The East Ghor Canal was a Cold War–era irrigation project financed by the U.S. government in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. By placing East Ghor in the context of previous land reform campaigns in the Jordan River valley during the Ottoman imperial and British mandatory periods, this article criticizes scholarly interpretations of Cold War modernization. Portraying U.S. overseas development policies as outgrowths of American liberalism ignores the ways in which the liberal tradition could be reconfigured when it encountered other reform legacies in Third World regions. The transnational study of postwar expertise neglects the distinct historical antecedents that prepared the ground for development programs in particular places. The article challenges the notion of American exceptionalism by reinterpreting East Ghor in a long-term regional context. Global and regional perspectives together are needed to understand the history of development, a point that underscores the need for greater collaboration between Cold War and area studies.

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