Losing Hearts and Minds

Losing Hearts and Minds

American-Iranian Relations and International Education during the Cold War

" Losing Hearts and Minds is a compelling revisionist interpretation that explains the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as the unintended consequence of the modernization theories and human rights discourse that Iranians educated in Cold War America brought home with them to Iran."—Douglas Little, Clark University, author of Us versus Them

"This important book features much fresh scholarship, an alternative approach to standard diplomatic fare, and a focus on matters that remain at the center of US policy toward Iran, revolutionary Islam, the Middle East, nuclear weapons, and democratic reformism."—Mark H. Lytle, Bard College, author of The Origins of the Iranian-American Alliance, 1941–1954

Matthew K. Shannon provides readers with a reminder of a brief and congenial phase of the relationship between the United States and Iran. In Losing Hearts and Minds, Shannon tells the story of an influx of Iranian students to American college campuses between 1950 and 1979 that globalized U.S. institutions of higher education and produced alliances between Iranian youths and progressive Americans.

Losing Hearts and Minds is a narrative rife with historical ironies. Because of its superpower competition with the USSR, the U.S. government worked with nongovernmental organizations to create the means for Iranians to train and study in the United States. The stated goal of this initiative was to establish a cultural foundation for the official relationship and to provide Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with educated elites to administer an ambitious program of socioeconomic development. Despite these goals, Shannon locates the incubation of at least one possible version of the Iranian Revolution on American college campuses, which provided a space for a large and vocal community of dissident Iranian students to organize against the Pahlavi regime and earn the support of empathetic Americans. Together they rejected the Shah’s authoritarian model of development and called for civil and political rights in Iran, giving unwitting support to the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran.