A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948
“An outstanding, revealing, and disturbing glimpse behind the closed doors of power politics.” (Booklist) “Lively and entertaining. . . . [Barr] has thrown some light on hitherto unexplored corners.” … see full wiki
We are all familiar with the many problems that come out of the Middle East these days, but have we ever thought about how these problems began? This well written book attempts to explain to the general reader the actions which brought about the current conditions there.
After World War I, victorious Britain and France decided to cut up the Arabic portions of the Ottoman Empire, just as they had done to Africa in the 19th century, It wasn't that simple, however, for in these areas there were actually many educated and prosperous people, who resented being tossed from one country into the boundaries of another, even though all of these countries had new boundaries created by the two European victors.
There was co-operation for a while, but eventually foreign policy rivalry reared its ugly head and the two powers came to distrust each other's motives in the area. When World War II broke out they cooperated, at least until Vichy France was created, and then DeGaulle and his Free French folks took over for the new government he founded. There was such turmoil and distrust there that it often seemed that the Europeans there were more concerned with gaining hegemony for their own cause rather than uniting to fight the Axis.
After the war the rivalry continued, and this time France sent aid to the Zionist organizations attempting to oust Britain from Palestine. This is a grim period, and some of the iconic Jewish leaders of the time don't come off as good guys, but rather as folks who would use terror and murder to rid themselves of their oppressors (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). Eventfully, both Britain and France were gone from the area, and the new state of Israel was created and immediately had to defend its borders from invasion of its Arab neighbors.
No one really comes out looking particularly good in this book, but it is a good cautionary tale of why Western powers should not attempt to impose their government systems and way of life upon people who are not interested in having them. Let each country decide for itself the type of rulers it would like to have. Once in a while they will be people that the West doesn't like, but that's what self-determination is all about.
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