Rude Awakening

Fouad Ajami's new book argues that the Arabs have defeated themselves by a blind adherence to anachronistic ideologies of self-glorification, both nationalist and Islamist.

Issue: Summer 1998

Fouad Ajami, The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), 334 pp., $26.

In 1936, Columbia University offered George Antonius a visiting appointment. Antonius, then putting the finishing touches on his soon-to-be-famous book, The Arab Awakening, had crossed the United States the previous spring, lecturing at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Chicago, and Stanford. In Washington, he had an audience with President Roosevelt. His listeners were captivated: he was articulate, charming, persuasive on behalf of Arab independence and Arab Palestine. Had Antonius established himself the following year atop Morningside Heights, he might have had a profound influence upon the way America came to perceive the Middle East. But he allowed Columbia's offer to languish. America was too far away, too insignificant in the equation of power in the Middle East to attract the ambitious author.

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