Saudi Arabia and the United States
Parker T. Hart
Parker Hart, a career Foreign Service Officer of the State Department, had a unique perspective on history and understood the importance of Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner of the United States. His knowledge of the people and customs of the Middle East, fluency in Arabic, and genuine interest in people of all countries made him the ideal diplomat. As the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Yemeni crisis, Hart was the on the-ground negotiator who worked diligently to avoid the widening of a conflict with Egypt that could have resulted in war between two significant countries. I really enjoyed his book, Saudi Arabia and the United States: Birth of a Security Partnership, and will review it in detail in this assignment.
This book examines the intertwined politics of Saudi Arabia and the United States as Hart witnessed it during his missions to the Arabian Peninsula. In the early 1960’s, the two states were actively seeking to develop diplomatic relations with each other; the United States was eager to create a friend of the oil-giant, and Saudi Arabia anxiously viewing the politically and economically powerful U.S. as a vital ally in its development in the unstable Middle Eastern region as a young and suddenly rich state. While Hart writes the book as a narrative, the account is more skewed than it initially seems, apparent in the chapters discussing Yemen. Consequently, in my view, assessing the book's accuracy becomes difficult as the narrative is tainted, not only with the diplomatic bias of an embassy official, but also by the partiality of an influential politician who is examining an issue without an equivalent understanding of the social and political systems of the involved parties. This review will explore this concept and apply it specifically to Hart's discussion of Yemen-related issues.
I found the book to be very engaging and easy to read. The prologue includes an account of Hart’s first invitation to visit the Saudi king. The incidents that occurred on his trip are a classic example of the style used throughout the book (pp.1-9). The opening pages of chapter one epitomize Hart's ability to both entertain and educate reader of Middle Eastern history. Expertise in the subject of Saudi politics is demonstrated not only by an in-depth portrayal of various Saudi individuals and Saudi society in general, but also by a careful and competent description of the local politics. The political intricacies of Saudi Arabia are explained with a smooth simplistic language that would otherwise bewilder the untrained reader. This provides a foundation upon which the explanations and theories to U.S.-Saudi relations are based.
Hart's analysis of Saudi culture and the individuals he encounters, particularly King Faisal (p.247), is indicative of his awareness of the importance of culture in diplomatic relations. He goes so far as to criticize former Egyptian President Nasser for his lack of...