RBSC Home Library Home Princeton University Home Search
Friends of the Princeton University Library
Department and Collections Conducting Research Catalogs, Databases, and Finding Aids Exhibitions New and Notable Visiting Fellowships
  Friends Home

2005-2006 Visiting Fellows

Hugh Wilford
California State University

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, I was able to visit the Mudd Manuscript Library in June 2009 to consult manuscript collections held there in connection with my research project on the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME). Briefly, AFME was an organization of private American citizens concerned with promoting good relations between the U.S. and the Arab world in early years of the Cold War. My project is an attempt to reconstruct the organization's history from its official founding in 1951 until 1967, when it was revealed that the group had been in receipt of covert subsidies from the Central Intelligence Agency. I am particularly interested in AFME's secret relationship with the CIA, and the broader significance of this experiment in clandestine cultural diplomacy for our understanding of U.S. relations with the Middle East. During the time I spent at the Mudd I came across a number of documents which threw considerable light on these questions:

* The Allen W. Dulles Papers contained correspondence between Dulles and U.S. diplomat Cornelius Van Engert dating from 1951 in the months leading up to AFME's formal launch. They indicate that Dulles, then CIA Director of Plans, was personally instrumental in arranging the covert relationship between the Agency and the American Friends of the Middle East. Engert subsequently became an officer of AFME. Also contained in the Dulles papers is a fascinating correspondence between the future CIA director and Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt, himself soon to become head of the Agency's Middle East division. In these letters, dating from 1948, Roosevelt solicits Dulles' support for the Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land, an organizational precursor to the American Friends of the Middle East that clearly anticipated the later body's strongly pro-Arab and anti-Zionist politics. Together, these documents reveal a partial glimpse of the "Arabist" state-private network that provided the impetus for AFME's creation.

* Another important member of this network was diplomat and oilman William Alfred Eddy, and the collection of his papers held by the Mudd Library throws further light on AFME's history. In particular, there is an interesting correspondence between Eddy and Elmer Berger, a leading anti-Zionist activist within the Jewish-American community who sat on AFME's National Council, which shows both the multi-faceted nature of the Arabist network behind the organization and its powerful sense of growing marginality in Cold War U.S.-Middle East relations. Also of great value to my project were letters between Eddy and Elmo Hutchison, another outspoken anti-Zionist who served as AFME's Middle East director during the late 1950s. In particular, they document the involvement of Eddy's oil company, ARAMCO, in the funding and management of AFME.

* The papers of Harold B. Hoskins, another eminent "Middle East hand," include a 1958 memorandum on U.S. Middle East policy that elicited responses from all the major government departments concerned with foreign affairs, including a frank statement by the CIA's Near East division of its operational priorities in the region. This is extremely useful in helping me place AFME within the broader context of CIA Middle East operations of the era.

* Although less illuminating for my subject than the collections listed above, the papers of Foreign Affairs editor Hamilton Fish Armstrong did contain a significant letter from Dorothy Thompson, AFME's first president, dating from 1951, and describing the initial efforts of the Arabist network to lay the foundations of the new organization.

* The John Foster Dulles Papers were most valuable for my purposes in that they contained several folders of correspondence with Edward Elson, a Presbyterian minister who served as pastor of both the Secretary of State and President Eisenhower, and as chairman of AFME's National Council. These reveal Elson as constantly lobbying John Foster Dulles to adopt an official position more in line with AFME's position on such issues as the Arab-Israeli conflict - and Dulles as tending to ignore his pastor's advice, presumably because he was explicitly advised by the State Department's Near East desk that AFME was a "partisan Arab group." This episode illustrates the complex and sometimes contradictory impulses at work in U.S. foreign relations during the 1950s, with the State Department, headed by John Foster Dulles, clearly at odds with a front group maintained by Allen Dulles' CIA. It is also revealing of the role of certain Protestant denominations in shaping American attitudes towards the Middle East during the first decades of the Cold War.

* Finally, acting on the helpful advice of a Mudd Library archivist, I decided to consult Series 3 (Studies Department) of the Council on Foreign Relations Records. I was very glad I did so, as they proved to contain minutes of a number of discussion groups attended by Kermit Roosevelt, Donald Wilber (like Roosevelt, a senior Arabist at the CIA), and Harold Minor, AFME Executive Secretary during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Minuting the statements of these individuals on a range of Middle Eastern topics, from "The Moslem World" to "Arab Foreign Policy," these documents constitute an unusually full and frank record of the views of such important historical actors in the region as Kim Roosevelt, who remains elusive in most other primary sources.

The findings of my research at the Mudd Library will constitute a major element of the documentary base for my project on the American Friends of the Middle East. I am truly appreciative of the generous support of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which made my consultation of these collections possible. I am also extremely grateful to Andrea Immel and Linda Oliveira for their friendly and efficient assistance while I was in Princeton. Finally, I would like to thank Daniel J. Linke and his staff for the excellent guidance and service they provided at the Mudd Library.

Dr. Hugh Wilford
Long Beach, July 2009


PU home
2001 Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544 USA
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Email: rbsc@princeton.edu 
Tel: (609) 258-3184
Fax: (609) 258-2324

Copyright infringement reports