The Middle East has long been a region of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and ambitions. All of these conflicts-including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis, and the violent challenges posed by Iraq's competing sects-are rooted in the region's political inheritance: the arrangements, unities, and divisions imposed by the Allies after the First World War.
In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin reveals how and why the Allies drew lines on an empty map that remade the geography and politics of the Middle East. Focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when all seemed possible, he delivers in this sweeping and magisterial book the definitive account of this defining time, showing how the choices narrowed and the Middle East began along a road that led to the conflicts and confusion that continue to this day.
A new afterword from Fromkin, written for this edition of the book, includes his invaluable, updated assessment of this region of the world today, and on what this history has to teach us.
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About the Author
David de Vries is a veteran stage actor and award-winning audiobook narrator. He can be seen in a number of feature films, including The Founder, The Accountant, Captain America: Civil War, and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. On television, his credits include House of Cards, Nashville, and Halt and Catch Fire.
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A Peace To End All Peace
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East
By David Fromkin
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 1989 David Fromkin
All rights reserved.
THE LAST DAYS OF OLD EUROPE
In the late spring of 1912, the graceful yacht Enchantress put out to sea from rainy Genoa for a Mediterranean pleasure cruise — a carefree cruise without itinerary or time-schedule. The skies brightened as she steamed south. Soon she was bathed in sunshine.
Enchantress belonged to the British Admiralty. The accommodation aboard was as grand as that on the King's own yacht. The crew numbered nearly a hundred and served a dozen or so guests, who had come from Britain via Paris, where they had stayed at the Ritz. Among them were the British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith; his brilliant 25-year-old daughter Violet; the civilian head of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill; and Churchill's small party of family members and close colleagues. In the final enchanted years before the First World War brought their world to an end, they were as privileged a group as any the world has known.
Violet Asquith kept a diary of her journey. In Pompeii she and her friends wandered "down the long lovely silent streets" that once had pulsated with the life of Imperial Rome; now, she noted, those once lively streets were overgrown with grass and vegetation. In Sicily her party climbed to the ruins of an ancient Greek fortress and, amidst wild lavender and herbs, had a picnic lunch, sitting on blocks of stone from the fallen walls. Later they went higher still to watch the sunset over the sea from what remained of the old Greek theater on the heights. There they lay "among wild thyme and humming bees and watched the sea changing from blue to flame and then to cool jade green as the sun dropped into it and the stars came out."
Rotations and revolutions — the heavenly movements that cause day to become night and spring/summer to become autumn/winter — were reflected in her observations of the landscape and its lighting; but a sense of the mortality of civilizations and of political powers and dominations did not overshadow Violet's cheerful vision of her youthful voyage to the lands of antiquity. Her father presided over an empire roughly twice as large as the Roman Empire at its zenith; she may well have thought that her father's empire would last twice as long too.
The Prime Minister, an enthusiastic sightseer, was inseparable from his Baedeker guidebook. An ardent classicist, he read and wrote with ease and pleasure in classical Greek and Latin. Winston Churchill, no scholar of ancient languages or literature, was as jealous as a child. "Those Greeks and Romans," he protested, "they are so overrated. They only said everything first. I've said just as good things myself. But they got in before me."
Violet noted that, "It was in vain that my father pointed out that the world had been going on for quite a long time before the Greeks and Romans appeared upon the scene." The Prime Minister was an intellectual, aware that the trend among historians of the ancient world was away from an exclusive concern with the European cultures of the Greeks and Romans. The American professor James Henry Breasted had won wide acceptance for the thesis that modern civilization — that is, European civilization — had its beginnings not in Greece and Rome, but in the Middle East: in Egypt and Judaea, Babylonia and Assyria, Sumer and Akkad. Civilization — whose roots stretched thousands of years into the past, into the soil of those Middle Eastern monarchies that long ago had crumbled into dust — was seen to have culminated in the global supremacy of the European peoples, their ideals, and their way of life.
In the early years of the twentieth century, when Churchill and his guests voyaged aboard the Enchantress, it was usual to assume that the European peoples would continue to play a dominating role in world affairs for as far ahead in time as the mind's eye could see. It was also not uncommon to suppose that, having already accomplished most of what many regarded as the West's historical mission — shaping the political destinies of the other peoples of the globe — they would eventually complete it. Conspicuous among the domains still to be dealt with were those of the Middle East, one of the few regions left on the planet that had not yet been socially, culturally, and politically reshaped in the image of Europe.
The Middle East, although it had been of great interest to western diplomats and politicians during the nineteenth century as an arena in which Great Game rivalries were played out, was of only marginal concern to them in the early years of the twentieth century when those rivalries were apparently resolved. The region had become a political backwater. It was assumed that the European powers would one day take the region in hand, but there was no longer a sense of urgency about their doing so.
Few Europeans of Churchill's generation knew or cared what went on in the languid empires of the Ottoman Sultan or the Persian Shah. An occasional Turkish massacre of Armenians would lead to a public outcry in the West, but would evoke no more lasting concern than Russian massacres of Jews. Worldly statesmen who privately believed there was nothing to be done would go through the public motions of urging the Sultan to reform; there the matter would end. Petty intrigues at court, a corrupt officialdom, shifting tribal alliances, and a sluggish, apathetic population composed the picture that Europeans formed of the region's affairs. There was little in the picture to cause ordinary people living in London, or Paris, or New York to believe that it affected their lives or interests. In Berlin, it is true, planners looked to the opening up of railroads and new markets in the region; but these were commercial ventures. The passions that now drive troops and terrorists to kill and be killed — and that compel global attention — had not yet been aroused.
At the time, the political landscape of the Middle East looked different from that of today. Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia did not exist then. Most of the Middle East still rested, as it had for centuries, under the drowsy and negligent sway of the Ottoman Empire, a relatively tranquil domain in which history, like everything else, moved slowly.
Today, toward the close of the twentieth century, the politics of the Middle East present a completely different aspect: they are explosive. No man played a more crucial role — at times unintentionally — in giving birth to the Middle East we live with today than did Winston Churchill, who before the First World War was a rising but widely distrusted young English politician with no particular interest in Moslem Asia. A curious destiny drove Churchill and the Middle East to interfere repeatedly in one another's political lives. This left its marks; there are frontier lines now running across the face of the Middle East that are scar-lines from those encounters with him.CHAPTER 2
THE LEGACY OF THE GREAT GAME IN ASIA
Churchill, Asquith, and such Cabinet colleagues as the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, and, later, the War Minister, Lord Kitchener, were to play a decisive role in creating the modern Middle East; but in doing so they were unable to escape from a Victorian political legacy that Asquith's Liberal government thought it had rejected. Asquith and Grey, having turned their backs on the nineteenth-century rivalry with France and Russia in the Middle East, believed that they could walk away from it; but events were to prove them wrong.
The struggle for the Middle East, pitting England against European rivals, was a result of the imperial expansion ushered in by the voyages of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, and Drake. Having discovered the sea routes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the European powers went on to vie with one another for control of the rest of the world. England was a relatively late starter in the race, but eventually surpassed the others.
During the eighteenth century the British Isles, despite their small size, finally established an empire that encircled the globe. Like the Spaniards and the Dutch before them, the British boasted that their monarch now reigned over dominions on which the sun never set. By 1912, when Winston Churchill and Herbert Asquith cruised aboard the Enchantress, their monarch, George V, ruled a quarter of the land surface of the planet.
Of none of their conquests were the British more proud than those in the storied East. Yet there was irony in these triumphs; for in besting France in Asia and the Pacific, and in crowning that achievement by winning India, Britain had stretched her line of transport and communications so far that it could be cut at many points.
Napoleon Bonaparte exposed this vulnerability in 1798, when he invaded Egypt and marched on Syria — intending, he later maintained, from there to follow the path of legend and glory, past Babylon, to India. Though checked in his own plans, Napoleon afterwards persuaded the mad Czar Paul to launch the Russian army on the same path.
Britain's response was to support the native regimes of the Middle East against European expansion. She did not desire to control the region, but to keep any other European power from doing so.
Throughout the nineteenth century, successive British governments therefore pursued a policy of propping up the tottering Islamic realms in Asia against European interference, subversion, and invasion. In doing so their principal opponent soon became the Russian Empire. Defeating Russian designs in Asia emerged as the obsessive goal of generations of British civilian and military officials. Their attempt to do so was, for them, "the Great Game," in which the stakes ran high. George Curzon, the future Viceroy of India, defined the stakes clearly: "Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia — to many these names breathe only a sense of utter remoteness ... To me, I confess, they are the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world." Queen Victoria put it even more clearly: it was, she said, "a question of Russian or British supremacy in the world."
It appears to have been a British officer named Arthur Conolly who first called it "the Great Game." He played it gallantly, along the Himalayan frontier and in the deserts and oases of Central Asia, and lost in a terrible way: an Uzbek emir cast him for two months into a well which was filled with vermin and reptiles, and then what remained of him was brought up and beheaded. The phrase "the Great Game" was found in his papers and quoted by a historian of the First Afghan War. Rudyard Kipling made it famous in his novel Kim, the story of an Anglo-Indian boy and his Afghan mentor foiling Russian intrigues along the highways to India.
The game had begun even before 1829, when the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, entered into official correspondence on the subject of how best to protect India against a Russian attack through Afghanistan. The best way, it was agreed, was by keeping Russia out of Afghanistan. British strategy thereafter was to employ the decaying regimes of Islamic Asia as a gigantic buffer between British India and its route to Egypt, and the threatening Russians. This policy was associated especially with the name of Lord Palmerston, who developed it during his many years as Foreign Minister (1830–4, 1836–41, and 1846–51) and Prime Minister (1855–8 and 1859–65).
The battle to support friendly buffer regimes raged with particular intensity at the western and eastern ends of the Asian continent, where the control of dominating strategic positions was at stake. In western Asia the locus of strategic concern was Constantinople (Istanbul), the ancient Byzantium, which for centuries had dominated the crossroads of world politics. Situated above the narrow straits of the Dardanelles, it commanded both the east/west passage between Europe and Asia and the north/south passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So long as Constantinople was not in unfriendly hands, the powerful British navy could sail through the Dardanelles into the Black Sea to dominate the Russian coastline. But if the Russians were to conquer the straits they could not merely keep the British fleet from coming in; they could also send their own fleet out, into the Mediterranean, where its presence could threaten the British lifeline.
Toward the far side of the Asian continent, the locus of strategic concern was the stretch of high mountain ranges in and adjoining Afghanistan, from which invaders could pour down into the plains of British India. Britain's aim in eastern Asia was to keep Russia from establishing any sort of presence on those dominating heights.
Sometimes as a cold war, sometimes as a hot one, the struggle between Britain and Russia raged from the Dardanelles to the Himalayas for almost a hundred years. Its outcome was something of a draw.
There were vital matters at stake in Britain's long struggle against Russia; and while some of these eventually fell by the wayside, others remained, alongside newer ones that emerged.
In 1791 Britain's Prime Minister, William Pitt, expressed fear that the Russian Empire might be able to overthrow the European balance of power. That fear revived after Russia played a crucial role in the final defeat of Napoleon in 1814–15, but diminished again after 1856, when Russia was defeated in the Crimean War.
From 1830 onward, Lord Palmerston and his successors feared that if Russia destroyed the Ottoman Empire the scramble to pick up the pieces might lead to a major war between the European powers. That always remained a concern.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, British trade with the Ottoman Empire began to assume a major importance, and economic issues were added to the controversy, pitting free trade Britain against protectionist Russia. The deep financial involvement of France and Italy in Ottoman affairs, followed by German economic penetration, turned the area in which Russia and Britain conducted their struggle into a minefield of national economic interests.
Oil entered the picture only in the early twentieth century. But it did not play a major role in the Great Game even then, both because there were few politicians who foresaw the coming importance of oil, and because it was not then known that oil existed in the Middle East in such a great quantity. Most of Britain's oil (more than 80 percent, before and during the First World War) came from the United States. At the time, Persia was the only significant Middle Eastern producer other than Russia, and even Persia's output was insignificant in terms of world production. In 1913, for example, the United States produced 140 times more oil than did Persia.
From the beginning of the Great Game until far into the twentieth century, the most deeply felt concern of British leaders was for the safety of the road to the East. When Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India in 1877 formal recognition was given to the evolution of Britain into a species of dual monarchy — the British Empire and the Empire of India. The line between them was thus a lifeline, but over it, and casting a long shadow, hung the sword of the czars.
British leaders seemed not to take into account the possibility that, in expanding southwards and eastwards, the Russians were impelled by internal historical imperatives of their own which had nothing to do with India or Britain. The czars and their ministers believed that it was their country's destiny to conquer the south and the east, just as the Americans at the time believed it their manifest destiny to conquer the west. In each case, the dream was to fill out an entire continent from ocean to ocean. The Russian Imperial Chancellor, Prince Gorchakov, put it more or less in those terms in 1864 in a memorandum in which he set forth his goals for his country. He argued that the need for secure frontiers obliged the Russians to go on devouring the rotting regimes to their south. He pointed out that "the United States in America, France in Algiers, Holland in her colonies — all have been drawn into a course where ambition plays a smaller role than imperious necessity, and the greatest difficulty is knowing where to stop."
The British feared that Russia did not know where to stop; and, as an increasingly democratic society engaged generation after generation in the conflict with despotic Russia, they eventually developed a hatred of Russia that went beyond the particular political and economic differences that divided the two countries. Britons grew to object to Russians not merely for what they did but for who they were.
At the same time, however, Liberals in and out of Parliament began to express their abhorrence of the corrupt and despotic Middle Eastern regimes that their own government supported against the Russian threat. In doing so, they struck a responsive chord in the country's electorate. Atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire against Christian minorities were thunderingly denounced by the Liberal leader, William Ewart Gladstone, in the 1880 election campaign in which he overthrew and replaced the Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield.
Excerpted from A Peace To End All Peace by David Fromkin. Copyright © 1989 David Fromkin. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations and Maps 1
Photo Credits 2
A Note on Spelling 5
Part I At the Crossroads of History
1 The Last Days of Old Europe 23
2 The Legacy of The Great Game in Asia 26
3 The Middle East Before The War 33
4 The Young Turks Urgently Seek an Ally 45
5 Winston Churchill on The Eve of War 51
6 Churchill Seizes Turkey's Warships 54
7 An Intrigue at the Sublime Porte 62
Part II Kitchener of Khartoum Looks Ahead
8 Kitchener Takes Command 79
9 Kitchener's Lieutenants 88
10 Kitchener Sets out to Capture Islam 96
11 India Protests 106
12 The Man in The Middle 111
Part III Britain Is Drawn into the Middle Eastern Quagmire
13 The Turkish Commanders Almost Lose The War 119
14 Kitchener Allows Britain to Attack Turkey 124
15 On to Victory at the Dardanelles 130
16 Russia's Grab for Turkey 137
17 Defining Britain's Goals in the Middle East 146
18 At the Narrows of Fortune 150
19 The Warriors 155
20 The Politicians 159
21 The Light That Failed 163
22 Creating the Arab Bureau 168
23 Making Promises to the Arabs 173
24 Making Promises to the European Allies 188
25 Turkey's Triumph at the Tigris 200
Part IV Subversion
26 Behind Enemy Lines 207
27 Kitchener's Last Mission 216
28 Hussein's Revolt 218
Part V The Allies at the Nadir of Their Fortunes
29 The Fall of the Allied Governments: Britain and France 231
30 The Overthrow of the Czar 239
Part VI New Worlds and Promised Lands
31 The New World 253
32 Lloyd George's Zionism 263
33 Toward The Balfour Declaration 276
34 The Promised Land 284
Part VII Invading the Middle East
35 Jerusalem for Christmas 305
36 The Road ToDamascus 315
37 The Battle for Syria 332
Part VIII The Spoils of Victory
38 The Parting of the Ways 351
39 By The Shores of Troy 363
Part IX The Tide Goes Out
40 The Ticking Clock 383
41 Betrayal 389
42 The Unreal World of the Peace Conferences 403
Part X Storm over Asia
43 The Troubles Begin: 1919-1921 415
44 Egypt: The Winter of 1918-1919 417
45 Afghanistan: The Spring of 1919 421
46 Arabia: The Spring of 1919 424
47 Turkey: January 1920 427
48 Syria and Lebanon: The Spring and Summer of 1920 435
49 Eastern Palestine (Transjordan): 1920 441
50 Palestine-Arabs and Jews: 1920 445
51 Mesopotamia (IRAQ): 1920 449
52 Persia (Iran): 1920 455
Part XI Russia Returns to the Middle East
53 Unmasking Britain's Enemies 465
54 The Soviet Challenge in the Middle East 471
55 Moscow's Goals 475
56 A Death in Bukhara 480
Part XII The Middle Eastern Settlement of 1922
57 Winston Churchill Takes Charge 493
58 Churchill and the Question of Palestine 515
59 The Alliances Come Apart 530
60 A Greek Tragedy 540
6 The Settlement of the Middle Eastern Question 558
Afterword to the 2009 Edition 569
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
David Fromkin gives his readers a sweeping account of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the contemporary Middle East, defined as Egypt, Israel, Iran, Turkey, the Arab states of Asia, Central Asia and Afghanistan (pg. 16). Fromkin mainly focuses on the decision-making process of Europeans and Americans who, between 1914 and 1922, determined the fate of the region without any input of its inhabitants (pg. 17, 400). The area that the much-diminished, anachronistic Ottoman Empire occupied in 1914 was one of the few territories that the European empires had not yet shared among themselves (pg. 24, 32). The European powers did not wait for the fall of the Ottomans before arguing about their respective zones of influence in the region after the war. Statesmen such as Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Kitchener, T.E. Lawrence, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin played leading roles in re-shaping the region. Winston Churchill - at times unintentionally - had the most enduring impact on its cartography (pg. 19, 25, 73, 385-388, 493-529, 558-567). After losing the patronage of Britain against Russia, the weakened Ottoman Empire, anxious to pursue its modernization while living in fear of Western powers' designs, convinced Germany to become its partner in 1914 (pg. 33-50, 75, 142). Fromkin convincingly demonstrates that Churchill was not to blame for pushing Turkey into the arms of Germany (pg. 54-76). Britain and allied powers believed that the Ottoman war would be a sideshow that could be easily managed (pg. 83, 115, 119-123) but they were repeatedly proven wrong (pg. 200-203, 215, 248, 289, 301). The poorly executed attack on Turkey at the Dardanelles could have considerably shortened the duration of the war (pg. 127, 264). Churchill was the scapegoat for the fiasco and was demoted within the government (pg. 128, 154, 159, 161-162, 233). After resigning and spending a few months in the wilderness, Churchill, who was perceived as dangerous across the board, was brought back to the government at the insistence of Lloyd George, the new British Prime Minister (pg. 166, 234, 265-266). Kitchener and his Lieutenants acting on his behalf in British Cairo imposed their design on government's policy towards the Middle East at the expense of the India Office (pg. 88-95, 106-110). Britain would rule the region indirectly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire (pg. 85). Like the French, Kitchener and his men wrongly assumed that the Moslem Middle East would be glad to be ruled by Christians (pg. 93-94, 102, 106). The British looked at Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca and its Emir, as the ideal candidate for the position of 'Pope' of Islam (pg. 105). The British leadership wrongly believed that Islam was a single entity and that temporal and spiritual authority could be easily split (pg. 96, 104). The Arabs misled the Allies about their true strength to fight the Ottoman Empire. This cost Britain dearly because their core competency was only guerilla warfare against the Turks, until the capture of Jerusalem (pg. 186-187, 219-222, 309, 313, 377-378, 396). Over time, the British became disillusioned with Hussein. However, they supported two of his sons in the fulfillment of their ambitions (pg. 326-329, 506-512). Britain entered into negotiations with France, Russia, and later Italy that ultimately resulted in the cursed Sykes-Picot-Sazanov agreement and other secret treaty understandings to share the spoils of victory in the Middle East (pg. 189-199, 267, 287, 330, 334-335, 342-344, 373-379, 391-402). The Allies had no intention to pay the price Hussein demanded for his support to the allied cause (pg. 186, 227); only lip service was paid in the field to the nominal pro-Arab independence policies of London during and after WWI (pg. 325, 345). The French and Russians showed similar contempt for Arab and Islamic aspirations of independence in the Middle East in the same period (pg. 378, 435-440, 463-490). Much to t
I guarantee that you'll know more about the Middle East than any of our politians after reading this book. Reads like a novel. Couldn't put it down.
Before reading this book, the puzzle of how the modern Middle East came to be had quite a few pieces missing! Little did I realize that decisions made during those crucial years, from 1914 through 1922 when the world was engaged in the Great War, accounted for the political form of the modern Middle East. In fact, it had somehow escaped me that the Ottoman Empire, that ruled most of the Middle East in 1914, was dismantled in 1922, following the conflict of the Great War, and that the negotiation of the subsequent armistice treaties gave us the collection of countries we have there today . It is well known that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, launched the Great War, the first World War. Subsequently, a tangle of alliances among the European nations, that had created a fragile geopolitical structure, had deconstructed. Europe was thrust into war. In western Europe, the war soon became one of exhaustion as trench warfare dragged on. What is less well know is that soon after the war had begun, the Ottoman Empire signed a treaty of alliance with Germany and thus joined the Central Powers. Professor Fromkin weaves an intriguing story of the complex and multifaceted events that occurred throughout every corner of the Middle East. Dozens of crucial battles were fought, bargains were made, treaties were executed, kings were crowned, boundaries were drawn, countries were created. The British government was the leading player in this high stakes game but the British government was itself multifaceted. Power bases existed in London, Cairo, and New Delhi, each with their own agendas and world views. For me, the book's greatest revelation was that the Eastern front of the Great War was where the action was! While the Allied and Central Powers forces were bogged down in their trenches in France and Belgium, the battles and troop movements, the strategic decision making, and the drama of war occurred in the theatres of the East. The second great revelation was the story of the role that the United Kingdom played in the founding of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. There was a belief that this could be done without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, so that the resulting populations could live together in peace (a somewhat naive belief considering more recent history). Prime Minister David Lloyd George himself was a Christian Zionist as were many other members of the Cabinet. It must be pointed out that this book is an incredibly complicated, detailed, tightly reasoned, intricate, and well told tale. When the reader comes to the end, it is almost necessary to turn to the beginning and start again! Certainly there is a benefit to rereading chapters and reviewing episodes. This is a big, rich, deep, complex investigation into the events in a small slice of the history of the world that have shaped the destiny of millions of people ever since.
Mr. Fromkin from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and an expert on conflicts has written a marvelous book that thoroughly delineated the policies of the dominant powers in the early 1900s, which led to the creation of the modern Middle East. Mr. Fromkin discusses how the seeds of conflict were created by the colonial powers, in order to ensure their continuous dominance over the Middle East and its natural resources. This book subtly addresses the politics of discord creation, and the importance of well designed conflicts in attaining the desired results. Peace to end all peace is a great reading for the history buff who is interested in an elitist perspective.
A concise, exciting, well-written condensation of the creation of the modern Middle East from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Fromkin's scope is vast but the prose never gets lost or loses its verve. Anyone interested in understanding all the current yammering about the 'arbitrary' nature of modern Middle East borders will do well to read this book.
This is a first class, detailed analysis of how the Middle East as we know it today was formed. I would highly recommend that this book is read together with Efraim Karsh's "Empires Of The Sands; The Struggle For Mastery Of the Mid-East, 1789 - 1923", for a thorough grounding in this subject. Recent events have shown that, whether we like it or not, matters pertaining to the region are going to affect us all in one way or another. With this in mind, it is disturbing that most people possess an overwhelming, innocent, ignorance or apathy in relation to the background of the region and the context of ongoing disputes and military struggles. This book provides an excellent public service in bringing essential information to the public's attention. Without books like this, such an ignorance of regional matters such as the Palestinian-Israeli issue and Islamic Fundamentalism can give rise to a distorted understanding of these matters, making the public at large so vulnerable to disinformation and propaganda. The author covers the hatreds, disputes, rivalries, vested self-interests and hidden agendas of those individuals and nations involved and responsible for carving out and mapping the region during the post First World War years. The decision making process is covered in detail with reference to recently opened archives of hitherto official secret documents and private papers. This is essential reading for an accurate comprehension of the region. Some matters will astound you, especially the level of appeasement shown by my own British Government towards the regions' Arabs and how the British, with a swipe of the pen, literally gave away the vast majority of land promised as a new Jewish state, to form the new country of Transjordan. Read on and digest. Once you have read this and the book outlined above by Efraim Karsh, might I respectfully recommend that you then proceed to read Joan Peter's remarkable account of the region entitled, "From Time Immemorial; The Origins Of The Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine". Thank you.
What I enjoyed about this book besides the content is that the writing (for non-fiction history) is not pedantic. It is very readable without sacrificing the quality of the research.
Others have already said it, but I'll say it again: this is a superb account of the high-handed dealings of the colonial powers, during and just after World War I, which shaped the modern Middle East. Besides being meticulously researched and very well written, the book tells a fascinating story which brims with ironies. Fromkin notes that the British asked the Arabs to trust them, yet the British didn't trust the Arabs, nor did they trust the French or the Russians; in fact, individuals at various levels of the British government didn't even trust each other, and often they misunderstood or flat-out didn't know each other's views. At every turn, throughout that period, the British and the French were deceiving each other, individuals within their governments were deceiving other individuals in the same government, and all of them were deceiving themselves. It's hard to keep all the twists and turns straight, but every chapter brings new insights. One finishes the book with sadness at what happened, but with the satisfaction of finally understanding what went wrong--and why the Middle East remains a power keg today.
The last 2 chapters were disappointing.In the last one he makes a quick 10 page conclusion of everything that I thought was just poor;I have a feeling he had a deadline to meet and those last 10 pages he regurgitated the night before it was due.All in all,it was interesting, but very, very dense. I would say university history class level.I would say that I know more now on the history than I did before, but there was such a huge mass of information that you really need to stick to this book and not stop for too long or you'll just forget everything.Despite the poor conclusion, he did say something interesting there:Basically he said that the current system was never meant for Arabia.The Europeans had concurred the world, and the last place to concur was the Middle East.They had concurred America, north and south,Australia, New Zealand, east Asia, Africa...Everything was colonized by them.They believed in this secular nation-state, which worked in Europe, but had never been introduced to the Middle East.First Islam conquered the whole area, and then the ottomans took over for 700 years.Also, the fact that all the leaders were put in place by the English and French meant that the local people had no faith in their politicians, and didn't understand their borders.For example, the Saudi-Jordanian border is the site of where Ibn Saud tried to invade what is now Jordan,but Jordan had king Abdullah, put in place by the English, so the English sent airplanes and tanks and armored vehicles and massacred Ibn Saud's bedouins.They did this to save face. They could not have their puppet being killed or crushed. It would simply make the Brits look weak.The site of that battle became the border of Jordan and Saudi Arabia:hence the names, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.Basically 2 local dynastic tribal leaders tried to adapt to this European idea of nation-states and took their areas of control and turned them into countries.So basically what I think he was trying to say in his conclusion was that that form of government was never meant for the Middle East and won't last long.He was saying that the Europeans underestimated the only unifying factor in Arabia, which was Islam.They would never have believed that a bunch of wahhabi bedouins could invade the hejaz, or that the muslim brotherhood would be so strong today, or the Afghani mujahedeen, or the shia revolution in Iran... He also said that it was like Europe in the 5th centurythe roman empire crumbled and then Europe spent 1000 years warring against each other trying to find a comfortable solution, and it evolved this idea of secular nation states.Anyway, I came off with the feeling that the English and the French screwed up everything, and have the blood of millions of deaths on their hands, and that the countries that exist today are sad jokes.The whole area was part of Greater Syria for 2 weeks. All the Arabs there united under 1 government right in between Egypt and Iran.And I think that's how it should end one day.So to summarize:Pros:Good book.DenseWell researchedCons:As one reviewer mentioned, too euro-centric for a book about the Middle-East.The part on Ibn Saud taking the Hejaz and naming himself king, for example, was about 2 pages long!Also, he seems to quickly mention things that were of utmost importance, such as Ibn Saud collecting vast amounts of money from the British. He does not connect the dots here, because what this means is that Ibn Saud would have had little money to pay his troops and to buy weapons if the British had not payed him off as handsomely as they did, and hence, the world would not know a Wahhabi Saudi Kingdom in control of Islam's two holiest cities. And that, is something worth a chapter or two.
This masterful narrative by David Fromkin describes the formation of the modern Middle East between the years 1914-1922: the fabrication of Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia by Britain, the setting of the frontiers of Syria and Lebanon by France, and the creation of the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan by Russia. Fromkin contends that the conflicts that unsettle the region today are largely a result of the presumptuous manipulation of peoples and places by the imperialist ambitions of the Triple Entente. The first prize to be divvied up was the Ottoman Empire. Even before the war, secret pacts divided the ¿Sick Man of Europe¿ among the allies in anticipation of its seemingly inevitable demise. But one of Britain¿s largest mistakes was underestimating the Turks, both as a military actor and as a people capable of self-determination, in part because of racism. Another racist current coloring events was a pervasive anti-Semitism among the British governing classes. It caused them to believe that Jews were conspiring with the Germans, the Turks, and of course the Russians for power. (Although many Bolsheviks were born into the Jewish religion, they could be identified as Jews in ¿racial¿ terms only.) As Fromkin notes, ¿The Foreign Office believed that the Jewish communities in America and, above all, Russia, wielded great power.¿ This led them to bizarre misunderstandings of the motives and goals of their adversaries, and to policy formation geared toward an accommodation of the non-existent Jewish conspiracies they saw looming around every corner. The story, told from the perspective of British involvement, begins with the decision by the War Minister, Lord Kitchener, to partition the Middle East after the War. After Lord Kitchener¿s death in 1916, David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer and later Prime Minister) and Winston Churchill (serving in several different capacities) played larger roles in the British enterprise in the Middle East. ¿Winston Churchill,¿ Fromkin writes, ¿above all, presides over the pages of this book: a dominating figure whose genius animated events and whose larger-than-life personality colored and enlivened them.¿ Fromkin firmly opposes aspersions on Churchill¿s reputation that arose from his policies in WWI. Contrary to statements of Churchill¿s contemporaries (with their own reputations to protect), Fromkin¿s research shows that Churchill first opposed the Gallipoli option, then tried to make it contingent on a joint army-navy operation, then tried to salvage what was left with what he was given. When disaster ensued (a suspension of the failed campaign after a quarter of a million casualties on Britain¿s side and a similar amount on Turkey¿s), Churchill was made the scapegoat for the ill-conceived and miscarried engagement.Churchill¿s worth was recognized by British leaders, however, and he continued to help formulate policy even after he left the government. After the war, Churchill alone recognized that Britain¿s terms could not be imposed if Britain¿s armies left the field; and he most forcefully argued that the Moslem character of Britain¿s remaining troops in the East must be taken into account lest the army¿s loyalty be compromised.Woodrow Wilson comes off poorly in Fromkin¿s telling -- his insistence on attending peace negotiations upset protocol and added nothing to the process, since he came with ¿many general opinions but without specific proposals¿.¿ ¿Lacking both detailed knowledge and negotiating skills, Wilson was reduced to an obstructive role¿.¿ Naïve and ill-informed, he was manipulated by Lloyd George into furthering Britain¿s imperial aims. Back home, Wilson ¿committed one political blunder after another, driving even potential supporters to oppose him.¿ Nevertheless, Wilson¿s ¿Fourteen Points¿ played an influential role in the politics of Europe.Fromkin ends his fascinating account by observing that following WWI, ¿administration of most of the planet was c
I was disappointed in this book. It was much too Euro-centric.
A few years ago, Osama bin Laden made a remark about 80 years of injustice. What happened 80 years ago? How did the Middle East come to be as it is now? Fromkin tells us an important piece of that story. This is the story of World War I with primary emphasis on the Ottoman Empire and how the Allies came to divide up the Middle East. It is a very well written book with clear relevance to our own times.
World War One brought about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the modern Middle East. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine (including a somewhat conditional Jewish Homeland), and the Transjordan were carved out mainly by the British. Turkey established itself as a separate entity including both European (East Thrace) and Asian parts. David Fromkin leads the reader through the changes that occurred between 1914 and 1922 in meticulous detail. Indeed, this reader found the book¿s main shortcoming to be the welter of specific facts that sometimes obscured the larger picture. Fromkin¿s book was published in 1989 so that it has an interesting historical perspective. The Iranians had thrown out the Americans and the so-called Afghan Arabs had played their (exaggerated) role in pushing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, but 9-11 remained over a decade in the future. Nonetheless, Fromkin detected the strength of Islam as the most important force in the region. Fromkin notes that the Middle East was the final area of the world to fall to Western (mostly British) imperialism. He also observes that this extension of Western power had long been anticipated with the main question being which country would get how much. In the end the British obtained more paper power than they could reasonable have hoped for, but then they found that by 1922 they had neither the will nor the wherewithal to exert that power. The Great War drained them of both. The British, and to a lesser degree the French and Americans, created weak countries and left major issues such as the fate of Kurds, Jews, and Palestinian Arabs unresolved. An even more fundamental challenge remained and remains. In every other area of the globe subjected to Western dominance, Western forms and principles prevailed, but Fromkin notes that ¿at least one of those assumptions, the modern belief in secular civil government, is an alien creed in a region most of whose inhabitants¿have avowed faith in a Holy Law that governs all life, including government and politics.¿ Fromkin puts his finger right on the problem that the West has in understanding much of the region. Even more daunting, Fromkin argues that the Middle East still has not sorted itself out after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. He notes discouragingly that it took Western Europe about more than a millennium to ¿resolve its post-Roman crisis of social and political identity¿. The region¿s politics lack any ¿sense of legitimacy¿ or ¿agreement on the rules of the game ¿ and no belief, universally shared in the region¿that the entities that call themselves countries or the men who claim to be rulers are entitled to recognition as such.¿ The last such rulers were the Ottoman sultans.With regard to the current troubles in Iraq, one fervently wishes that someone in Washington had appreciated the penetrating analysis by the British civil commissioner Arnold Wilson in 1920 about the area just then being called Iraq. While he was called upon to administer the provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul, he did not believe they ¿formed a coherent entity¿. As he saw it the Kurds of Mosul would never accept an Arab leader, while the Shi¿ite Moslems would never accept domination by the minority Sunnis, but, to directly quote Wilson, ¿no form of Government has yet been envisaged, which does not involve Sunni domination.¿ And on and on it goes.The book features a number of familiar figures, Winston Churchill most prominent among them. Fromkin¿s favorable treatment of Churchill strongly suggests that Winston was repeatedly ill-served by subordinates, bad luck, and bad press. By 1922, Churchill was finished as a British politician (or so it seemed). Other major figures include Lord Kitchener, David Lloyd George, T.E. Lawrence (about whom many questions are raised). A plethora of lesser known British and French military and civil leaders abound in the pages of Fromkin¿s lengthy tome, not to mention the odd Russia and German. Tur
I found this book very helpful in understanding the history of the Middle East. I certainly can't claim to be an expert, but my fuzzy comprehension of history and geography was brought more into focus.
Engaging and informative, this is one of those books that stays with you for a long time.
A dispassionate account of English foreign policy vis-vis it's political adversaries in the Great Game geopolitics of the early 20th century as it led the charge to carve-up the Ottoman Empire, with regards to the ethnic aspirations of its diversied populace; the aftermath established the taproots of modern Christian-Moslem mutual distrust.