The Arabists, by Robert D. Kaplan
Ten years ago, on January 18, 1984, two men entered the campus of the American University of Beirut, known by generations of graduates simply and affectionately as AUB. In College Hall, the stately administration building, they approached Malcolm Kerr, the university’s president and one of America’s leading students of contemporary Arab politics. Kerr had left his professorship at UCLA to guide AUB through the treacherous shoals of Lebanon’s war. He returned to the Beirut campus literally as its son: he had been born in the university hospital 52 years earlier, to American parents who served on AUB’s faculty.
Kerr was a quintessential Arabist, whose privileged knowledge of the Arabs derived from intimate familiarity and deep sympathy. “‘Arab-Western relations’ was our subject,” he once wrote. But that morning, his own analysis of his subject proved fatally wrong: the two visitors shot him through the head, in the name of Islam.
About the Author
Martin Kramer is the Wexler-Fromer fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the Olin Institute at Harvard. He is the author of Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America.