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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2010
Few topics grab my attention more than the Middle East. Civilization began there, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and some claim it may end there. The world's economy is fueled by the oil produced by just a handful of countries, and yet, rather than being a stable region because of global dependence on oil, it is the world's most volatile. The Middle East, the vortex of civilization, has in many ways become a black hole; dragging the nations ever closer to its center, and like a black hole, threatening to rip the world apart. Few nations have been able to long escape its grasp. So, how did America, and indeed, the rest of world's industrial nations, become ensnared the shifting sands of the Middle Eastern politics?

Few books have so expertly been able to answer that question better than Geoffrey Wawro's "Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East". Mr. Wawro, who is a Professor of Military History at the University of North Texas, as well as director the Military History Center at UNT, has been able to unravel the Byzantine world of Middle Eastern politics, woven into the cultures and religion of the people for generations, and give the reader a clear and comprehensive history.

For example, Dr. Wawo describes the blunders of the British Empire in closing years of World War I resulting from the vacuum of the collapsing Ottoman Empire and imperialist myopia which left Britain in control of areas such as the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Palestine, while the French, seeking to maintain its shrinking empire, gained control of Syria. As a result, Arab nationalist aligned themselves with Nazi Germany (and Nazi Germany's policy of anti-Semitism didn't hurt either). The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was often a guest in Berlin, and Arabs were invited to join in a SS division comprised solely of Moslem Arabs (that veneration of all things Nazi, not unexpectedly, still continues in some Arab nations to this day).

Dr. Wawo goes on to explain how the increasing Jewish presence in the region, especially in Palestine, thanks in large part to the backroom dealings of President Truman, as well as British and French incompetence, as well as a growing powerful Jewish lobby lead to the establishment of Israel, against a backdrop of the Cold War, religious hatred, and economics. Many a Prime Minister and President has sought to get a grip on the Middle East, only to find events as fluid as the shifting sands.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Anyone who wants to understand how and why were engaged in two wars in the region; why we're drilling oil wells offshore; why we're investing billions in alternative energy sources; why we're under threat from terrorists; or why we're paying nearly $3.00 for a gallon of gas needs to read this book. The threat is not just to America, but the world is real. If knowledge is power, then Geoffrey Wawro's 551 page "Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East" is an excellent tool to have one's arsenal.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2010
Every policymaker in Washington should be reading this book, which avoids the usual focus on crisis du jour and instead charts the spread of US power and influence in the region, from the days of Woodrow Wilson down to Barack Obama, from the Balfour Declaration to the Bush Doctrine. It's all here: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Cold War and terrorism. What I like most about the book is the way it presents each presidential administration as having had CHOICES to make -- some quite pivotal -- and most chose not to make them because they wanted to avoid roiling the Israel or Saudi lobbies. AIPAC types will NOT like this book, for its clear and strategic presentation of the facts, but they should read it anyway. The book is extremely readable, and presents quite an education in a single volume.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2010
I loved this book. It is deep and educational, but it is never dull. Wawro blends biography, anecdote and truly startling analysis to shed light on America's checkered progress in the Middle East. The portraits of people like Nasser, Anthony Eden, Ike, Nixon, Bush 41 and 43, LBJ, Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and the Shah are memorable and entertaining. Wawro's analysis of the wars of the region contains some pretty shocking revelations. Read this book!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2010
Geoffrey Wawro is the General Olinto Mark Barsanti Professor of Military History at the University of North Texas; he hosted many programs on the History Channel, and he taught at the US Naval War College for years. [For the reviewer "Kava" to call his scholarship disingenuous means that "Kava" never picked the book up, much less bought it. Ignore him.]

For those who don't follow the US college ratings, the US Naval War College, where Wawro taught, is second to the US Army War College and both of them rank higher than Harvard, Stanford and the like. Wawro has a PhD in History from Yale. My book arrived earlier today, and I am whipping through it. This is a tour de force, heavily footnoted, and worth every minute spent reading it. Wawro has obviously spent years researching his subject and his erudition is exemplary.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2011
Geoffrey Wawro, director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas professor of history, has written an important book on US foreign policy in the Middle East. A professional historian, Wawro did his homework: he read all the relevant literature and accessed all the relevant archives.

Wawro focuses on the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel. It's in his handling of the latter that he is likely to draw fire from unconditional supporters of Israel who can not accept anything less than the fact that Israel can do no wrong and is the victim of Palestinian and Arab aggressors. So this book is definitely not destined for Israel's apologists who are looking for a work to use as a propaganda tool. For those I suggest work like From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine (a hoax that provides good propaganda material) and The Case for Israel, a very good lawyer's brief, by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz.

Not that the book is a defense of the Palestinians, Wawro is not interested in taking sides he just lets the facts speak for themselves.
Wawro is likely to please neither apologists for Israel nor those of the Palestinians. I will provide some quotes from the book to make that clear:

" Life in "Israel" (...) continued much as it had for centuries. It was a largely Arab place in which a steady trickle of European Jews mixed with the several thousand Sephardim who had lived in Palestine since their removal from Spain and North Africa in the fifteen's century" p.19

"But there are Arabs in Palestine!" Herzl's early collaborator and ally Max Nordau had famously expostulated. "I did not know that! We are committing an injustice!" Other Zionists had no such qualms: "Outside Palestine," Ahad Ha'am wrote in 1891, "we are accustomed to believe that the Arabs are all wild beasts of the desert, a people akin to jackasses who do not know what is going on around them" p. 19

"Although Herzl had cautioned Zionists "to expropriate gently..., discreetly and circumspectly," his followers took a harder line" p. 19

"Turkey's decision to ally with Germany against Russia, France and Britain in WWI nearly extinguished Zionism (...) the Turks in 1914 began expelling Russian Jews from Palestine (...) Palestine's Turkish military governor, closed Zionist newspapers (...) voided Jewish land titles and incited Arabs to raid Jewish farms and shops" p.21
"Arab nationalists despised the Jewish national home" p.31

"Though there were half as many Jews as Arabs in Palestine -623,000 Jews vs 1.3 million Arabs-The Jews nevertheless received the bulk of Palestine from the UN" p 100.
"In Haifa Arab demonstrators rallied to "throw the Jews into the sea" before they could "take our land"" p.103
"The Jews publicly praised the partition, but secretly plotted to seize all of Palestine" p. 103
"South of Bethlehem, four Jewish settlements were surrounded and wiped out by the Jordanians , who accepted the surrender of the settlers and then slaughtered them in cold blood, screaming "kill the Jews"" p. 104
"in each attack" Prime Minister Ben Gurion told his commanders bluntly , it's necessary to give a decisive blow, ruin the place, kick away the inhabitants" p 106
"The Arabs planned to destroy Israel" p. 110

These quotes should be enough to show that author is not interested in taking sides he just goes where the facts take him.

Overall this an excellent book both informative and entertaining. For anyone who wants to understands US involvement in the Middle East this is the book to read.I can't recommend it highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2014
Confirmed my fears. As a former ASN (ASST Secretary of the Navy) once said, "the problem with spending so much time in Washington is that one starts believing they are more powerful than they should Be! " he went to jail for accepting bribes! (From the Israelis) Seems President 43's VP and SECDEF fell into the longevity Trap and knew more than anyone else! Said a different way, there end justified the nation's means! Very interesting book and highly recommended.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2010
Extremely good account of how the US became overly committed in the region, and it difficulties leaving the party. Wawro writes extremely well, both entertaining and knowledgeable about his subject.
Good account of the persistent perfidy of Israel And AiPAC, and how the US interests have become subordinated to Israel. israel has manipulated the US government to finance , supply illegal systems like cluster bombs, bomb and destabilize Iraq and Afghanistan for Israel.s expansion. The US gets the bills, hatred, and terrorism, while Israel flagrantly takes land and ethnic cleanses the Palestinians. This is our "special relationship" with Israel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2012
This book is very helpful to understanding the changes in America's foreign policy over time. Wawro succeeds in highlighting as he sees it the reasons for America's actions towards the Middle East and how their perception. This book is worth reading for the long and narrative story of America's change in policy from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2012
I consider myself to have studied in more depth than many, about history in general, and the Middle East in particular.

I was very pleased that Quicksand filled in so many of the details for me, with great resources and scholarship.
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on October 21, 2015
When an author, in his introduction, quotes Edmund Burke on the study of history you have every right to expect exacting attention to the historical record. Professor Wawro does not disappoint. Wawro does an outstanding job presenting the history of American involvement in the Middle East from the start of the Zionist movement to the date of publication (2010). This is by far the best book on the history of US involvement in the Middle East that you can read today. If you read this book you will understand why we have the problems in the Islamic world in general, and the Middle East in particular, that we do today. Some may fault the the author for being a bit hard on the political class, but considering the grief they have caused the American people they have it coming. Yes, he is particularly hard on Republicans, but that is only because the Democrats have not been up to quite as much mischief as of late. Yet.

I recommend this book as a follow on to "A Peace to End All Peace" by David Fromkin. The two books together give the reader a strong understanding of the modern Middle East.

A final disclaimer. I was two years ahead of Professor Wawro in high school, which means I would have paid absolutely no attention to him back then. I had no contact with him since then until I read his book and sent him an email telling him how much I enjoyed his book.

Carl Blondin
Stillwater, Minnesota
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