SHADOW WARS by Christopher Davidson


The Secret Struggle for the Middle East
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Scholarly study of the reactionary counterterrorism patterns established for centuries—e.g., the Jacobite risings of 1688; the Thermidorian reaction to the French Revolution, etc.—now driving the Western reaction to jihadi terror.

After the somewhat ponderous introduction, which offers a history of counterterrorism that concludes with the West’s heavy-handed challenge to the rise of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and ’60s, British historian Davidson (Middle East Politics/Durham Univ.; After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, 2013, etc.) plunges into America’s move to center stage and how it has sustained its ravenous postwar economy by preserving access to crude oil imports at any cost. The U.S. inherited the “old Western order” from the debilitated English and French, and keeping order often meant covert meddling, such as in maintaining the pro-Western shah of Iran on his throne during revolution in 1953 and bolstering Iraq’s Baath regime as a “modernizing, even democratizing, anti-communist movement.” The American goal during the Cold War era was typically anti-nationalistic and anti-communist, and with those attitudes came extensive arms trades, such as with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and an influx of mercenaries. Indeed, this pattern, as the author judiciously, thoroughly exposes, has repeated itself through the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to today’s challenge with the Arab Spring. On one hand, this recent movement offers new hope to the masses of beleaguered Arabs yet, on the other, represents “a significant threat to almost half a century of protected status quo.” Davidson is especially dogged at “following the money”—e.g., the rise of crony-capitalist networks in the Gulf monarchies and the financing of al-Qaida and of the new Islamic State group. Moreover, the Iran nuclear deal has allowed a rush of access to that country’s markets, while the “business of evil”—i.e., facing down the IS “bogeyman”—has proven to be an “arms industry bonanza” across the globe.

An exhaustively researched account that will find its most extensive readership in the academic and diplomatic communities.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-78607-001-2
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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