How has the study of the Middle East been impacted by the United States' foreign policy decisions? Professor Osamah Khalil delved into the complexities of the US government's relationship with the academic community at a recent public lecture at Georgetown University in Qatar.
Khalil, assistant professor of US and Middle East history at Syracuse University, provided the audience with a summary of key themes in his recently published book America's Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State.
The author explained how, after the Second World War, the state began funding Middle Eastern studies at prominent US universities, primarily to ensure the education of future government employees or businessmen that could support its security and political interests. Later, institutions which did not align their activities with government goals saw their funding reduced, while centres and think tanks which did flourished. This influenced the direction of research and the greater understanding of the Middle East, as well as the experts who were called upon to provide guidance.
"When you start linking security and education, that becomes a predominant rationale," explained Khalil. "It's not really about the region, is it?"
Khalil explained that even the term 'Middle East' and the countries which are included in its scope were influenced by political ideas and interests. He said that, depending on the time period, countries as distant as Morocco, Afghanistan, and Pakistan could be included under the umbrella term 'Middle East.'
Khalil, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, is an expert in foreign relations, the modern Middle East, the Cold War, and Arab-Israeli conflict.