Cover of The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy by Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt
The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy
Oil and Arab Nationalism in Iraq
Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt


June 2021
336 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613829
Paperback ISBN: 9781503627918
Ebook ISBN: 9781503627925

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A new history of Middle East oil and the deep roots of American violence in Iraq.

Iraq has been the site of some of the United States' longest and most sustained military campaigns since the Vietnam War. Yet the origins of US involvement in the country remain deeply obscured—cloaked behind platitudes about advancing democracy or vague notions of American national interests. With this book, Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt exposes the origins and deep history of US intervention in Iraq.

The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy weaves together histories of Arab nationalists, US diplomats, and Western oil execs to tell the parallel stories of the Iraq Petroleum Company and the resilience of Iraqi society. Drawing on new evidence—the private records of the IPC, interviews with key figures in Arab oil politics, and recently declassified US government documents—Wolfe-Hunnicutt covers the arc of the twentieth century, from the pre-WWI origins of the IPC consortium and decline of British Empire, to the beginnings of covert US action in the region, and ultimately the nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry and perils of postcolonial politics.

American policy makers of the Cold War era inherited the imperial anxieties of their British forebears and inflated concerns about access to and potential scarcity of oil, giving rise to a "paranoid style" in US foreign policy. Wolfe-Hunnicutt deconstructs these policy practices to reveal how they fueled decades of American interventions in the region and shines a light on those places that America's covert empire builders might prefer we not look.

About the author

Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt is Associate Professor of History at California State University, Stanislaus. His writing has appeared in Diplomatic History, Diplomacy & Statecraft, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History.

"In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq on the basis of lies. Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt's The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy is a gripping backstory that reveals the historical truths of U.S.-Iraqi relations. American cold warriors inherited Britain's imperial role but failed to stop Iraqis from pursuing natural resource sovereignty."

—Nathan J. Citino, Rice University, author of Envisioning the Arab Future

"Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt's riveting account of US policy in 1960s Iraq, the rise of Saddam Hussein, and the end of the West's oil monopoly reads like a John Le Carré novel with footnotes, where the moral compromises and paranoia of the Cold War drive the action."

—Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania, author of Oilcraft

"Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt illuminates the stories of visionary, radical Iraqi politicians who sought control over their country's oil and tested the limits of American power. The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy provokes readers to rethink what they think they know about Iraq's encounters with US imperialism."

—Arbella Bet-Shlimon, University of Washington, author of City of Black Gold