Fascinating Time-Lapse Map Shows 75 years of America’s Friends, Enemies, and Frenemies in the Middle East

How It Works
Oct. 22 2013 10:19 AM

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.   

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.