The U.S. strategic role in the region only consolidated after the Second World War and was therefore to some extent intelligible in terms of the developing Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union. However, it appears more likely that the Cold War provided a convenient pretext for the establishment and expansion of U.S. power in the region. In actual fact, it appears more conceivable that the rising tide of Arab nationalism presented a clearer threat to U.S. interests in the region.
Edward Said makes the compelling case that the Middle East is in many respects a projection of Western illusions and fantasies. However, the existential status of the Middle East is similarly questioned by Zionism, which, in invoking the colonial concept of terra nullius, was drawn to deny the very existence of a Palestinian people. A closer reading of Zionism suggests that it is an alien imposition on the region, which, as an outgrowth of European colonialism, seeks to impose itself upon, and even eradicate, native populations and cultures. From the perspective of Zionism, the ‘Middle East’ is seen as undeveloped, uncivilized, and even as a potential threat. While each of these dimensions is engaged in isolation over the course of this chapter, they are ultimately understood to be mutually overlapping and intertwined.