Newly Republished: Recommended! "America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East" Jan 3, 2017

Dec 29, 2016, 12:01 AM

Author (Photo: In 1952, an Egyptian army officer stepped forward to lead the drive for Arab unity.) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Newly Republished: Recommended! "America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East" Jan 3, 2017

From Booklist After its formation in 1947, the CIA went to work in the Middle East, its highest-profile operation being the 1953 restoration of the shah of Iran. While that episode forms a chapter in Wilford’s history of early CIA operations in the region, his work focuses on the intelligence officers who conducted the cloak-and-dagger. In that case, it was a grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt Jr., whose nickname, borrowed from the title of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, evoked his delight in spycraft. Recounting Roosevelt’s and several others’ lives, Wilford reconstructs the agents’ influence as a coterie of CIA operatives on the agency’s Middle East activities in the 1950s. Wilford taps the memoirs and personal papers of those Arab experts as well as agency materials he has researched to depict an intelligence service supportive of Arab nationalism and initially opposed to the establishment of Israel, a posture the CIA promoted through the front organization American Friends of the Middle East. Suggesting significant effects wrought on events by American secret agents, Wilford merits the attention of students of CIA history. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

Winner of the 2014 Washington Institute Book Prize “This is also American social history at its finest, tracing how a fascination with the East captivated America’s midcentury elites (including two Roosevelts, Kim and Archie, who mixed espionage with fantasy). Fine writing and research in untapped archives come together in this invaluable account of America’s left-footed entry into the Middle East.”

Wall Street Journal “[Wilford] makes deft use of declassified government documents.... In addition to analytical rigor, Mr. Wilford has an eye for a good story.... Mr. Wilford is a careful historian, with no Middle Eastern ax to grind. The main goal of America’s Great Game is to shed light on the role of the CIA in the Middle East. It succeeds magnificently.”

New York Times Book Review “What is most remarkable in this tale…is how quickly our three Arabists were willing to jump to the other side of the street, to go from identifying and encouraging progressive Arab leaders to trying to neutralize them, to go from deriding the client regimes left behind by the European powers to cozying up to them.... It’s to Wilford’s credit that he highlights the inconsistencies — and often, outright falsehoods — of his main sources.”

Boston Globe “They were romantics and spies. They opposed Communism and supported Arab interests. They were susceptible to the American missionary impulse in foreign policy and the dreamy British view of the Middle East as a staging ground for heroics and adventure. They were the Arabists of America’s clandestine services and for decades their story has been shrouded in mystery — and misunderstanding.... [Hugh Wilford’s] chronicle of their adventures and, more often, their misadventure, makes for compelling, illuminating reading.”

Los Angeles Times “There are cross-currents and intrigues aplenty in America’s Great Game: British spies versus American spies, rivalry between the State Department and the CIA, career conflicts between various American officials and the role of U.S. advertising executives: ‘Mad Men’ in the Middle East. A clean writer and top-notch researcher, Wilford tells his tale briskly.”

New York Journal of Books “[An] important, engaging, and readable book.”

Times Literary Supplement, UK “An absorbing account of romantics enchanted by Kiplingesque myths and the Lawrence of Ar...