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May 26, 1948 – Interview with Dr. Stephen B.L. Penrose – President, American University at Beirut, Lebanon – NBC Radio
The years directly following World War 2 were momentous, dramatic and pivotal. With the Cold War looming and fears of Communist influence taking hold in Western countries, the Independence movement was gaining momentum along with the rapid dissolving of colonial interests, and the rush to establish influence in a region, such as the Middle-East, was crucial if the world was going to maintain anything remotely resembling the delicate balance of peace between East and West.
The Middle-East has proven to be the most difficult, if not impossible to establish a firm foothold on peace. The oil rich nations, many of whom were protectorates as a result of the previous war were now exercising independence and the high-stakes game of winning hearts and minds created an uneasy region at best.
In November of 1947 the United Nations voted for Partition in the Middle-East and the State of Israel came into existence. It proved to be the flash point for a decades-long struggle based on a religious legacy. The gist of this discussion/interview was the issue of where Education ended and politics took over. What was in danger was the loss of American schools and Universities throughout the region as the result of political chasms developing, affecting most all the American schools between Beirut and Baghdad, accelerated by President Truman’s firm and abrupt recognition of the state of Israel, much to the anger, shock and dismay by the leaders of those countries bordering Israel. Those Arab leaders were voicing betrayal that, in the midst of negotiations with the U.S. which they felt was in good faith, the Partition was voted on and accepted by the United Nations and Israel was recognized by President Truman.
What the move made possible was to create a cohesion among those Arab states in opposition to Israel, enabling a clear division and making possible for an eventual full-scale war to escalate, as well as instability in the region for a long time to come.
In what began as a resumé of accomplishments the American University system had achieved in the Middle East since its inception in 1866 turned into a cautionary tale over what might possibly happen when an unstable region turns volatile, as it was being viewed on May 26th 1948 in this conversation between Dr. Penrose and author George Moorad over the NBC Radio Network.