Saturday, November 15, 2008

Architects of chaos

The Middle East, by anyone's definition, is a troubled region and scholars, analysts and politicians have spent a great deal of time in the last few decades trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Authors Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac don't necessarily point fingers of blame in their new book Kingmakers: the invention of the modern Middle East, but they do introduce readers to the British and American players who created the Middle East as we now know it.
Spanning the decades from British colonial dominance in the Victorian Era to the redistribution of political boundaries after World War I and ending with America's current war in Iraq, Kingmakers provides very insightful biographies of the handful of men and women who have had an extraordinary impact on world politics. Many of these personalities are military figures - T.E. Lawrence, Sir Mark Sykes and Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb (there's a mouthful). Others are politicians and government officials (i.e. spies) - Paul Wolfowitz, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. and Harry St. John Bridger Philby. There are even a couple of influential women whose analysis and writings greatly influenced public and political perceptions back in England (Gertrude Bell and Flora Shaw, Lady Lugard).
It's a rich mix of personalities and motivations and the authors provide enough background information on these important characters that you can get an idea of what influenced their words and actions. This is very enjoyable reading for anyone who is interested in modern history or politics.

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