoob. "Political Islam: Image and Reality". World Policy Journal, Vol. 1. No 3. (Fall, 2004), pp. 1-14). Accessed September 19, 2014. Accessible at
Week 7: Thursday November 13 U.S. Mideast Policy and the Arab Uprisings
We will discuss the U.S. response to the Arab Uprisings and specifically focus on the apparent conflict between interests and values present in this response. We will also investigate the domestic and external constraints on U.S. Mideast policies and discuss if the Obama administration’s policies are different in this regard from past policies.
Martin S. Indyk, Kenneth G. Lieberthal, Michael O’Hanlon. "The Arab Awakenings", in Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2012, 141-184.
Week 8: Thursday 20: U.S. Policy responses to the Tunisian and the Egyptian Uprisings
Jason Brownlee. "Introduction", in Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp.1-14.
Oz Hassan. "Introduction" in Constructing America’s Freedom Agenda for the Middle East: Democracy and Domination. Abingdon Routledge, 2011, pp.1-10
"American Interests and a history of promoting the status quo" in Constructing America’s Freedom Agenda for the Middle East: Democracy and Domination. Abingdon Routledge, 2011, pp. 11-29.
Week 9: November 27: The Obama administration’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
Week 10: December 4: U.S. Policy responses to the Uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen
Week 11: December 11: U.S. Policy responses to the Syrian Uprisings.
Week 12: December 18: Course wrap-up: Discussion
Recommended Literature for the course:
International Relations and the Middle East
Fred Halliday. The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology.New York:CambridgeUniversity Press, 2005.
Gregory Gause. The International Relations of the Persian Gulf.New York:CambridgeUniversity Press, 2010.
U.S. - Mideast Relations; U.S. Middle East Policies
Little, Douglas. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapel Hill: TheUniversity ofNorth Carolina Press, 2008.
Citino J, Nathan. From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa’ud, and the Making of U.S.-Saudi Relations. Bloomington:IndianaUniversity Press, 2002.
Vitalis, Robert. America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier.London: Verso, 2009.
Rachel Bronson. Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia. New York:OxfordUniversity Press, 2006.
Nicholas Burns, Jonathan Price, Joseph A. Nye, Brent Scowcroft. The Arab Revolutions and American Policy. The Aspen Institute, 2013.
U.S. Perceptions of the Middle East
Melani McAlister. Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945-2000.Berkeley:University ofCalifornia Press, 2001.
Lockman, Zachary. Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press (2004), 2010.
Edward W. Said. Orientalism: Western Conception of the Orient. London: Penguin Books (1978), 1995.
Vitalis, Robert. America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier.London: Verso, 2009.
U.S. Perceptions of Islam, Arabs and Muslims
Mohammed Ayoob. The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World. The University ofMichigan Press (2008) 2011. 3
Fred Halliday. Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd (1996), 2003.
John L., Esposito & Dalia Mogahed. Who Speaks for Islam? : What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York:Gallup Press, 2007.
Shibley Telhami. The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East. New York, Basic Books, 2013.
The Arab Uprisings
Fawaz A. Gerges. Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Tariq Ramadan. Islam and the Arab Awakening. New York:OxfordUniversity Press, 2012.
Marc Lynch. The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the Middle East.New York: Public Affairs, 2012.
Jean-Pierre Filiu. The Arab Revolution: Ten Lessons from the Democratic Uprising. New York:OxfordUniversity Press, 2012.
Sectarianism and the Arab Uprisings
Frederic M. Wehrey. Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings.New York:ColumbiaUniversity Press, 2014.