From Publishers Weekly
Often forgotten except for the legend of Lawrence of Arabia, the critical Middle Eastern theater of WWI is thoroughly chronicled in this meticulous military history. Ford (The Grim Reaper
) surveys all the major campaigns in the Allied—mainly British—war against the Ottoman Empire, from the invasion of Mesopotamia (Eden) to the climactic battle of Megiddo (the biblical Armageddon) in Palestine. A microcosm of the larger war, the story includes a seesaw struggle between the Turks and Russians in the Caucasus, bloody trench warfare on the Gallipoli peninsula, a rare successful British cavalry charge near Gaza, and a pervasive air of futility as best-laid plans go tragically awry. Ford pens a lucid operational history from the orders of commanders to the movements of units as they contend with terrain, weather, and the enemy. He also pulls back to examine the political context and the personalities of leaders like the vain, over-reaching Turkish generalissimo Enver Pasha and the abrasive yet competent Winston Churchill. The result is a stylishly written, fine-grained narrative history that should become the standard for historians and buffs alike. 48 pages of b&w photos; maps. (May)
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*Starred Review* Many of the seemingly chronic problems that plague the Middle East today can be traced back to WWI and the subsequent failures of the postwar settlements. Ford supplies an outstanding and comprehensive account of the military campaigns in the region while integrating them into the broader political interests and maneuvers of the great powers. While some historians viewed the struggle as a sideshow to the trench warfare on the western front, Ford convincingly asserts that the various fronts in the Middle East were an essential factor in the eventual Allied success. He begins with a description of the prewar milieu, as the Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe,” continued to decline, giving rise to nationalist agitation and outside intervention. He proceeds to in-depth descriptions of the various campaigns, including the frustrating British effort in Mesopotamia, the disaster at Gallipoli, and the decisive victories in Palestine and Syria. In a fine postscript, Ford illustrates how and why the rivalries and designs of the victorious powers led to a “peace” agreement that virtually guaranteed continued instability and conflict. Enriching the narrative are interesting portraits of some of the key players, including T. E. Lawrence, Ataturk, General Allenby, and Lord Kitchener. --Jay Freeman