A History of the Middle East by Peter Mansfield

The best written and most informative book I have read on the modern Middle East. A recurring theme is the way outside powers have shaped and interfered in the destiny of the region. The book is ambivalent about America’s role in the Middle East, arguing that the post-9/11 approach has abandoned the goal of democracy and human rights in favor of “stability,” which is music to every autocrat’s ears. And the author dismisses the much touted success of “the surge,” arguing that in fact what happened was a “purge” of Sunnis in Iraq by the Shiite majority in revenge for a series of Sunni terrorist acts directed against them. The book ends in 2013, acknowledging that the Arab Spring has had mixed results. A theme that the author fails to hit on but that constantly baffles me is the way in which Muslims all over the world believe in the superiority of their culture, while all they have to show for it is backward and failed societies. A pro-Eastern book that reinforced my Orientalism.

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