Foreshadowed warnings and Unlikely Alliances

American foreign policy in the Middle East has long been characterized by uneasy alliances with unlikely partners.  For the last decade, our partners in the region have provided important support to American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, as the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq come to a close many academics are beginning to question whether certain alliances have been as helpful as many believe. In particular, American support for Saudi Arabia has been unwavering since the 2001 attacks despite the majority of the hijackers’ involved being Saudi nationals.  When compared with the human rights record of Saudi Arabia in basic legal proceedings one begins to question why American foreign policy personnel believe this relationship is beneficial for American image abroad.

In 1996 there was a terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers, a popular apartment building used by foreign military personnel in Khobar Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of those killed were American airmen. In response to this an open letter was written by Chandra Muzaffar (1996), Lessons from the blast: Opposition to US Alliance is strong within the kingdoms middle class.  The letter is very concise but provides an extreme amount of foresight into the future problems with United States involvement in the region. Firstly, it points out that the King of Saudi Arabia is considered the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and because US policy seems to dictate much of the royal families’ actions many are beginning to view the United States as ‘the custodian of the custodian’. Information obtained from the 9/11 Commission report has indicated that many of the hijackers from Saudi Arabia were indeed middle class well- educated persons.

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April 21 - April 22, 2014
April 21 – April 22, 2014

The Archives and Special Collections in collaboration with the Dodd Center and Booklyn Artists Alliance, are hosting two days of events on War, Struggle and Visual Politics: Art on the Frontlines.  Events will be held in the Dodd Research Center on April 21st and 22nd in conjunction with the Week In Humanities.  Artists Seth Tobocman, Stephen Dupont, Marshall Weber, Chantelle Bateman and Aaron Hughes will be holding talks, workshops and presenting artwork around the focus of politics and activism in art and war.  Students, community members, veterans and artists are encouraged to attend these events to provide a dynamic facilitation of how we utilize art, activism and memory to cope with war.

Art work will be on display in galleries as follows:

Aaron Hughes : Institute for the Humanities : College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Seth Tobocman : Contemporary Art Gallery : School of Fine Art

Stephen Dupont : Coop Bookstore : Downtown Stores

For a full list of events, please follow this link for the Week in Humanities.

Beyond Arms: Mercenaries and Foreign Involvement in the Middle East during the 1970’s


      I am a senior Political Science Major, with minors in history and human rights. I initially chose my internship with the Dodd Archives because of its unique holdings. Most famously, the Nuremburg Trial Papers have been examined by many scholars for the fundamental groundwork they laid for human rights advocates. As one of the youngest members of the millennial generation and one of the last children to remember watching the 9/11 attacks on television I feel a certain draw towards researching the Middle East. Furthermore, my involvement with the human rights program at the university has given me a distinctive outlook on international foreign involvement in the Middle East. The Arab Spring began while I was in my first year of undergraduate studies, and has continued to make headlines since. As a historian and political scientist I have noticed that the American population seems to have a short-term memory when it comes to American involvement abroad. I will attempt to remedy this phenomenon through my posts by concentrating on linking historical to contemporary international involvement in the region.

The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick

The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick

         Towards the end of the 1970’s the Middle East was going through a transformative period. This transformation was facilitated principally by the unrestricted and indiscriminate selling of weapons from the United States and NATO allies and USSR into the region. The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick published in 1977 extensively details the arms trade between Western and Soviet regimes to the authoritarian monarchs of the Middle East.

        The underlying problem with the arms trade outlined by Frederick in the periodical is the military industrial complex in place during the Cold War produced a need for selling American weapons around the world to benefit domestic defense contractors. One candid figure quoted by Frederick estimated the sale of one jet fighter earns back more dollars than the sale of one thousand automobiles. However, once weapons are sold to allies or enemies alike they become commodities on the world market. The following excerpt illustrates the totalizing system of the global commodity arms exchange:

Jordan sold American fighter aircraft and defense systems as well as British tanks to South Africa. British arms bought in New Zealand are being used by Irish Republican Army against British soldiers. US arms left over from Vietnam were sold at a Bangkok auction to a French dealer who in turn sold them to the rightist militias in Lebanon. US arms sold to Israel were used by Lebanese rightwing militias.

        -Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 1976

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