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Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East
     

Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East

by John Keay
 

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The Western powers—Britain, France and the USA—discovered the imperatives for intervention that have plunged the Middle East region into crisis ever since. It was then, too, that most of the region's modern-day states were created and their regimes forged; and then that their management by the West earned abiding resentment.Sowing the Wind tells of how

Overview

The Western powers—Britain, France and the USA—discovered the imperatives for intervention that have plunged the Middle East region into crisis ever since. It was then, too, that most of the region's modern-day states were created and their regimes forged; and then that their management by the West earned abiding resentment.Sowing the Wind tells of how and why this happened. The subject is painful and essentially sombre, but John Keay illuminates it with lucid analysis and anecdotes. This is that rarest of works, a history with humour, an epic with attitude, a dirge that delights. Here are unearthed a host of unregarded precedents, from the Gulf's first gusher to the first aerial assault on Baghdad, the first of Syria's innumerable coups, and the first terrorist outrages and suicide bombers. Little known figures—junior officers, contractors, explorers, spies—contest the orthodoxies of Arabist giants like T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, Glubb Pasha and Loy Henders Four Roosevelts juggle with the fate of nations. Authors as alien as E.M. Forster and Arthur Koestler add their testimony. And in Antonius and Weizmann, the Mufti and Begin, Arab is inexorably juxtaposed with Jew. Pertinent, scholarly and irreverent, Sowing the Wind provides an ambitious insight into the making of the world's most fraught arena.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East, John Keay, as his subtitle promises, wants to answer the big question, about why the Middle East has produced so much conflict—and been at the receiving end of so much. His scope is impressive: he ranges from the dying Ottoman Empire before the First World War to the emergence of a new Egypt under Gamel Abdel Nasser after the Second. And he brings in wonderful characters— Lawrence of Arabia, of course, but also figures like the civil engineer who became the biggest contractor in Iraq and married one of two identical twin sisters, though no one ever knew which. Keay, the author of several books on the British Empire, tells a good story.—Margaret MacMillan
Publishers Weekly
This thorough and dense history of the Middle East from the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire through the Suez Crisis (roughly 1900-1960) is written with an eye toward the topical and with confidence that "narrative crammed with dramatic events and eloquent personae would surely contain its own commentary." The commentary of any narrative is determined by its content-by the sources and facts deemed worthy of inclusion. Keay's emphasis on the life stories and personality quirks of individuals impacting history recalls his bestselling The Great Arc as well as Peter Hopkirk's classic The Great Game. His choice of protagonists also follows the pattern of these books: usually Western (most often British) travelers, diplomats and entrepreneurs, from T.E. Lawrence to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA's Middle East head who played a large role in overthrowing the shah of Iran in 1953. As the title implies, Keay blames these foreign trouble-makers and profit-seekers for "sowing... the seeds of conflict" in the region. This critique of the short-sighted colonial and mercantile policies of England, France and the U.S. is not a new one, but it is replete with fresh detail and thorough strategic analysis. It should be welcomed as an approachable and engaging introduction to a big and complex subject, but not mistaken for an expert's distillation. Keay freely admits his own naivet , claiming to be a reader and a traveler, not a scholar. Thus, as can be expected, the chapters sometimes read like they've come right off the assembly line-packaged by a popular pen's formulaic recipe. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sturdy look at the events that shaped the modern Middle East—mostly for the worse. Best known for his popular-historical work on South Asia (India: A History, 2000, etc.), Keay admits to not having much specialized knowledge of the Middle East: "I speak neither Arabic nor Hebrew. I am neither Jewish nor Muslim. I first came to the subject cold and unconfident." As a longtime student of British adventurism in Asia, however, Keay does bring much knowledge of empire-building to the game—a requisite in examining the modern history of the Middle East, many of whose nations were made and sometimes undone in the imperial struggle between Great Britain, France, and to a lesser extent Germany and, later in the 20th century, the US. Consider the case of Jordan: "a child of political expediency," Keay writes, "it had neither an economic nor a geographical rationale," but its creation by British political engineers at least kept its new king from contesting the better prizes of Jerusalem, Damascus, and, of course, Baghdad. The British and French administrators who vied over the remains of the Ottoman Empire and farther-flung parts were not necessarily bad men, by Keay’s account, but they served masters whose great wish was to thwart one another, not deliver a lasting political order to the region, and maybe make a few pounds in the bargain; thus a legacy of minor dictators and ineffectual pashas content themselves to serve foreign masters. When the US entered the game following WWII, Keay writes, it did so with a crew of "global fixers, corporate and financial executives, and the assorted operatives, agents, and spies who constituted the intelligence community," and whose machinations ledto such developments as the creation of a Soviet-friendly Egyptian regime and coups in Iran and Iraq, to say nothing of ever-increasing hostility toward the favorite US client state: Israel. Would things have been different had the region been left alone? Perhaps, Keay suggests. As it is, the seeds of the current Middle Eastern mess are many—and many of them transplanted from far away. Agent: Bruce Hunter/David Higham Associates

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393058499
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/19/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
506
Product dimensions:
6.67(w) x 9.63(h) x 1.62(d)

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