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The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite
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The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  22 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, 346 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by The Free Press/Simon & Schuster, Inc. (first published September 1993)
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4.04  · 
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 ·  237 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2018
An enlightening story about the generations of Americans who have come into contact with the Arab world, starting with the 18th century Protestant missionaries who arrived in the region and leading up to the late 20th century's ambassadors and State Department officials. In contrast to the hostility that characterizes U.S.-Arab relations in most respects today, for many years Americans were viewed highly favorably in the Middle East. Unlike the British and French colonialists, through their good ...more
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
Mohamed Gamal
اول حاجة اللى كاتب اللى ع ضهر الكتاب حمار مش عارف هو الكتاب بيتكلم عن ايه و مقرأهوش اساساً فالاغلب

المهم الكتاب بيتكلم عن المستعربين ، الناس الامريكية و البريطانية اللى تعاملت مع الشرق الاوسط و اتعلمت العربي ثم اصبحت سفراء و غيره

فى البداية كان الامريكيين موجودين لأعمال التبشير و الخدمة الانسانية ، و افتتاح الجامعة الامريكية فى بيروت للسبب ده ( محورية فالكتاب الجامعة دى ) ، و كان فى حب حقيقي منهم ناحية الشرق العربي و اللغات و القضية القومية العربية و ضد اسرائيل ، لدرجة ان فى ناس فيهم بقى عندها و
Apr 30, 2009 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.
Dec 26, 2008 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.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it

A refreshingly traditional and personable approach to modern history - Kaplan wanders about and interviews many of his subjects - and one can't get more first hand than that. In doing so he draws an intricate impression of affairs of State that have influenced US policy in the middle east over the last century.

The author begins with the American missionary attempt in Syria and Lebanon in the 1800s. The goal of converting the natives turned out to be rather naive - the Muslims were both
Joseph Stieb
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting cultural sort of history about the strange tribe of the Arabists. An Arabist can have many professions (diplomat, explorer, missionary, teacher/professor), but what they have in common is that they live most of their lives in the Arab world, identity with it deeply, and know the language. As a result, they often do more to represent Arab countries to the US than vice versa. Kaplan traces this history back to the early 19th century, telling the amazing stories of missionaries and e ...more
In this very interesting book author gives an history of US foreign-office (and related organizations/trailblazers) working in the Middle East from late 19th century 'til 1990's.

From the sound of it you would not say this would be interesting - right. Believe me you would be wrong.

Kaplan follows first contacts of US missionaries/ambassadors (because this is what they were) and mysterious Middle East countries.

First US groups were people dedicated to the overthrow of colonial power (be it Briti
Mr. Kovach
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
A very interesting and well-written history of American and British diplomatic activity in the Middle East, focused as all good history is on the people on the ground.
Mar 28, 2016 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
Jun 22, 2014 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!
Apr 06, 2008 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 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.
Dec 07, 2009 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.
Oct 25, 2008 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.
Sep 27, 2007 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.
Jun 25, 2011 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.
Dec 13, 2015 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.
Feb 26, 2008 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.
Apr 11, 2010 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.
Oct 06, 2010 rated it liked it
I would probably give this 3.5 stars, more than 3 but less than 4.
Sep 06, 2012 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.
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Oct 29, 2012
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Nov 22, 2009
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Jun 01, 2018
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Aug 01, 2007
Jeff Salzberger
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Sep 22, 2012
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May 15, 2014
Wendy Brafman
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Aug 25, 2012
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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