Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq

Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq

by Christopher Catherwood
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

As Britain's colonial secretary in the 1920s, Winston Churchill made a mistake with calamitous consequences and unseen repercussions extending into the twenty-first century. Christopher Catherwood, scholar and adviser to Tony Blair's government, examines Churchill's creation of the artificial monarchy of Iraq after World War One, forcing together unfriendly…  See more details below

Overview

As Britain's colonial secretary in the 1920s, Winston Churchill made a mistake with calamitous consequences and unseen repercussions extending into the twenty-first century. Christopher Catherwood, scholar and adviser to Tony Blair's government, examines Churchill's creation of the artificial monarchy of Iraq after World War One, forcing together unfriendly peoples—Sunni Muslim Kurds and Arabs, and Shiite Muslims—under a single ruler. Defying a global wave of nationalistic sentiment and the desire of subjugated peoples to rule themselves, Churchill put together the broken pieces of the Ottoman Empire and unwittingly created a Middle Eastern powder keg. Inducing Arabs under the thumb of the Ottoman Turks to rebel against rule from Constantinople, the British during WWI convinced the Hashemite clan that they would rule over Syria. However, Britain had already promised the territory to the French. To make amends after the Great War, Churchill created the nation called Iraq and made the Hashemite leader, Feisel, king of a land to which he had no connections. Catherwood examines Churchill's decision, which resulted in a 1958 military coup against the Iraqi Hashemite government and a series of increasingly bloody regimes until the ultimate nightmare of Ba'athist party rule under Saddam Hussein. Photographs and maps are included.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This compelling volume raises eerie echoes of present-day Iraq. In the aftermath of WWI, France and Britain competed for the Mideastern leftovers of the Ottoman Empire. The British grabbed Palestine, attempted to set up puppet monarchies in Arabia and in 1921 cobbled together hostile peoples-Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Arabs-into the artificial and unstable kingdom of Iraq, ruled by the imposed Hashemite king Faisal. Cambridge historian Catherwood asserts that this form of indirect rule was "empire lite" as fashioned by Churchill, then colonial minister. The British, drained economically by the world war, were greedy for spoils and wanted the benefits of empire on the cheap. The vastness of Iraq proved impossible to govern by a reduced garrison. Catherwood, a consultant to Tony Blair's cabinet, sees contemporary parallels in the unlearned lessons of "imperial overreach." Unwanted paternalistic protectorates have a way of imploding, Catherwood notes. Churchill conceded wryly that Britain was spending millions "for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having." In a readable historical essay stretched into a short book, Catherwood demonstrates yet again that one generation's pragmatism can be a later generation's tragedy. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How did things get so messy in Mesopotamia? In part, because of Iraq's founding at the hands Winston Churchill, "undoubtedly brilliant but utterly lacking in any kind of judgment."As Britain's colonial secretary in the early 1920s, Churchill was a principal in carving up the vast, now-fallen Ottoman Empire-which, Catherwood (History/Cambridge Univ.) suggests, sided with Germany in WWI after Churchill, then naval secretary, had requisitioned for his own fleet heavy warships due by contract to the Ottoman navy. Churchill did some of that carving with an eye to the old divide-and-conquer strategy: distribute the Kurds across several states, he seems to have thought, and they would make no trouble; let national lines slice through ethnic ones, and the residents of Iraq (and Palestine, for that matter) would be so busy squabbling with one another that they would have no energy to cause trouble outside their borders. So it was that modern Iraq arose, an artificial creation that encompassed three majority ethnic and religious groups (Shia and Sunni Muslims and Kurds), along with many minority groups, all headed by a Hashemite (Saudi) king whom Churchill selected with an eye to pliability. That was a mistake, Catherwood suggests, if an expedient one: "Choosing Feisal," he writes, "was far from being an Iraqi-centered solution-which would have entailed choosing the best person for Iraq, or, better still, letting the new Iraqis have a genuine say over how their new state was to be ruled." Given Mesopotamia's oil wealth, it was in Britain's interest to have such an ally in power, but Churchill was hampered by several unpleasant realities: King Feisal began to resist orders almost immediately, andChurchill had trouble keeping peace in the region because the British government was constantly trying to rule on the cheap. The legacy: after the British occupiers left, Iraq endured 58 governments in 37 years, "a sure sign of chronic, unresolved instability"-and a pattern of chaos ended only by the rise of Saddam Hussein. An impressive study on the making of modern Iraq, with all its crises and catastrophes. Agent: Gene Brissie/James Peters Associates

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465060979
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
01/14/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
488,202
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

CHRISTOPHER CATHERWOOD teaches history at Cambridge University and the University of Richmond (Virginia). He has served as a consultant to the Strategy Unit of Tony Blair’s cabinet, working in the Admiralty Building where Winston Churchill was based as First Lord of the Admiralty.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >