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Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part One: 1783-1953 Hardcover – May 15, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From the cover of this impressive historical précis, FDR and King Ibn Saud stare impassively. They are seated on a huge pipe in front of a meander of more pipes. The metallic maze signifies what brings them together—oil—and exemplifies David B.’s illustrative strategy in the book. He characteristically evokes the political and economic implications of the narrative by replacing naturalistic detail with striking symbols, such as cannons with legs during the earliest American encounter with the Islamic East, and plenty of pipelines later on. Diplomat turned historian Filiu’s text opens with the main action of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, then rehearses three historic encounters between the U.S. and the dar al-Islam: the Barbary Wars of the Jefferson and Madison administrations; the alliance with Saudi Arabia for oil to fuel WWII; and the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s government in Iran. Filiu’s presentation is very even-handed. Neither the cruel superciliousness of the Barbary pirate states nor the crafty treachery of Kermit Roosevelt in Tehran is whitewashed or sensationalized. --Ray Olson

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Filiu is a world-renowned expert on the Middle East. David B. is an Eisner Award–nominated artist.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best of Enemies
  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906838453
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906838454
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Having recently finished reading Michael Oren's Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present I found Filiu & David B.'s summary of US-Middle East relations thin on details but the graphic rendition made the points highlighted more vivid. The book focuses primarily on 3 historic interactions between the US and the ME. The first is the Barbary Pirate wars, which Filiu adds were brought to an end by the French invasion of Algeria in 1830. The second is the founding of the Saudi-American oil relationship, highlighting the brutal history of the House of Saud and culminating with Roosevelt's visit to ibn Saud. The 3rd segment concerns Operation Ajax in Iran. This last episode makes CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt the villain of the piece who (ironically) with the willing participation of the Ayatollahs including the future Ayatollah Khomeini, employed widespread bribery to effect the removal of Prime Minister Mossadegh and keep the country out of the Soviet sphere. In contrast the Shah comes off as indecisive and pathetic.

David B.'s black and white drawings are interesting and his use of multiple speech bubbles from a single caricature that wrap around other figures was an intriguing way of showing influence. For representing the Barbary Beys he made imaginative use of overly large white turbans as a sub-canvas alluding to their thoughts and action. There's also an opening segment which attempts to "mischievously" overlay the words of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld into the legend of Gilgamesh. I'd give this a finer assessment of 3.6/5.
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The B&W illustrations are simple yet very beautiful and accurate. The writer is very skilled. I was able to finish reading this whole book in under 2 hours though so my only criticism is that this wasn't long enough. This is a must-have book for anyone interested in US/Middle East history!
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Jean Pierre depicts the history, going way back, of the conflict in the Middle East; and then, how the West got involved. Personalities are all equally characterized in cartoon-poking fun at all leaders and policies. The historical aspect is condensed with major cultures jockeying for power in the Mediterranean and Middle East. This basic history is fun and easy read.
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