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Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East

 Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East

Michael Scott Doran

January 18, 2017, 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

This major retelling of the Suez Crisis of 1956—one of the most important events in the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East—shows how President Eisenhower came to realize that Israel, not Egypt, is America’s strongest regional ally.


Robert R. Reilly:

It’s an absolute delight to introduce our speaker this evening, who as you know is Dr. Michael Doran. He’s a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington. He specializes in Middle East security issues. His most recent book, which is the subject of tonight’s talk, is Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, a book which I couldn’t put down. In the spare time over two evenings, I devoured it. It reads like a thriller. It’s very well written and you wonder how Dr. Doran maintained the suspense when we all know what the ending is but he managed to do that and I was so taken with it [that] I sent him a note, saying Michael, you need to sell the film rights to this book and you have the advantage that the sequel will be so much less expensive because you can use the same script. All you need to do is change the names because the same illusions concerning the Middle East are unfortunately regnant today or at least were until Friday.

Audience member:

Show us the book.

Robert R. Reilly:

For those of you on stage right who didn’t see the book the last time I held it up, it’s now on camera, Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East by Michael Doran, so, in addition, Dr. Doran served in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush in the National Security Council where he was responsible for helping to devise and coordinate United States strategies on a variety of Middle East issues. He also served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for support for public diplomacy in which capacity I first had the pleasure of meeting him those years ago. Before coming to Hudson, Dr. Doran was a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, so you could see he’s bipartisan. He’s also taught at NYU, Princeton, [and the] University of Central Florida. He’s the author of Pan-Arabism Before Nasser. He received a BA from Stanford University [and he received an] MA [and] PhD in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Doran.

Michael Doran:

Well, Bob, thank you for that- for that generous introduction and thanks to all of you for coming. It’s a great pleasure to see old friends and to connect up again with Bob. Bob said he first met me when I was the DASD Support for Public Diplomacy that- actually, Bob gave me my first tutorial when I took that job. I was just starting and there’s a lot about this subject. He had a background in VOA in the subject of well, what in other countries they call propaganda. We don’t do propaganda in the United States, and he helped me understand the difficulties of doing it. He gave me some very wise advise for which I thank you again and I also want to thank you for all the nice things you said about my book.

The- what I thought I’d do is spend- how many hours do I have, Bob? Two? Three? Yeah? I thought I’d spend a little time just describing the book, talking about the book and then, one of the things I didn’t do in the book was connect up the dots to the present, so I thought I might do that here. I wrote the book- actually, I see the book as an allegory for the Obama Administration, but I didn’t- I believe the history has sort of an integrity to it, so I didn’t want to- I didn’t want to tarnish the integrity of the history by turning it into a policy argument. But I’ll do that tonight. I’ll destroy the integrity of that argument here.

So the book tells the story of a president’s learning curve. President Eisenhower came into power with a very clear picture in his mind of the Middle East and then spent the next six years thinking himself out of that- that picture and it wasn’t- it wasn’t an idiosyncratic picture. It was a picture that was shared by everyone in- all of the senior members of the Eisenhower Administration, both political appointees and career bureaucrats. They had a couple of principles I’d guess you’d say that they were utterly convinced of. One of them was that the establishment of Israel in 1948 or the support by the United States for the establishment of Israel was a strategic blunder of the first order.

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