Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ross Gregory

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald Davis

Third Advisor

Dr. Howard Dooley

Fourth Advisor

Dr. James Goode


A study of President John F. Kennedy's policy toward the Middle East illustrates the agency and unexpected power wielded by so-called "third world" countries during the Cold War era. In spite of careful planning in Washington, Middle East leaders often manipulated and directed Kennedy's approach to the region. Regional actors used American fears of Communism to gain increased financial aid, military support, and influence in the United Nations. Although seeming to submit to Western pressures in exchange for such support, these leaders played both superpowers against each other and shaped policy according to local needs. While this relationship meant a degree of dependency upon the United States, it also brought the ability to wield influence beyond their actual economic and military strength.

During this period, the American approach to the region shifted, not so much because of Kennedy's efforts to change it, but because of the actions of Middle East players. Israel persuaded Kennedy to sell it missiles, beginning a gradual process of becoming an arsenal for Israel. The Shah of Iran managed to persuade the United States that he was a reformer, thus assuring a steady flow of dollars. Eventually, the support of royalist Arab regimes vis-à-vis more radical ones further indicted the United States as an enemy of Arab nationalism.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access