Written as a history of the U.S. Navy's relationship with Bahrain and aimed at naval historians, Winkler's book fills a void for scholars of U.S. Middle East policy. Winkler, director of programs and development at the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington, D.C., chronicles the history of the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf from the mid-twentieth century's petroleum and shipping offices to the present-day headquarters of the Fifth Fleet. He reveals how a series of naval officers with scant foreign policy experience forged productive relationships with Bahrain's rulers based on mutual respect, the Navy's need for oil, and Bahrain's need for security. As Sheikh Essa is quoted saying to an American, "Your men and women, the ships and aircraft of the Fifth Fleet, are a mountain of fire that separates us from the Iranians, and that presence of naval forces is what has given us peace and prosperity."
This mutually beneficial relationship became the foundation for the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf and helped shape U.S. policy in the region. Winkler also provides a glimpse into the occasional tensions between the Navy's strategic view of the region, driven by its need for secure access to fuel oil, and the U.S. government's more complex and bipolar Middle East policies.
Readers will find many examples of how simple courtesies, honors, and personal relationships influenced strategic decisions and how something as seemingly inconsequential as a Department of Defense school for military and international children played a critical role in tough negotiations.
The book offers an easy read and is well researched with primary-source interviews and reviews of original source material and documents, all footnoted. The organization is logical with well-titled chapters. Although Winkler's book is not a detailed history of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, it adds breadth and perspective to any collection on Middle East policy and history.