A really nice article from 2004 about the marginalization of arabists by Bush administration, Freeze-out of the Arabists.
American Arabists are an embattled priesthood within the nation’s foreign policy elite. Like the China hands of the 1950s, who were purged by McCarthyites, the State Department’s Middle East experts have been marginalized over the years for “going local”–associating themselves too closely with host governments and being critical of Washington’s wholesale support of Israel. It was Arabist denial of the true character and ambition of Saddam Hussein, their critics say, that caught Washington off guard when the dictator invaded Kuwait in 1990.
“Arabists,” said Francis Fukuyama while a Reagan Administration appointee on the State Department’s policy planning staff, “are more systemically wrong than other area specialists in the foreign service.” Such comments could easily be applied to the neoconservative cabal that continues to pilot Bush foreign policy despite the mess it has made of Iraq–after dismissing prescient State Department advice.
Kiesling left behind a foreign service that would reap the whirlwind he prophesied. “I spend all day writing memos, fighting dumb ideas,” says a State Department official. “We fought the turfing-out of the [Iraqi] military tooth and nail, and [former US proconsul in Iraq Paul] Bremer wouldn’t listen. We warned them again on the need for a more transparent rebuilding process, and they did nothing.” Says a top Arabist who recently left the Near Eastern desk but requested anonymity because he remains in government: “I never felt like a pariah except in Washington.”
In an Administration that penalizes those who see the world as it is versus what the President wishes it to be, it was inevitable that the Near Eastern Bureau would be attacked as an obstacle to the New Crusade. When, in the run-up to war, Powell tried to dispatch a team of Arab specialists to help rebuild Iraq’s government ministries, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his aides vetoed the list of names. The State Department’s Future of Iraq Project, which accurately predicted widespread looting and insurgency after Saddam’s removal, was intercepted and buried by the Pentagon.