A PEACE TO END ALL PEACE: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922 by David Fromkin

A PEACE TO END ALL PEACE: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922

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An impressive, somewhat revisionist summary of the watershed years during which the framework was laid for the remainder of the 20th-century's Middle East problems. Fromkin, an international lawyer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, has previously written The Independence of Nations and The Question of Government (not reviewed). If, as Macaulay suggested, history is a chronicle of great men, then Fromkin has discovered a corollary: that history, specifically Middle Eastern history, is the chronicle of great bunglers. For in this heavily researched exploration of the makings of the modern Middle East, we find a rogues' gallery of muddled thinkers and misleading politicians, from the imaginative T.E. Lawrence's large-scale inventions of Arab revolts to the imperialistic Churchill (the major character in Fromkin's tale); from the bureaucratic squabbling of Mark Sykes and Gilbert Clayton (done so stealthily that each thought the other was supportive) to Lord Kitchener--steeped in a century-old priority to draw the line on the French frontier in the Middle East. What adds a note of revisionism here is Fromkin's expansion of the parameters of the Middle East to include Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan, a reconfiguration that heightens the ""Great Game"" aspect of the affair--for it includes Britain's old desire to ""shield the road to India from the onslaughts first of France and then of Russia."" Russia becomes a prime mover in Fromkin's analysis--causing, for example, Lord Kitchener to institute a British alliance with the Arab Moslems, the British to support a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and the French and British to occupy and partition the Middle East. The major culprit in the story is pegged by the author as the creation of artificial state systems in a Moslem world ruled by religious impulses, a move that has haunted the Middle East to this day. By 1922, the author implies, British policies fell victim to two forces--a reversal of their trust in Russia and France as partners in ruling the area and a public desire to scale back imperial adventures in general. This is a history with a Eurocentric tinge (there is minimal concentration on Mideast personages). But Fromkin's work should, nevertheless, become a benchmark for all future books on this traumatic 20th-century headache.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Henry Holt