“As you know, Archie, we’re much concerned about what’s going on in Syria – especially the way the Communists and the nationalists appear to be ganging up for some kind of action there…I’d like you to fly out to Damascus right away, talk to our ambassador, and see…what can be done about it.”
– Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Archie Roosevelt
It has been sixty years; not much has changed.
With this charge, Archie, accompanied by the CIA’s “Mr. Middle East,” Kim Roosevelt, arrived in Beirut. The cousins were to begin a three-week tour of the region to size up the possibility of covert action in Syria and to mobilize Arab opposition to Nasser (perhaps the first “next Hitler” in the long list of the many since). Nasser was seen as the root of the new Arab nationalism problem, his nationalization of the Suez Canal being perhaps the biggest concern.
As was – and will always be – the case, supporters in opposition to the standing government could often be found. What was proposed by the opposition was a coup. Archie was unfazed, a strange reaction given that Archie was a strong Arabist, previously supportive of Arab nationalism and even a supporter of Nasser in Egypt.
Wilford focusses on the issues of the Cold War in turning Archie and other Arabists against their previously-held views – but this seems unsupportable; even in later years when writing his memoirs, Archie recognized that the goals of Arab nationalists and communists were diametrically opposed. Yet, this is ultimately the reason that Wilford identifies as the cause of…