30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Cynicism and raison d'etat,
This review is from: A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle That Shaped the Middle East (Hardcover)
This is another excellent offering form the author of 'Setting the Desert on Fire'. Like his previous work, this book reads like a novel, with a cast of characters that would be dismissed as implausible in fiction. As well as being a first-rate read, it is also meticulously researched and clearly presented. It throws a disturbing light on the contemporary Middle East and helps to explain some of the animosities and entrenched grievances. It also partly explains why Western intervention or mediation is so often unsuccessful, unhelpful or simply ignored. Having said this, Barr avoids the temptation to make obvious but potentially misleading analogies with the current situation; this is a work of history and he allows readers to make their own connections and draw their own conclusions (why does the US maintain military bases in the Gulf for example?).
Nobody emerges from this account with very much credit. The short-sighted cynicism of the declining imperial powers Britain and France is breathtaking, and their motivations seem difficult to understand at this distance; in what way did possession of Palestine create any kind of strategic depth for vital British interests in India and the Suez canal for example? And yet, this is one of the reasons brought clearly to life by Barr in this book, and within the world he describes, it is possible to follow the logic. Likewise the Zionists emerge in a singularly unpleasant light, with the appearance of Irgun and the Stern gang, and the bloody struggle to establish the state of Israel.
In short, this book is well worth a read, especially if you happen to be one of the leaders of the free world.