on 6 April 2011
Saul Kelly, the author of "The Hunt for Zerzura: The Lost Oasis and the Desert War" and "Cold War in the Desert" has again provided an excellent book which brings light into a normally widely disregarded field of the recent history of Libya - the political tactics and planning in the background of the Desert Campaign of world War II.
At the beginning of the war, the British in Egypt were keen to convince the native population of Libya and in particular of the Eastern Region, Cyrenaica, to take up weapons against Italy as their colonial ruler to assist the allied cause against the Axis forces.
Afterwards, when it became more and more realistic that the Axis (Italy and Germany) would not win the Desert War and therefore Italy would lose its colonies in Africa, the discussion went on to the question, who shall rule Libya after the war. Whilst an independent Libya was not yet an option some sort of an autonomous region of Egypt was the favourised idea. This idea seems even to have found that acceptance of the Libyan leaders in exile. But in parallel, it was also thought to hand over Libya to Turkey, to motivate them to join the war on the allied side and several other scenarios were discussed.
Towards the end of the World War II, with the first signs of the beginning "Cold War", the British had to face a growing interest of the Sowjets in control over Libya. This was a direct and grave threat to the British interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As already in his previous books, the author has done an exhaustive research in the British archives and considered as well French and US sources. The files he had drawn his information from are properly listed in the Annexure of the book as it is the already known practice of Saul Kelly.
"War and Politics in the Desert" is written in a straight and clear language and easy understandable as well for the reader who might not (yet) be familiar with the Desert War and the development of Libya. In addition, and this is what makes this book really a valuable asset, it is the only publication dealing with this subject in such detail and I can highly recommend it therefore to everybody.
on 7 February 2011
There have been many books about the epic North African Campaign which turned the tide of the Second World War. But what have any of them said about the Libyans, in whose country much of the fighting took place? Their towns and their lands were trampled upon and blown up! Libyans, too, took part in the fighting!
Here, for the first time, is an excellently clear analysis of how the Allies attempted to steer the regional politics in their favour, how they sought the support of the Libyans who wanted to throw off the Italian colonial oppressor - but how at the same time they were equivocal about giving the Libyans the independence they wanted. The United Nations may have claimed the credit for establishing Libya in 1951 as a nation state for the first time in its history; but this had less to do with high moral principles than with frustrating post-War Russian ambitions in the Mediterranean!
This is a really new perspective; it is well-researched and well-written; it has extensive notes for those who want to follow up the details, but these are placed at the end of each section, where they do not clutter up the narrative. An excellent read!