Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Peace To End All Peace by David Fromkin

This major contribution to the history of the Modern Middle East places the roots of most, if not all, the challenges coming out of the Middle East today to the imperial lusts of England and France dating back to the first World War and the defeat and break up of the Ottoman Empire.  Almost in diary form, Mr. Fromkin tells the story of Britain's victory and policies that were put in place when the British defeated Germany and Turkey. Hence the entire book is a discussion of WWI through 1922.

One learns about the necessary interests of safeguarding the colony of India and the so called "Great Game" on how to keep Russia and the subsequent Soviet Union out of the Middle East.  It is a story of secret deals and betrayals of the French and the Arab families that ultimately are given the trust to create new states in old places that were owned by the Ottomans.  Famous personages like T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia fame) are deflated and the so called 'Arab Revolt' is really an exaggeration.

The Balfour Declaration places Zionism on the British Agenda but slowly and then swiftly becomes a sore spot when the British underestimate Arab irredentism. Winston Churchill attempts to keep Zionism on the agenda although scaled back to only that which was west of the Jordan river to the chagrin of Weizmann and other Zionist leaders.  Churchill's determination was a matter of the integrity of the government's pledge and not necessarily out of love of Zionism.  Although there is plenty of evidence that personally Churchill sympathized with the aspirations of the Jewish people.

Churchill comes off in this history as an extraordinary astute of observer.  His plan to a swift victory through the Dardanelles is nothing less than brilliant even though the military professionals hesitated and ultimately lost their nerve when casualties mount.  At one point, Churchill is critical of the break up of the Ottoman empire because he sees the Ottomans as a stable buffer to keep the Russians out of the Middle East, hence a safeguard for keeping India.  One witnesses the mounting dept of the British Empire and how Churchill successfully reduces the expenses dramatically and efficiently.

The making of the Modern Middle East seems to be an outgrowth of the victors' arrogance.  The UK thought it could dictate terms on different levels - secretly or publicly- and expect its will carried out.  One gets the impression that it might have worked if there was enough money to spread around.  Feisel's initial warmth toward Zionism is more about cupidity expecting something big - Syria and Lebanon - from the British than an honest assessment of Jewish aspirations.  The French however also expected Syria and Lebanon which complicates the deals and the entire situation.

Mr. Fromkin's historical record is an outstanding volume that deepens one's understanding of the one of the most unstable areas in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment