Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
America's Dream Palace chronicles the parallel development of US engagement with the Middle East and Middle East studies in America. The narrative is intriguing. Osamah F Khalil argues that the creation of Middle East area studies was intrinsically tied to various US war efforts. As the United States became a world power, it needed to understand the world. The ties between Middle East studies and the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the CIA, were therefore often very close. The title, Dream Palace, is aptly taken from a quote by the famous British intelligence officer TE Lawrence, since Lawrence 'of Arabia' served as the model for many of the individuals which combined academic studies of the Middle East with service for US intelligence. With the rise of the New Left in US academia, however, Middle East area studies became perceived as radical and critical of US foreign policy. Khalil uses this to explain what he calls the privatization of knowledge, or the rise of the think tanks. From the mid-1970s think tanks came to play a major role in US policy-making. This development was further strengthened in the post-9/11 era, when University-based Middle East studies were seen by the Bush administration as anti-American. Osamah Khalil's work is impressive, both in scope (ca. 1917–2009), empirical evidence (a wide range of archives) and in terms of analytical clarity. At times though one wonders whether the narrative is too perfect, that alternative explanations could have been explored. In sum, the book is a wonderful exposé of ties between the research community and the security state.