Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth CenturyFrom Triumph to Despair

Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth CenturyFrom Triumph to Despair

Adeed Dawisha

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780691169156

Publisher: Princeton University Press


Like a great dynasty that falls to ruin and is eventually remembered more for its faults than its feats, Arab nationalism is remembered mostly for its humiliating rout in the 1967 Six Day War, for inter-Arab divisions, and for words and actions distinguished by their meagerness; but people tend to forget the majesty that Arab nationalism once was. This book brings this majesty to life through a sweeping historical account of its dramatic rise and fall. The book argues that Arab nationalism—inspired by nineteenth-century German Romantic nationalism—really took root after World War I and not in the nineteenth century, as many believe, and that it blossomed only in the 1950s and 1960s under the charismatic leadership of Egypt’s Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir. The book traces the ideology’s passage from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire through its triumphant ascendancy in the late 1950s with the unity of Egypt and Syria and with the nationalist revolution of Iraq, to the mortal blow it received in the 1967 Arab defeat by Israel, and its eventual eclipse. The book criticizes the common failure to distinguish between the broader, cultural phenomenon of “Arabism” and the political, secular desire for a united Arab state that defined Arab nationalism. In recent decades, competitive ideologies—not least, Islamic militancy—have inexorably supplanted the latter, the book contends.