In This Review

Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair
Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair
By Adeed I. Dawisha
352 pp, Princeton University Press, 2003
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A principal organizing theme for Arab history since the last decades of the nineteenth century would be what Time magazine half a century ago archly dubbed the Arab "urge to merge." Dawisha tackles this intimidatingly big subject with success. He has mastered the vast literature on the subject, weeding out the contentious or just plain wrong accounts and integrating the several good studies that get it right. Added to this is his own considerable expertise and an impressive use of Arab memoirs. Dawisha corrects the excessive claims to a pre-1914 Arabism, stresses the importance of the Arab ideologue Sati` Al-Husri, and presents the contending alternatives of an Arabism accepting state sovereignty as opposed to political unity. Moreover, he gives major attention to the heyday of Arabism under Gamal Abdel Nasser (grippingly depicting the mass fervor that Arab nationalist movements evoked at their peak) and traces Arabism's decline from the breakup of the Egyptian-Syrian union in 1961 and even more the disastrous Arab defeat by Israel in 1967.