The World

75 Years of America’s Mideast Entanglements in Less Than Three Minutes

Nicholas Danforth, co-author of the excellent Afternoon Map blog, created the very cool video map above that tracks America’s relationships in the Middle East since World War II. Enemies are in red, friends in blue, and more ambiguous relationships are purple. The vertical stripes represent when there’s a civil conflict with the U.S. supporting one side against the other.  

Danforth writes: “Symbols show when major realignments were the result of invasions (the tank), coups (the gun), treaties or diplomatic decisions (the pen), elections (the check), other peaceful transfers of power (the weird baton thingy) or popular uprisings (the protestor).”

Obviously the “with or us against us” way of looking at foreign policy is a bit limiting, and some of the classifications can seem arbitrary—I’d say we’re a bit more purple than blue with Egypt at the moment. But the zero-sum map is a good way of taking a shorthand look at how U.S. interests in the Middle East shifted as the region was transformed by events including World War II, the establishment of Israel, Arab nationalism, the rise of the Gulf petrostates, the Cold War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the War on Terror, and the Arab Spring. It’s a lot of history for a two-and-a-half-minute video.