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Strangers When We Met

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Strangers When We Met:  A Century of American Community in Kuwait

“We are now marking the 25th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion and Kuwait’s U.S.-led liberation. Nat Howell’s superb book reminds us of all our two  peoples have experienced together over more than a hundred years –– and why Kuwait matters. It’s an amazing book.”

–––RYAN C. CROCKER, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait

Relations between two peoples over the last century unfold primarily through the voices of Americans and Kuwaitis who lived through the good times and bad. Close relations between the United States and Kuwait were not inevitable. American doctors, ministers, and teachers arrived before oil became a factor. Their original aim was to convert Kuwaitis to Christianity; they remained to heal and educate, thereby laying the foundations of tolerance, respect. and affection on which oil workers, businessmen, and diplomats would build.

Little could those early pioneers have foreseen the pivotal contemporary role Kuwait and the Gulf would play. Kuwaitis’ determination to maintain their identity and independence in a dangerous neighborhood struck a responsive chord in Americans and brought the two nations into a close relationship. Terrorism, aircraft hijackings, the tanker war, and, ultimately, the brutal Iraqi occupation of Kuwait provided a basis for sustained cooperation. In a world where U.S. relationships with other Arab states are often fraught, Kuwait offers a refreshing paradigm.

Americans who have lived and served in Kuwait will find here the prequel to the country they experienced. Scholars who wish to know more about the development of Kuwait will discover here the most complete history in English.

 “Howell’s engaging and comprehensive opus presents invaluable details of Kuwait’s development and the part played by a small group of dedicated Americans. In the book’s denouement, the author modestly chronicles his courageous role in Saddam Hussein’s 1990 sneak invasion.”
––Dr. COLBERT C. HELD, author, Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics

Nathaniel Howell’s 30-year Foreign Service career included posts in Cairo, Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Algeria, and Kuwait, where he was ambassador (1987–91) during the Iraqi invasion and occupation. In 1972, he helped open the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi; in the 1980s, as political advisor at USCENTCOM, he engaged in security consultations with Gulf leaders. After the Foreign Service, he taught for 23 years at the University of Virginia, retiring as Professor Emeritus in January 2015.