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America’s Dream Palace

America’s Dream Palace

Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State

Osamah F. Khalil

ISBN 9780674971578

Publication date: 10/17/2016

In T. E. Lawrence’s classic memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence of Arabia claimed that he inspired a “dream palace” of Arab nationalism. What he really inspired, however, was an American idea of the area now called the Middle East that has shaped U.S. interventions over the course of a century, with sometimes tragic consequences. America’s Dream Palace brings into sharp focus the ways U.S. foreign policy has shaped the emergence of expertise concerning this crucial, often turbulent, and misunderstood part of the world.

America’s growing stature as a global power created a need for expert knowledge about different regions. When it came to the Middle East, the U.S. government was initially content to rely on Christian missionaries and Orientalist scholars. After World War II, however, as Washington’s national security establishment required professional expertise in Middle Eastern affairs, it began to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship with academic institutions. Newly created programs at Harvard, Princeton, and other universities became integral to Washington’s policymaking in the region. The National Defense Education Act of 1958, which aligned America’s educational goals with Cold War security concerns, proved a boon for Middle Eastern studies.

But charges of anti-Americanism within the academy soon strained this cozy relationship. Federal funding for area studies declined, while independent think tanks with ties to the government flourished. By the time the Bush administration declared its Global War on Terror, Osamah Khalil writes, think tanks that actively pursued agendas aligned with neoconservative goals were the drivers of America’s foreign policy.


  • America’s Dream Palace offers a wide-ranging exploration of the complex relationship between the knowledge that Americans have produced about the Middle East and the exercise of American power in the region, from the First World War down to the invasion of Iraq. Well-researched and engagingly written, it should be of interest to scholars and nonscholars alike.

    —Zachary Lockman, author of Field Notes: The Making of Middle East Studies in the United States


  • Osamah F. Khalil is Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is the author of America’s Dream Palace, which was named a Best Book of 2017 by Foreign Affairs. His research on foreign policy, national security, and military affairs has been featured widely, from PBS NewsHour to USA Today.

Book Details

  • 440 pages
  • 1-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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