The Ottoman Endgame
Penguin, 2015 (2015)
Reviewed by Tim Davis
he epigraph to Sean McMeekin's superb new book, from Isaiah 8:9, sets the thematic tone for all that follows with these words: '
Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
' Let me explain.
ny observer of recent history and current events in the broken pieces of the modern Middle East needs to understand that the dramatic rise and powerful effects of pan-Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State have deep roots not so much in recent regional instability and military actions (although those are certainly important) but in centuries-long reactions against the latter-day Crusaders - Europeans and Israelis alike - who seized their lands, redefined and imposed national boundaries, and disenfranchised ethnic populations.
oreover, anyone who wants to understand more thoroughly the real reasons for and motivations of the aforementioned pan-Islamic movements must also focus closely on late 19th and early 20th century developments in the former Ottoman Empire (a regional force which had endured for more than six centuries but is now recognizable by most people only in its residual form, Turkey); furthermore, only the most careless, indifferent observers would overlook the ways in which (and the reasons) that Ottoman Empire was broken into pieces. Yes, the Great War (i.e., the First World War) was a significant contributor to the empire's demise and the region's ensuing problems, but diligent observers must look beyond that global conflict to many other factors.
o, Sean McMeekin – with painstaking attention to details and a gifted narrative flair for informative and entertaining storytelling – gives interested readers a very important portrait of the many people, places, and ideas, allowing for a timely reconsideration of the past in order to appreciate more completely 21st century tensions and instabilities in the Middle East.
he bottom line is this: If you want to understand the present, you really need to understand the past, and McMeekin's highly recommended 550-page study is an excellent place to begin your education.
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