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The Lost Peace: Great Power Politics and the Arab-Israeli Problem, 1967-1979


In the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War, both the United States and the Soviet Union had powerful incentives to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute. With each superpower concerned that the conflict’s continuation would jeopardize its regional interests and, more significantly, worried that it could ultimately lead to a direct U.S.-Soviet confrontation that might conceivably escalate to the nuclear level, strategists in Washington and Moscow were intensely interested in solving the problem via negotiation. Moreover, the superpowers wielded substantial influence with the parties to the dispute. From a power political standpoint, thus, one would expect that the two sides would have cooperated to settle the matter. Yet, in the end, precisely the opposite occurred. This deeply puzzling outcome is the heart of this dissertation; in its simplest terms, my goal is to show what prevented Washington and Moscow from working together to solve the Arab-Israeli problem and, in so doing, I use the Middle East as a window to explain what drove the continuation of the Cold War as a time when a lessening of superpower tensions seemed possible. Utilizing a mass of primary source—and especially archival—evidence, I show that this result was primarily attributable to two variables. First, American domestic political factors consistently constrained U.S. decision-makers in their formulation of Middle East policy and thereby limited their ability to pursue a cooperative approach with the Soviets on the issue. Second, it turns out that the United States was simply not interested in settling the conflict in conjunction with Moscow. Despite the Kremlin’s willingness to contribute helpfully to the achievement of a stable Arab-Israeli settlement, U.S. officials’ deeply anti-Soviet views led them to eschew superpower collaboration and, in fact, resulted in their making the reduction of USSR influence in the Middle East a top priority. In short, the United States throughout this period pursued a strategy in the region that was profoundly inconsistent with power political considerations, an approach that was bound to contribute to the undermining of d?tente in the late 1970s.

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