Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Recommendation

A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East

James Barr has a new book out. Simply put, a good read and I recommend it.

I’ve wandered about the Middle East a bit and done a fair amount of reading about the area particularly from WW1 through WW2. And I have a fascination with the predominately British characters who haunted the area, for self and Empire. In my simplistic script, the French were the Bad Guys, holding the Arabs back. So did the Brits, but I was inclined to forgive them. After all, they had TE Lawrence in his flowing robes.

And that certainly didn’t endear them to the French!

The French are still the Bad Guys - not that the Brits were always the Good Guys. Both were out for what they could get, damn the torpedoes - or rather, the Arabs. And James Barr’s latest work is about the over the thirty-four year competition between the two countries to obtain/retain supremacy in the Middle East.

It isn’t just that the French resisted freeing Syria after WW2, but the way they went about revenging themselves on the British who seemed one step ahead in the Intelligence game. But then there was the equivocations of the British government; their failure to face down the French! It was in Palestine where the French got theirs back, supporting in one way or another, both Irgun and Stern terrorist gangs Even the US got into that act with well meaning and, hopefully, unknowing citizens paying into those particular Jewish coffers (much as occurred later, during the Irish Troubles).

Barr documents this all in a well written history and thoroughly documented history of the time. While I knew the ending, the journey was memorizing.

I can’t resist but conclude with a comment by the former Chief Secretary of Palestine, a survivor of the King David Hotel bombing, that might be a guide in today’s foreign policy: “’s not your business or my business interfere in other people’s countries and tell them how to run it, or even to run it well. They must be left to their own salvation.”

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