Book about American’s involvement in the Middle East. The author is an American journalist who stationed in turkey, and discovered surprising things about how the locals viewed her country. For most of recent history (except for the 9/11 attacks), the relationships were one-sided: America intervention has always been a key part of the histories of Egypt, Iran, Greece, etc, while Americans are clueless about what their own country is doing abroad. Many people there express a feeling of humiliation, that American can destroy their livelihoods on a whim (eg: by imposing sanctions). In many cases, America set up systems in the name of modernization or democracy but in practice failed to improve ordinary people’s lives; these conditions caused the rise of ISIS.
Americans have a sense of nationalism so deeply ingrained that they don’t even realize they have nationalism. They see themselves as improving the world, bringing modernization and democracy to places that don’t have it. People in the Middle East see it differently: they see it as American imposing their system on others against their will. The media calls it “nationalism” because “colonialism” is so distasteful now, but there is little difference.
The author spent the most amount of time in Turkey, which is a relatively stable country in the region with a moderate form of Islam. Turkey has had an uneasy relationship with Islam: Ataturk tried to separate itself from its Islamic roots and replace it with Turkish nationalism, but many saw this as a loss of culture, and the Kurds (a different ethnic group in Turkey) were especially opposed to this. Erdogan brought back a form of moderate Islam that was both popular among the people as well as internationally palatable.
Overall, an interesting perspective on a region that I’m not very familiar with. The author’s perspective seems somewhat one-sided and she is extremely critical of America’s involvement in the region. Others argue that America has a net positive effect, or at least had good intentions. The writing has some parts that were difficult to get through as they were filled with historical events and names of politicians. I don’t know which perspective is more reasonable, maybe I’ll visit the region someday and understand better.