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The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  194 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Here is the untold story of an inbred, gifted, and powerful elite of families and friends who dominated America's relations with the Middle East for over a century. Known to Foreign Service colleagues as "the Arabists," these were the men and women who had spent much of their lives, usually with their families, living in the Arab world as diplomats, military attaches, inte ...more
Paperback, First Free Press Paperback Edition, 333 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Free Press (first published 1993)
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Apr 30, 2009 Aaron rated it liked it
The Arab world sounds interesting. Maybe a post in that part of the world will be next for my wife and I. I am glad our post here in Guate is not full of the Ivy League white rich guys that was so prevalent in the Foreign Service years ago. The author made a very interesting point about the importance of Peace Corps types in the FS. The chapter about Jerry Weaver in the Sudan was by far my favorite.
George Siehl
Although published in 1993, this book provides valuable insight into the violent morass of the Mideast in 2016 by tracing the role of Americans, from missionaries to diplomats, in the area. The term "Arabist" denotes one who is proficient in the Arabic language, admires the culture, and works closely with the nations of the region; it is also a term of derision when used by Zionists, according to Kaplan. As usual, he provides a deep, analytical history of his subject, tracing American involvemen ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Excellent Kaplan, and equally relevant and insightful to when it was first published in 1993. This book focuses more on the important people (diplomats, FSOs, ambassadors, educators, missionaries, itinerants) involved in the region over the last century plus, and a little less on his astute geopolitical thinking. Though, obviously, people to a great extent create the geopolitics. It's worth remembering that, essentially, all the Arab nations were created by Western powers for western purposes. I ...more
Oct 25, 2008 Diane rated it really liked it
This book traces the history of American "Arabists", individuals who participated in developing foreign policy towards the Arab world. As such, it is more of a memoir or history of individuals than it is a foreign policy history. I thought it was really interesting to learn about the individuals who shaped American policy in this part of the world.
Dec 26, 2008 Misty rated it really liked it
I recommend this book for anybody interested in the Middle East. It starts with the history of our romance with the Middle East -- how the sweeping sands and "exotic" people have captured certain people -- and leads to an explanation of how this romanticized view lead to the first Iraq War.
Jun 22, 2014 Gary rated it really liked it
This is a great book! The only reason - the ONLY reason - I didn't give it five stars is that I thought his treatment of April Glaspie in the final chapters was not as evenhanded as his treatment of other "characters" in the book.

Although this was published in 1993, its relevance to what is going on now in Iraq and Syria cannot be overstated. Robert D Kaplan is one of the best writers on foreign affairs that we "Muricans" have!
Jan 03, 2016 Shinji007 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read concerning the corps of diplomats that actually have lived for many years among Arab populations and speak their languages. A tale of past Missionaries and the dynamics of change not just in the countries they inhabit but among the Arabist's themselves.
Dec 09, 2009 David rated it liked it
I really liked much of this book, but ultimately found myself wanting more of a defined theme, with commentary specificaly devoted to that theme rather than just a string of stories that support - to varying degrees - what I presume was the thesis. The historical background and atmosphere the author creates is very engaging, but perhaps I was a bit slow regarding the book's ultimate point.
Aug 14, 2008 Rae rated it liked it
"Arabists" are diplomats, intelligence agents, scholars, adventurers, missionaries and military attaches serving in the Middle East. They were an elite group in the 19th-century. Kaplan contrasts their views of the Arab world with today's opinions...especially as they relate to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Some of the writing in this book was dry, but I learned so much that I am glad I stuck with it.
Eric J.
Jan 29, 2008 Eric J. rated it really liked it
This book provides an insightful account of the lives and experiences of Foreign Service Officers in Araby. The different personalities in these stories make the time spent reading the book well worth it. On a secondary note, one can learn about U.S. involvement in Southwest Asia and North Africa from the missionaries to the State Department.
Sep 27, 2007 Dirk rated it did not like it
Ok so this is what I call a truly evil book, representing an ideology that's driven some of the country's best and brightest out of the Foreign Service.

The approach to FP and National Security personnel it espouses literally led to the Iraq War.
Nov 20, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
This book offers great insight into the mind of Arabists and other American foreign service officers, from the beginnings of the American University in Beirut, to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.
Nov 23, 2012 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Well written, entertaining, well researched, and very informative. A well balanced appraisal of the NEA bureau at State, arabists in the U.S. foreign service, as well as the foreign service itself.
Feb 26, 2008 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
This book is a very readable account of the Middle East since the turn of the century.

Brings everything together.
Dec 26, 2010 Jen rated it liked it
I would probably give this 3.5 stars, more than 3 but less than 4.
Jul 07, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
This book inspired me to accept a job in the Holy Land, where I was for almost three years. It was a bit dry, but had such an interesting view of America's involvement in the Middle East.
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Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate ...more
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