Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Fighting with Allies: Anglo-American Overt and Covert Intervention in the Greater Middle East in the Early Cold War
Abstract: Taking as its cue the conference theme of "Landscapes of War and Peace," this panel examines the complex landscape of the Greater Middle East in the aftermath of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Situated at the nexus of Europe, Asia and Africa, straddling strategic waterways and air routes, and containing important natural and human resources, the region assumed central importance in the emerging Cold War. The political landscape was complicated by the decline of old empires, the emergence of new ones, and the rising tide of nationalism. The papers constituting this session investigate these complex forces and the Anglo-American efforts to retain or impose a pro-western order on the region. Mary Kathryn Barbier uses the career of a singular woman, Freya Stark, to examine the exercise of British soft power in Egypt and its legacy. Richard Garlitz delves into the role of American technical advisors under the Point Four Program and their understanding of how Prime Minister Mossadegh's brand of nationalism threatened western interests. Richard Damms uses the American and British military interventions in Lebanon and Jordan, respectively, to highlight frictions in the Anglo-American special relationship and to delineate differences in their approach to regional stability. All contributors address the difficulties of safeguarding vital interests while dealing with so-called friends and allies.
Mary Kathryn Barbier, Mississippi State University
Participant's Paper Title: The Peaceful Cold War: Freya Stark, the Brotherhood of Freedom, and Cairo, 1945-1954
Participant's Paper Abstract: An "explorer, ethnologist, cartographer, photographer, belletrist, and most-lastingly, author of thirty books," Freya Stark, Middle East expert, offered her services to the British Foreign Office at the outbreak of World War II. Because of her expertise on the Middle East, a grateful nation, after a brief hesitation, accepted her offer. After a brief stint in London, where she was attached to the Ministry of Information, she left for Aden, Yemen, where she became "Assistant Information Officer" and worked under Stewart Perowne. She arrived in country in November 1939 and began the work that would take her throughout the Middle East. According to Stark, "My task was propaganda, in south Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, America, India, and Italy." Not one to let the grass grow under her feet, Stark began making recommendations for the British propaganda campaign within months of her arrival. In addition to meeting with local groups and showing films sent by the Ministry of Information, Stark established committees of young men and women, called Brotherhoods of Freedom and Sisterhoods of Freedom. These committees, consisting almost exclusively of locals, published bulletins that contained information about a wide array of topics, including local politics and the war from the British point of view. The British war news countered reports of the war from the German and Italian perspectives, which were more readily available in the Middle East. Viewed as successful by the British Foreign Office, these committees - with British support - remained active in Egypt for almost a decade after the war. The purpose of this paper is to examine this British propaganda tool, particularly in Cairo, as the situation transitioned from war to peace and the early Cold War made the British presence in Egypt uncertain.
Richard Garlitz, University of Tennessee at Martin
Participant's Paper Title: Point Four and the Mossadegh Government in Iran: A Reappraisal
Participant's Paper Abstract: Point Four technical advisors began working on rural development projects in Iran during the fall of 1951 as the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was locked in a struggle with the British government for control of the nation's oil industry. Like most Americans, the Point Four advisors lost faith in Mossadegh's leadership over the next eighteen months as the Iranian economy weakened and radical leftist activity increased. They ultimately greeted the military coup that overthrew him in August, 1953 as a positive step for the country's economic and democratic development, an interpretation that undergirded the popular narrative of the Mossadegh government in the United States over the next quarter century.
The Cold War thoroughly shaped how Point Four advisors (and most other American leaders) interpreted the Mossadegh years. While his National Front was largely a nationalist and constitutionalist movement, American officials feared that Mossadegh's policies had strengthened Iranian communists and would, perhaps, embolden Soviet adventurism. They tended to blame the violence in Tehran and Shiraz on communist agitators and interpreted the events of August 16-19, 1953 as a failed communist revolution. The recent publication of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volume on Iran from 1952 through 1954 offers new documentary evidence to reappraise that interpretation. This paper draws on the documents of the Technical Cooperation Administration (Point Four) to show that American technical advisors largely misunderstood both the Mossadegh government and the military coup that removed him from power.
Richard Damms, Mississippi State University - Meridian
Participant's Paper Title: You are doing a Suez on me': Eisenhower, Macmillan, and the Conundrum of Anglo-American Military Cooperation in the Middle East after Suez
Participant's Paper Abstract: In the aftermath of the 1956 Suez-Sinai War, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan worked assiduously to restore the so-called special relationship with his former wartime associate, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Determined never again to be separated from the Americans on issues vital to British security, Macmillan promoted the establishment of various joint Anglo-American working groups on matters of mutual interest, culminating in what Macmillan grandly proclaimed to be a "declaration of interdependence" in the aftermath of the Soviet Sputniks. Macmillan sought to inveigle himself into the American decision-making process in order to harness American power for British ends. Nevertheless, the divergence in the British and American conception of the special relationship became abundantly clear in the aftermath of the 1958 Iraqi coup that deposed a pro-British client in Baghdad. In the wake of appeals from the Lebanese president for military assistance against internal and external foes, the Eisenhower administration discarded contingency plans for a joint operation and intervened unilaterally, prompting Macmillan's tongue-in-cheek reference to a Suez in reverse. Shortly after, when Macmillan dispatched British forces to shore up King Hussein of Jordan, the Eisenhower administration remained cool to the intervention, fearing a grander British design to sweep into Iraq and restore a client regime. The contemporaneous but largely independent Anglo-American military interventions in Lebanon and Jordan revealed significant differences in the erstwhile allies' views toward the region, the emerging challenge of pan-Arab nationalism, and the supposed transition of power from British to American ascendancy. The paper is based on materials from the British National Archives and The Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Robert Thomas Davis, Command and General Staff College
Dennis Showalter, Colorado College

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