Lillehammer University College
In most studies of US-Middle East relations the effect that Israel’s supporters in the United States have on that country’s Middle East diplomacy has been studied extensively. The other side of the domestic-foreign policy nexus, namely the role of Arab Americans, has generally been ignored. In Imperfect Strangers, Salim Yaqub provides an insightful analysis of a formative decade in US-Arab relations. He does so by using an impressively extensive array of primary sources and by investigating this political development across a wide amount of political levels. Amongst other things, he looks at classical diplomatic questions such as how Kissinger and Carter engaged with the Middle East, to grassroots studies of the workings of Arab-American political organizations, he investigates how Arabs are portrayed in a genre of American literature, and he looks at how a FBI agent impersonated a fake wealthy Arab to entrap corrupt politicians. The book is well written, highly insightful and fills an important research gap, broadening our understanding of US-Arab relations in the 1970s. Salim Yaqub’s argument that the 1970s was a formative period is indeed convincing. While each of the levels Yaqub investigates are excellent pieces of research in and of themselves, he sometimes spends too much space on providing depth to a context that is well known. This is particularly true for his lengthy focus on Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy. This phase of US Middle East diplomacy is renowned, and it had been more interesting if that analysis was shortened, making more space for what is truly novel in Yaqub’s study, namely the focus on Arab-American interest groups and the development of their engagement with US politics.