Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2013)

The blurb (I’ve broken the text into shorter paragraphs) for Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2013) at the Toronto Public Library website reads:

“The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War I was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, ‘a sideshow to a sideshow.’ As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by four men far removed from the corridors of power.

“Curt Pruefer was an effete academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo, whose clandestine role was to foment jihad against British rule.

“Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Palestine.

“William Yale was the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions.

“At the center of it all was Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist digging ruins in Syria; by 1919 he was riding into legend at the head of an Arab army, as he fought a rearguard action against his own government and its imperial ambitions.

“Based on four years of intensive primary document research, ‘Lawrence in Arabia’ definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed.

“Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.”

[End of text]

CBC podcast

A CBC podcast entitled “Lawrence of Arabia: Lasting legacies of the First World War” can be accessed here.

I learned about the book when I heard the above-noted interview on The Current on my car radio.

New York Times review

An Aug. 8, 2013 New York Times review of the book can be found here.

Dallas News review

A Sept. 14, 2013 Dallas News review of the book can be accessed here.”>Blurbs entail a voluntary suspension of disbelief: Drug Wars (2013) updates

Update: The Arab Uprisings (2015)

A topic of related interest concerns recent Arab uprisings:

The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know (2015)

A March/April 2015 Foreign Affairs article is entitled: “Obama’s Libya Debacle: How a Well-Meaning Intervention Ended in Failure.”

The article notes:

“The real lesson of Libya is that when a state is narrowly targeting rebels, the international community needs to refrain from launching a military campaign on humanitarian grounds to help the militants. Western audiences should also beware cynical rebels who exaggerate not only the state’s violence but their own popular support, too.

“Even where a regime is highly flawed, as Qaddafi’s was, chances are that intervention will only fuel civil war—destabilizing the country, endangering civilians, and paving the way for extremists. The prudent path is to promote peaceful reform of the type that Qaddafi’s son Saif was pursuing.

“Humanitarian intervention should be reserved for the rare instances in which civilians are being targeted and military action can do more good than harm, such as Rwanda in 1994, where I have estimated that a timely operation could have saved over 100,000 lives. Of course, great powers sometimes may want to use force abroad for other reasons—to fight terrorism, avert nuclear proliferation, or overthrow a noxious dictator.

“But they should not pretend the resulting war is humanitarian, or be surprised when it gets a lot of innocent civilians killed.”

[End of excerpt] 


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