The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai

The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai. Book Review by Lloyd F. Jordan

Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind, is a significant scholarly contribution to the field of national character research in general and, more specifically, to the understanding of Arab culture and national character. Further, the book implicitly suggests the relevance of national character research to intelligence analysis.

What, if any, utility does the field of national character research have for intelligence? It appears that the intelligence officer often implicitly incorporates into intelligence assessments certain national character considerations in an unsystematic and, perhaps, unconscious way. The question is whether or not the collection, organization, and systematic analysis of the types of data that are used in national character studies within a more structured analytical framework would make a significant contribution to a number of fields of intelligence activity.

Despite the relatively primitive level of methodological and conceptual rigor that obtain in the national character research field, it has utility now and considerable potential for intelligence analysis in the future. National character analyses can provide a useful, albeit broad, gauge against which the behavior of elites, governments, and electorates can be assessed in particular situations. Once a national character construct, such as that of the Arabs, has been developed, the next and most difficult task is to attempt to establish linkages between it and a propensity for action. An important intermediate step in this process for intelligence purposes is to focus upon the extent and ways in which elites or other subgroups of a given society vary from the modal personality or national character.

In summation, the work of Patai and others in the national character research field merits serious examination for the contribution it can make to intelligence analysis and possibly other areas of intelligence activity.