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Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance (Council on Foreign Relations Book) First edition. Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195165807
ISBN-10: 0195165802
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A forested memorial in Israel, Yad Kennedy, includes the sculpted stump of a felled tree, a tribute to the president cut down in his youth. To Bass, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Kennedy presidency, despite the professional Arabists in the State Department, shifted America's Middle East policy toward Israel, selling arms to the Jewish state, fudging inspections of its nuclear initiative and openly engaging in security cooperation. The intransigence of Arab states toward Israel had eroded the stern limits on arms sales to Israel set by the chilly Eisenhower-Dulles regime. Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser had gambled on an unprofitable merger with Syria and a hemorrhaging venture into Yemen to try to create, with Soviet Cold War assistance, a noose around Israel. It failed, and Kennedy's suspicion of Nasser's pro-Soviet position distanced the two men. The young president found that he had little to lose in cautiously supporting Israel, as the Soviet Union was openly cajoling some Arab nationalists into becoming clients who would prove useless while repelling others who feared for their thrones. Despite breaking foreign policy taboos, the Kennedy administration, Bass concedes, hardly addressed the intractable regional problems. Readers may nod over Bass's relentless detail, but he establishes his case that the Kennedy administration was "the true origin of America's alliance" with Israel, illuminating in the process some new and humanizing facets of Kennedy's management style and rehabilitating the savvy and subtle leadership skills of Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, successor to the combative David Ben-Gurion. B&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A major contribution to the diplomatic history of a little understood period in American Middle East diplomacy. Bass captures the full flavor of the collision between abstract interests and flesh-and-blood personalities that makes international diplomacy so fascinating. This book will be riveting even for those who think they are not especially interested in the period or its problems.... 'Support Any Friend' uses much new documentary evidence, along with interviews and the requisite secondary studies, to advance our knowledge of a fascinating, indeed seminal, period."--Adam Garfinkle, The New York Times Book Review

"Surely the definitive account of John F. Kennedy's Israel policy. To provide perspective on the decisions of the Kennedy administration, Bass has done a tremendous amount of legwork, consulting archives in the United States and Israel to produce a lively narrative of how different U.S. presidents have had different attitudes towards Israel."--Jacob Heilbrunn, The Washington Monthly

"Stimulating and informative.... Based on deep research, well-weighed and analyzed...an important addition to our knowledge of a fraught subject."--Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Washington Post Book World

"Warren Bass's important and timely book Support Any Friend, written with candor and firmly rooted in primary sources, takes us back to the diplomacy of the 1960s, and to what he argues were the beginnings of today's extraordinarily intimate alliance between the two countries. It is in effect the story of how Israel and its American friends came to exercise a profound influence on American policy toward the Arab and Muslim world. Bass believes it all began with JFK. It is an interesting thesis and he argues it well."--Patrick Seale, The Nation

"Fascinating.... The strength of Support Any Friend rests on exhaustive research in government documents, numerous interviews with the important players, and one dramatic tape of a key meeting surreptitiously recorded by the President, filed at the Kennedy Library. Bass also has a gift for bringing the dry details of diplomacy to life.... Quite aside from the story it tells, Support Any Friend has the added virtue of underlining just how much has changed since the 1960s."--The New Leader

"A generous introduction to the issues and events in lively prose, judiciously leavened with wryly humorous anecdotes.... An engaging book, thoroughly researched and lucidly argued, on a seminal moment in the making of one of America's most consequential alliances."--San Francisco Chronicle

"A major contribution to our understanding of the American imperium in Middle Eastern lands. The writing is superb and the scholarship really first class. This is the sort of book I would love to have my students read!"--Fouad Ajami

"A fine, well-constructed study.... Bass shows with admirable clarity just how keen a student and practitioner of foreign policy JFK truly was, and especially in contrast with his recent successors."--Kirkus Reviews

"Exceedingly well told.... [Bass] has written a superb book--one that a scholarly and more general audience will find fascinating and useful for understanding some of today's realities."--Dennis Ross, The Forward

"A first-rate book.... Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of America's current ties to Israel and dilemmas in trying to resolve the tensions that plague the Middle East. General readers as well as specialists will enjoy and profit from this important study."--Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

"One of the many virtues of Warren Bass's Support Any Friend is its ability to strip away conventional wisdom and accreted knowledge and transport a reader vividly back to a time when the United States was by no means certain to become Israel's ally at the expense of the Arab world. With pungent detail, wise analysis and vivid prose, Bass traces the series of diplomacy and military episodes that led Kennedy, initially very devoted to evenhandedness in Middle East policy, to align firmly, if not uncritically, with Israel....The lasting impact on the Middle East of what brief time Kennedy had is inescapable to anyone reading Warren Bass's illuminating book."--The Jewish Book World


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Product Details

  • Series: Council on Foreign Relations Book
  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First edition. edition (June 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195165802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195165807
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,665,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This superb history of Kennedy's Mid-East policy wins the trifecta - it is rigorously substantive, beautifully written, and shockingly timely. Bass draws masterfully on documentary sources (many never before available) to bring JFK, Ben Gurion and Nasser to life. Touching on topics like nuclear inspections and American support for the conservative Saudi regime, the book has a fascinating historical perspective on some of the most vexing issues of today. It is a must-read for anyone interested in JFK, Israel, or America's relationship with the Arab world.
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By A Customer on September 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the best of the new Kennedy books out there. I'd read Bass's smart writings on the Middle East in various newspapers and magazines, but his book is another achievement altogether. He delves deeply into the documentary record -- finding and interpreting the paper trail on JFK's Middle East policy like no other historian I know of. You get that you-are-there, page-turning sensation of popular history along with a mind-boggling amount of original research and smart analysis. But what really made me love this book is Bass's style, which is clever, witty, smooth, salted with great turns of phrase. If you're interested in Kennedy or the Middle East -- or politics in general -- you'll want to read this book (and you'll spend your weekend unable to put it down).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Warren Bass's book argues that the U.S. military alliance with Israel started under JFK's administration, and that this shift in policy was intended primarily to counter the USSR. Bass asserts that domestic U.S. political advantages were not a determining factor in JFK's policy shift, and that Israeli-Arab issues had very little weight.

As background, Bass cites JFK's notes of his trip to the region in 1951, in which JFK described the Israelis as "tough, rugged, cocky ... very aggressive -- confident. Arabs fear expansion -- say it is inevitable." Bass then recounts Israel's 1956 invasion of Egypt and brief annexation of the Sinai. The invasion was turned back by Eisenhower's diplomatic pressure, and U.S.-Israel relations were colored by this episode so long as Ike remained President.

Bass documents how JFK, as President starting in 1961, not only put aside his observations of 1951 and the experience of 1956, but also turned away from advisors who knew the region and instead brought in globally-minded Cold Warriors (as he did for Vietnam policy).

In the Cold Warriors' eyes, the key fact was the Russian-Egyptian military relationship that had grown up after the Israeli-French-British invasion of 1956. Bass shows how JFK's emphasis on countering the USSR led to approving for the first time significant arms supplies to Israel, thus reversing Eisenhower's policy and putting the U.S. on the side of the 1956 invaders.

Yemen also merits a long chapter. Yemen's monarchy was toppled in September, 1962. Egypt and the U.S. both recognized the new Yemeni government, but the Saudi monarchy felt threatened and sponsored an armed opposition.
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By A Customer on June 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Impeccable research and solid writing from a historian who has no ax to grind, just a simple desire to explain the origins of U.S.-Israeli friendship.
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Format: Hardcover
This book and "Death of a Generation" are the two best I've read about President Kennedy's foreign policy record. If you have any interest in how the United States and Israel got into the relationship that exists now, this book will be of great interest. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Presidential history.
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By A Customer on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is both a great read and a significant work of scholarship. Bass covers the territory with panache and depth, providing a thoughtful, nuanced look at the origins of the US-Israel relationship. His writing is crisp, inviting and colorful - it is hard to forget the manifold and varied picture he creates of the giants of history who forged the very policies whose repercussions we feel so stunningly today. It is also very hard to put the book down. Such a combination is rare and welcome, and makes this book a must for anyone even remotely interested in the Middle East and America (which should be all of us, these days...).
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