America and the Middle East – Course by Dr. Avi Spiegel


America and the Middle East

POLS 594-01

 Dr. Avi Spiegel

Fall 2012

Office: KIPJ 273

The Middle East has changed more in the last year than it has in the last fifty.  And as the Middle East changes, so will America’s policies toward it.  Rooted in the study of international relations and foreign policy decision-making, this class will examine the past, present and future of US relations with this contested and dynamic region.


This graduate seminar is designed around one straightforward, yet multilayered dilemma:

What forces, influences, and interests shape American foreign policy toward the Middle East?  We will tackle head on reigning theories and hollow assumptions regarding US relations with the Middle East.


Issues relating to the Middle East continually capture the imagination and the attention of US foreign policy makers: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a potential conflict with Iran, military interventions in Libya and possibly Syria, democratization and the Arab Spring, US military presence in the Middle East, terrorism in a post 9/11 era, and the list goes on.


This class is not simply about the Middle East.  It is about America’s long, complex, and ongoing relationship with it.  It is about attempting to understand and critically engage the role the United States has played and will continue to play in the future of the region.


Learning Outcomes:


Upon completion of this course, successful students will be able to:


  • Distinguish among the major theories and explanations of American Foreign policy toward the Middle East
  • Identify important concepts and issue areas in the relationship between the United States and the Middle East
  • Construct and evaluate analytical arguments and write clear logical prose about topics relating to American foreign policy toward the Middle East
  • Identify and gather information from credible primary and secondary sources.
  • Develop political competence and a theoretical and practical understanding of the value of active participation in politics and global citizenship






1. Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

2. Marc Lynch, The Arab Uprisings, 2012


3. Electronic Course Reader, Available on Course Blackboard Page

All readings listed in the syllabus — not in the assigned books — are available on our Blackboard Page at


***All assignments, exam reviews, and readings (other than books) will be posted on our Blackboard course page.  It is critical that you familiarize yourself with this page.  Each reading is listed online by WEEK AND BY LAST NAME OF THE AUTHOR.



Grading and Critical Dates


  • 20% Midterm Exam (November 9)


  • 10% Book Review Assignment (Due on date you present; sign up for date on 9/14)


  • 10% Class Project (Due November 30)


  • 20% Final Exam (Dec 21: 5-7pm)


  • 20% Final Paper (Due in class at your final exam)


  • 20% Participation (Attendance and active engagement in classroom discussions – see below for more information)



General Points and Expectations


Throughout the course of this semester, you will be expected to:


1) Attend class, arriving on time.  More than one unexcused absence (in which your absence is not cleared with a note from the dean’s office) during the course of the semester will result in a zero grade for participation.  Arriving late is disrespectful to your fellow classmates and disrupts the class.  Being late more than twice may result in a lowered participation grade.


2) Participate actively in classroom discussions.  Every class, I will call on students at random and without prior notice to test your ability to understand, analyze, defend, and/or criticize the issues and questions of the day.  This is why it is imperative that you come to class prepared – and have read all the assigned readings that are listed on the class date before coming to class.  Both your understanding of the material and your grade will depend on it.  If I call on you and you are not prepared to participate, you may pass by saying “pass.”  The first pass is free, but any additional passes will significantly lower your participation grade.  Your participation grade will be based on your engagement in class discussions and debates, your performance when called upon, and how well you critically engage with the material.


3) Be aware of course and exam expectations.  Class sessions will not simply regurgitate the readings, but will rather build on them.  Instruction will be dialogical, experiential and shared: learning will be active, not passive.  Indeed, our class sessions will consist of a dynamic and vibrant mix of lecture, debate, and discussion.  Exams will be based both on readings and on classroom lectures (even if we don’t directly engage with a particular reading in class).  In short, anything covered in class may appear on the exam and anything covered in the readings may appear on the exam regardless of whether it was specifically discussed in class.


4) Turn assignments in—during the class meeting time—on the dates specified.  Late assignments will simply not be accepted (except when accompanied by note from the Dean’s Office.)


NOTE: There will be no make-up exams, nor will anyone be allowed to take any of the exams, including the final, at a time other than the scheduled date and time.


5) Abide strictly by the academic integrity rules established by the university (See  Infractions will most likely result in a failing grade.


6) Inform me if you require any academic accommodation (See


7) Recognize that the syllabus is a working document.  It is subject to change and amendment.  I will at times during the semester ask you to complete additional assignments, depending on ongoing developments around the world and within the class itself.


8) Engage respectfully with your fellow classmates.  This includes: not using cell phones (in any way — to talk or text); and not reading or perusing materials from outside the class during class.  Using a cell phone more than once in class will result in a significantly lowered participation grade.  Also, please note that laptops, netbooks or any other electronic computerized devices are not permitted in class.


10) Recognize that your professor is here to help.  If you are having difficulty understanding the material or have any questions or concerns in general, I am here to help you.  Visit my office hours or email me.  If the office hours don’t work with your schedule for any reason, email me to set up a different time.  I may not respond immediately to your emails, but I will always respond.


NOTE: To ensure that I see the email in a timely fashion, when sending an email to me, use this as a subject line:

(Class): (Subject)

For example:

POLS 594-01: Question on Assignment





Introduction: America and the Middle East


No readings



Models of Foreign Policy Decision Making

1) Graham Allison, “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review, 1969

2) Steve A. Yetiv. “The Iraq War of 2003: Why did the United States Decide to Invade?” in The Middle East and the United States.


3) David Mitchell and Tansa George Massoud, “Anatomy of Failure: Bush’s Decision-Making Process and the Iraq War,” Foreign Policy Analysis.

4) Howard J. Wiarda, “Beyond the Pale: the Bureaucratic Politics of United States Policy in Mexico,” 2000

5) Janice Gross Stein, “Foreign policy decision-making: rational, psychological, and neurological models,” in Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors and Cases.



America and the Middle East: A Complex History.  Two Cases.


1) David McCullough, Truman, Chapter 13: “The Heat in the Kitchen”


2) Steven Spiegel, The Other Arab Israeli Conflict, Chapters on Harry Truman.


3) Nilay Saiya, “The U.S. Recognition of Israel:  A Bureaucratic Politics Model Analysis”


4) Ronald Bruce St. John, “Libya and the United States: A Faustian Pact?” Middle East Journal

5) Robert F. Worth, “The Surreal Ruins of Qaddafi’s Never-Never Land,” The New York Times





Iraq War of 2003 and Foreign Policy Decision Making


1) James Pfiffner, “Decision Making, Intelligence and the Iraq War,” Intelligence and National Security Policymaking on Iraq: British and American Perspectives, 2008.


2) James Pfiffner, “Policy Making in the Bush White House,” Brookings Institution, 2008


3) “The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States,” 2004.


4) Bob Woodward, “Behind Diplomatic Moves, Military Plan was Launched,” Washington Post, April 18, 2004


5) Declassified “Talking points for the Rumsfeld-General Franks meeting on November 27, 2001”


6) Declassified U.S. Defense Department Memo from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, “Iraq,” July 27, 2001.


7) Interview with Bob Woodward, PBS Transcript



Does Oil Drive US Policy Toward the Middle East?


1) Rachel Bronson, Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia (Excerpts)


2) Robert Vitalis, America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Excerpts)


3) Daniel W. Drezner, “Oil Dependence As Virtue,” October 30, 2008


4) Gal Luft, “America’s oil dependence and its implications for U.S. Middle East policy,” Congressional Testimony, October 20, 2005


5) Amy Myers Jaffe, “United States and the Middle East: Policies and Dilemmas”












Domestic Politics: The Israel Lobby and the Pro-Israel Vote

1) John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby,” London Review of Books, 2007

2) Alan Dershowitz, Response to Walt Mearsheimer, 2007


3) Walter Russell Mead, “Jerusalem Syndrome: Decoding The Israel Lobby,” Foreign Affairs, 2007


4) Walter Russell Mead, “The New Israel and the Old,” Foreign Affairs 2008

5) Walt, Stephen M. “What Osama Bin Laden didn’t understand about The Israel Lobby.” Foreign Policy, 2009



10/19: USD Fall Holiday


****Be sure to watch the Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy on 10/22 from 6-7:30-pm PST.  We will discuss in class.




Terrorism and Bureaucratic and Organizational Politics: 9/11, the CIA, and the FBI


1) Amy B. Zegart, Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Excerpts)


2) Robert Baer, “A Dagger to the CIA,” 2012


3) Lawrence Wright, “The Agent: Did the C.I.A. stop an F.B.I. detective from preventing 9/11?” 2006


4) Lawrence Wright, “The Counterterrorist: John O’Neill was an F.B.I. agent with an obsession: the growing threat of Al Qaeda, 2002













The United States and Iran: A Complicated Past, An Unknown Future


Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (entire book)




The Next War in the Middle East? The United States and the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Programs


Dossier on Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program




Syria: Should the United States Intervene in Syria?


Dossier on Syrian human rights abuses and the responsibility to protect.




America and the Middle East: What does the new Middle East Mean for the United States?



Dossier on the US and Political Islam


Noah Feldman, After Jihad, 2002 (entire book)


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