Values clash in U.S. reactions to Middle East turmoil

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On September 20, 2012

U.S. reactions to tensions in the Middle East reflect an age-old dichotomy in American foreign policy – pragmatism versus morality, says military historian Dr. John C. McManus.

McManus, the author of 10 books on military history, says those with a morality-based viewpoint believe the United States should inculcate our values, and instill democracy, in all countries, particularly those to which we provide aid. To them, ending injustice and human rights offenses is more important than maintaining the political relationship the U.S. has with a country’s leadership.

Those with a pragmatic viewpoint believe that encouraging stability and security in a country’s leadership is more valuable. Pragmatists believe this approach will help avert the chaos that can result from political instability and maintaining a positive relationship with the U.S. government, McManus says.

The opposing viewpoints don’t necessarily align with political parties, McManus says.

“A lot of the animosity we see in the Middle East against the U.S. comes from the legacy of European colonialism,” McManus says. “It’s a backlash against anything perceived as ‘western.'”

McManus is a professor of U.S. military history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. A member of the Missouri S&T faculty since 2000, McManus is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the history of Americans in combat. His book Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq was recently named to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s recommended professional reading list.

A member of the editorial advisory board at World War II magazine and Global War Studies, McManus was named to History News Network’s list of Top Young Historians in 2007. In 2008, he received the Missouri Conference on History Book Award for Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers Who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible.

McManus’ latest book, September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far, was published in June.

McManus is available to discuss the history of conflict in U.S. foreign policy. To arrange for an interview, contact the Missouri S&T Communications Department at 573-341-4328 or email

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