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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent background to understanding the Middle East, 2 Sep 2008
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This review is from: A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottaman Empire: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (Paperback)
At times this reads more like a Cold War thriller than a political history. There are enough secret societies, conspiracy theories and shady diplomatic deals here to keep John le Carré in plots for a month of Sundays.

"The Middle East" is a European invention. In 1914, when the story begins, the "Middle Eastern Question", as far as the Allies were concerned, was about how to divide up the lands that lay between French North Africa, Russian Asia and British India, once the decaying Ottoman Empire had breathed its last.

By 1922, when the story ends, only the new Soviet Union still had a taste for empire-building. The former territories of the Sultan had become a series of notionally independent nation states designed to be run by European "advisors". "The Middle Eastern Question" had not been solved: it had just been changed.

David Fromkin suggests that Europe's approach to the Middle East in 1914 should be seen as part of "Great Game" that had dominated foreign policy in the East in the preceding century. It was this view, combined with astonishing official incompetence, that lead Allied politicians to make disastrous misjudgements about the Arab-speaking peoples and the role of Islam in the political life of the region.

I read this book to learn about the background to the current situation in the Middle East. I was not disappointed. It's a complex story and the author does a first rate job of disentangling it, drawing on previously closed official sources.

Written in 1989, this predates the First Gulf War. An unintended, but poignant, consequence is that Fromkin sometimes describes events of 90 years ago in phrases that could easily appear in today's news bulletins.

"A Peace to End All Peace" is an excellent and accessible work of political history.
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hbw
(VINE VOICE)   

Location: uk

Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,398