Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paul Thomas Chamberlin's "The Global Offensive"

Paul Chamberlin received his PhD from The Ohio State University after studying at the American University of Cairo and the University of Damascus and has held fellowships at Yale University and Williams College. His dissertation won the 2010 Oxford University Press prize for the best dissertation in international history.

Chamberlin's first book, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order, is an international history of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Global Offensive and reported the following:
Because my page 99 is an illustration, I took the liberty of flipping to page 100. This page begins with a discussion of the prickly matter of “terrorism” as viewed in the late 1960s. Palestinian guerillas had begun hijacking jetliners, creating headaches for U.S. and Israeli leaders who were now confronting a new kind of threat. As I explain, Palestinian fighters had found a new transnational space in which to wage their revolutionary warfare. While they lacked the firepower of nation-states like Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, Palestinian revolutionaries could exploit international aviation networks as a new staging ground for their liberation struggle.

As American and Israeli officials discovered, this new form of revolutionary war proved exceedingly difficult to control. If Israel was attacked by units from the Jordanian army, for example, the Israeli military could easily retaliate by attacking Jordanian military forces or other institutions of the Jordanian state. The problem with Palestinian hijackings – or “international terrorism” more broadly – was that there was no easy target to retaliate against. Palestinian fighters were based in Beirut and commanded from Amman; they received funds from the People’s Republic of China and training in Algeria, and they attacked aircraft in Switzerland. The government of Israel sought to solve this dilemma by striking at suspected Palestinian bases and at the states that “harbored” the guerillas, not unlike an early version of the post-9/11 Bush Doctrine.

This tactic rankled U.S. State Department officers however, who argued that military reprisals against Lebanon were far too blunt a weapon to address the delicate problem of Palestinian attacks. Indeed, the Lebanese government – perched precariously on the brink of the civil war that would break out in 1975 – was doing everything in its power to rein in the attacks short of touching off a conflict that might destroy their state. Israeli military reprisals that failed to distinguish between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fatah, and the Lebanese government only seemed to make matters worse, from the perspective of American foreign service officers. Of course, this conflation of Palestinian guerillas and Arab governments fit into long-standing tendencies by outsiders to homogenize the peoples of the Middle East that have survived to the present day. Ultimately, this failure to recognize the differences between various guerilla factions and between the guerillas and Palestinians in general would complicate attempts to find a political solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Learn more about The Global Offensive at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue