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Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001 Hardcover – June 22, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586486802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586486808
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,294,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A history of foreign policy gone wrong, Makdisi™s study argues convincingly that Americans have rarely engaged with the Arab nations as autonomous peoples with cultures and histories of their own--they™ve preferred "glib generalizations"--and that such myopia is at the core of much of the Middle East™s animosity toward the U.S. In his history of the Middle East, Makdisi (Artillery of Heaven) privileges Arab voices and, for the most part demonstrates an impressive ability to render societies and individuals as multifaceted. He efficiently debunks the Huntingtonian belief in an inevitable clash of civilizations and resurrects a forgotten history of mutual curiosity and cultural cross-pollination between the East and West. It™s unfortunate, then, that he reduces Zionism and Zionists to a cog in the machinations of Western power politics, rather than presenting a more complex, messy, and accurate picture of competing narratives and their impact on American policy making. His pat simplification undermines his otherwise commendable effort to defuse the "mutual incomprehension" and "mutual demonization" between the U.S. and the Arab world.
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From Booklist

In Artillery of Heaven (2009), Makdisi challenged simplistic theories of a “clash of civilizations” by examining the largely unsuccessful efforts of American missionaries in the Middle East in the early nineteenth century, paying particular attention to the conversion, suffering, and death of As'ad Shidyaq, the first known Arab to be converted to Protestantism. His latest selection, carefully researched and strongly voiced, opens by revisiting Shidyaq and the missionaries of the 1820s, casting their experience as the first in a long series of increasingly sour U.S.-Arab cultural interactions. It did not have to be this way, Makdisi suggests; goodwill toward Americans, especially in Lebanon and Egypt, was initially substantial enough to overcome even the most dramatic misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. Western-oriented institutions like the American University of Beirut—alma mater of several of Makdisi's ancestors and one of this selection's informal focal points—thrived. And yet certain political acts and omissions, particularly the U.S. decision to align itself closely with Israel (a “betrayal,” in Makdisi's words), have led relations to their current nadir. Yet such animosity is rooted in policy, not cultural clash, and in this there may be cause for guarded optimism. --Brendan Driscoll

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Michael Santomauro on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Why do they hate us?" It is probably the most asked question regarding the Arab world since 9/11. Many have ventured to ask and answer this question in the years before and after 9/11, and such works became popular with a broad American readership. Sam Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations," which was largely dismissed by the academy when it was first published, became very popular after the terror attacks on the United States in 2001.

But "Why do they hate us?" is also one of the most loaded five-word questions imaginable. Who exactly are they? Who exactly is us? (Or is it U.S.?) Are both of these groups monolithic? Is this so-called hate personal; or rather is hate a misleading term all together?

All of these questions, essentially the unpacking of this loaded and overused question, are explored in Ussama Makdisi's Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S. Arab Relations 1820-2001.

While many who tell the story of this relationship begin with the American encounter with Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa, the starting point for Makdisi is representative of his general understanding of the relationship which he tries to convey to his readers. When it comes to the Arab world, and particularly the Levant with which the United States has been so enamored, the origins of this relationship are not in violent clashes at sea but rather through initially unremarkable proselytizing missions.

His description of the early period of American proselytization attempts is valuable and particularly telling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Wright on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A must-read for anyone interested in understanding the history of US-Arab relations. Makdisi eloquently takes us through the twists and turns of this journey, highlighting its ups and downs within a clear global and regional historical context, explaining the various missed opportunities, and discussing what is needed to lay the foundations for a new beginning. This is a brilliant well-researched book that is likely to be an eye-opener for many readers.
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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Hussain Abdul-Hussain on August 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Beirut cafes, middle-aged men debate politics. They blame the Sykes Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration for all the Arab ills. They rant against colonial powers, Europe and later America. In Arab circles today, this has come to be known as the "Wooden Rhetoric."

Ussama Makdisi takes this Wooden Rhetoric and makes it into a book. He blames the West for its "Oriental" view of the Middle East, and America for taking Israel's side against the Palestinians. He introduces himself as a "bridge to cultural understanding" between America and the Arabs. He writes, "I am also entangled in [this] history."

For a starter, Makdisi's understanding of history sounds troubling. "The value of history stems from the lessons we draw from it," he writes (p. 16). History, however, is important for its own sake. When used as a "lesson," it becomes a tool for political legitimacy and thus invites the victor to dictate it.

Makdisi's claim to be the bridge between Arabs and America seems of little credence. There is no indication that he ever stepped out of his Beirut elite bubble, a problem that also tainted the views of his maternal uncle, the author of Orientalism, Edward Said.

Because Makdisi feels compelled to denounce colonialism, he expresses dismay over the British bombardment of the Iraqi revolution in 1920. Makdisi fails to notice that the Brits attacked Iraqis on behalf of King Faysal, the man Makdisi's grandfather met in Beirut and vowed to support. In fact, Makdisi dedicates a chapter to European betrayal of the Arabs, especially the British duplicity with Faysal.
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9 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Noosie on January 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Makdisi begins his narrative of the history of U.S.-Middle East relations well. The initial chapters go in depth into the exploits and setbacks of the first American missionaries and create an informed picture of the relationship between these two areas. However, as Makdisi moves into the dynamics of modern day U.S.-Middle East relations his message becomes clouded by his unabashed bias over the question of Israel. Instead of trying to inform the reader about the relationship between the West and the Middle East, Makdisi unleashes a torrent of personal opinions and exercises little control to provide the reader with an impartial account of this important topic. While it is impossible to provide a truly unbiased work, Makdisi crosses the line in this book and has created a narrative which is more appropriate for the op-ed column of the Huffington Post than the shelves of any respectable book store. I purchased this book because it was cheap. If you can get it for around $10 I'd say go for it, but keep the authors bias in mind while you're reading.
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