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However, in the wake of the Second World War came the creation of Israel and the beginning of the superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, with its corresponding turf battle in the Middle East. The old-time Arabists knew that with the vote on partition going against the Arab world, and with the United States sworn to uphold Israel, the days of a beloved American presence and an easy American influence were over. “In some of their minds,” Carleton Coon says, “Israel spoiled it all.”

In the 1950s, according to Terry Prothro, who was a psychology professor at the AUB from 1951 through the mid-1980s, the university “became a place where the Arab student body tried out all their political responses” to the challenge posed by Israel. Some of the American faculty openly sympathized. In an essay recalling those heady days, the late AUB president Malcolm Kerr wrote of “heroes,” such as “Faisal I of Iraq and Nasser”; “villains,” including David Ben-Gurion; “revered texts,” among them The Arab Awakening; and “the problems of the Arab-Western relationship,” including “the usurpation of Palestine by Zionists.” Young Arabists could hardly have been unaffected by this climate. Prior to the start of the Lebanese civil war, in 1975, the Foreign Service field school for Arabic instruction was in Beirut (it’s now in Tunis), and many an old Near East hand has idyllic memories of pre-war Lebanon and AUB friendships. Seelye told me that as a junior Foreign Service officer in Jordan in the 1950s, he’d had a special relationship with the Jordanian cabinet because “half of its members were ex-students of my father at the AUB.” Horan observes that the AUB finally emerged as “the translation of a religious and educational calling into a political one.”