Petersen, a Norwegian scholar, asks why the cooperation that characterized Anglo-American influence in the Middle East in the first half of the 1960s diminished in the second; he finds the answer in ideology. From 1964, Petersen maintains, the Labor government of Harold Wilson set Britain on a course to withdraw from south Arabia and the Persian Gulf—due not to economic exigency or some other external pressure but to the party being "one-dimensionally, ideologically committed to the end of empire." The eponymous Anglo-American Middle East declined as a result with the United States proving "unable or unwilling … to pursue policies independent of Britain."
Petersen convincingly demonstrates that London hid from Washington and local rulers alike its true intentions vis-à-vis the Middle East and that its intention to disengage from the region preceded the 1967 sterling crisis, which is commonly considered a turning point. He is not, however, as persuasive in proving that "a distaste for empire and anti-colonialism were the chief factors in the British withdrawal east of Suez." In fact, his own study suggests that in getting out from old possessions, Britain under Labor (and, indeed, under the Tories after 1970) was adapting to domestic and international realities that obviated the need for a direct presence in the Middle East. To this effect, Petersen himself notes that, east of Suez, "Labour succeeded in cutting the umbilical cord of empire; in another sense, the British never left." Indirect influence remained and sufficed.
Ideology may have been central to the British decision to withdraw from the Middle East, but this study does not provide definitive proof thereof. Petersen is commendable in seeking an explanation for aspects of Anglo-American foreign policy that transcends facile economic determinism, but his study requires more by way of research and analysis to conclusively confirm its bold claims.