Book Review: America’s Great Game

Figure 1A: America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (photo courtesy of )

Figure 1A: America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (photo courtesy of

One of the problems that Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussain, Gamal `Abdel Nasser and the other tyrant rulers always spoke about was the unruliness of the Arabs and in particular the Bedouin. They always had the same refrain. They could defeat the Bedouin but could not enslave them. The same thing was said of aboriginals in the United States. We can kill them and defeat them, but they will be back. We cannot enslave them.

The United Kingdom, United States and other nations constantly thought of what they could do to acquire new territories in the Middle East. What point would it be conquering an area only to lose it again when Bedouin bands came raiding again and reconquered? Then the back and forth. Consolidation Forces (CF) recognised that there were two bodies of Arabs, Badawi (desert/nomadic) and hadari (settled/city dweller). Realising that the Bedawi Arabs would always be a problem, the next effort was to then acclimate the Arabs to diplomatic missions from the Anglosphere.

Thus missions began to take hadari Arabs, who were becoming more distant from the Badawi counterparts and offer them scholarships to the Anglosphere, marry among them and also give them gifts and other affairs and leave them in place as de facto rulers being remote controlled by CFs. The next thing after this was to use them to balance out battles between them and the Badawi Arabs (look at some of the street battles in the south of Egypt and you can see even among Arabs battles between hadari Arabs that are the police or establishment and the fallah or badawi peoples).

More and more paperwork is being declassified and we can now understand far more about what happened and what is still happening. Now consider Hugh Wilford’s worthy classic, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, which gives an analysis of the CIAs long term goals in the Middle East, disguised as good will missions.

In this informative and groundbreaking work, the Roosevelt family are shown (with heavy referencing) to be the key players in the Middle East drama. These people either dug themselves into different posts in the Arab world similar to the jigger bug or they married some of them, such as the case of Archie Roosevelt and Selwa “Lucky” Showker, a Christian hadari Arab. By joining these two cultures together and also the intelligence, this gave a more benevolent face of CF to hadari Arabs.

Similar things were done with the Berbers of Morocco, differentiating between those in the mountains and those in the cities; but this would not be the case in perpetuity. Once the state of Israel was built, this whole system would change and the wind would blow in the opposite direction. This book shows the desperate attempts every empire makes to preserve itself and safeguard its’ natural resources and strategic interests for posterity.

From start to finish, this book is a beautiful and lesson teaching text that can be referenced again and again. Whoever obtains this text will not be disappointed and whoever reads it will not be bored at all. A good solid work with plenty of references, it may take as much as a month to locate all the sources. It will be worth it!


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