Michael A. Palmer chronicles the rise of twentieth century Islamism – i.e. the militant politicized form of Islam – in his book the The Last Crusade, and finds its origins in the myriad failures of Arab nationalism. According to Palmer, local nationalism was inspired by European geopolitics in the region, and Islamism by the waning of such nationalism following episodes of Arab weakness vis-à-vis the West – particularly concerning Israel.
“The Americans gained their first penetration into the Middle East oil market in 1928, although at the cost of abandoning its Open Door principle. On July 31, 1928, British, Dutch, French, and American oil companies signed the famous ‘Red Line Agreement,’ establishing a cartel controlling oil exploration and production in the region.
“From 1920 to 1939 oil production had increased dramatically, by 900 percent, largely because of American involvement. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain had joined Persia as major producers. In 1920 the United States produced about 95 percent of the world’s oil; by 1939 that number had fallen to about 86 percent.
“Nixon shaped a policy that would avoid committing American forces, most especially ground troops. His Nixon Doctrine turned responsibility for regional defense to local states. In Indochina this policy became known as ‘Vietnamization’; in the Persian Gulf it took the form of the ‘Twin Pillars,’ or a reliance on Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“After 1975 no one viewed Lebanon as a template for sectarian coexistence. The Lebanese experiences also marked the shift in the nature of terrorists acts – from those employed by a ‘national liberation front’ organization, such as the PLO, to those employed by Islamic fundamentalists.
“Arafat had supported Hussein and the invasion of Kuwait, and with the Iraqis’ collapse the Palestinians were persona non grata in many of the gulf states, especially Kuwait. The first Intifada, which had begun in 1987, came to an abrupt end in 1991.
*All excerpts have been taken from The Last Crusade: Americanism and the Islamic Reformation, Potomac Books, Inc.