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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the Arab Psyche
This is the best and most succinct narrative I have ever read on the conflict between the West and the Arab countries. While not downplaying the religious differences it clearly shows the hostilities resulting from the political and military actions of the European(and later the American) interests over the ages and particularly since the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire...
Published on August 4, 2006 by Richard D. Hill

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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent premises
This book is a useful statement of the insuperable differences between the West and the culture of the Middle East, and a terse reminder of the offenses against the Middle East populations perpetrated by the West (almost entirely France and Britain) from the time of Napoleon through the Suez crisis of 1956. Its message, that the US effort to transform the Middle East has...
Published on September 10, 2006 by Moose


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the Arab Psyche, August 4, 2006
This is the best and most succinct narrative I have ever read on the conflict between the West and the Arab countries. While not downplaying the religious differences it clearly shows the hostilities resulting from the political and military actions of the European(and later the American) interests over the ages and particularly since the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire. Interlaced with these fascinating narratives are clear descriptions of the Sunni and Shia believers and how they got that way. I agree with Viorst's beginning statement that its too bad President Bush didnt take advantage of scholars' knowledge of these differences as well as the long standing political hostility between the Arab world and the West. Be it resolved that every member of the White House staff and every menber of Congress read this book!
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent premises, September 10, 2006
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This book is a useful statement of the insuperable differences between the West and the culture of the Middle East, and a terse reminder of the offenses against the Middle East populations perpetrated by the West (almost entirely France and Britain) from the time of Napoleon through the Suez crisis of 1956. Its message, that the US effort to transform the Middle East has been doomed from the start, is hard to argue with, at least for me. However, two main premises of this book are incoherent.

1. Viorst claims that the main cultural dynamic in the Middle East is "Arab nationalism," and that "Islamic nationalism" is but an offshoot of it. He states that the geographic core of Arab nationalism is Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and that this area "stands apart" from Egypt and the rest of north Africa, and from Arabia itself. Yet the book describes the lack of Arab nationalism during the Ottoman Empire and the lack of cohesion among Arabs after the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the advent of French and British colonialism. The very notion of Arab nationalism was invented by Bedouin Arabs during WWI. That notion is irrelevant to the animosity between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs. Viorst shortchanges the power of Islam to cross cultural boundaries and the role of Egypt in the Islamic resurgence. Both Samuel Huntington and V.S. Naipaul make a good case that Islam trumps and even obliterates culture. Which concept is more useful to an analysis of the historical coincidence of events in Iran, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, the Balkans, Kashmir, and Chechnya, as well as the Middle East? The Islamic resurgence or Arab nationalism?

2. Viorst overstates his indictment of the West. The West has plenty to answer for, but it gets blamed for too much (the United States, in particular, compared to France and Britain). The power of the West to do good in the Middle East is belittled, and the power of the West to do evil is exaggerated. The West surely exploited the weakness of the Middle East, but that can't possibly be the entire explanation of Middle Eastern culture and history. Why do the West and the Middle East differ so much, and why is the latter weak in comparison to the former, to begin with? Viorst asserts that the West should leave the Middle East alone, and then he virtually defines the Middle East by reference to the West. The United States, in particular, gets blamed for doing anything whatsoever in the area, but it gets equal blame for doing nothing. Even when it does the "right" thing (Woodrow Wilson's promotion of democracy in the region, opposition to France and Britain in 1956), it gets faulted for reasons I don't pretend to understand. How is it useful, for anyone who doesn't have an axe to grind, to blame the deficiencies (to put it politely) of Nasser and his successors, Arafat, the Ba'ath Party in Syria and Iraq, and the Jordanian monarchy on the West?

Also, the polemics against Bush, even if you agree with them, don't really belong in an historical overview, and obviously call into question Viorst's bona fides. For example: "Is President Bush man enough to defer to the Arabs and allow them such a triumph in Iraq?" The clash between Islam and the West existed long before George Bush and will continue long after him.

I recommend two vastly better books: The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington and The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important read for anyone wanting to learn about the Middle East, May 12, 2008
This review is from: Storm from the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West (Modern Library Chronicles) (Paperback)
I stumbled upon Storm from the East in the library and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.

Let me be clear, this is not an exhaustive or authoritative treatise on the Middle East. It is simply a well-written, concise offering on some of the elements, particularly in the 20th century, that have contributed to Arab hostility toward the West. I have noticed that some reviewers say that Viorst is anti-Bush. This was not my interpretation at all. If Viorst is critical of anyone it is the French and the British goverments whose actions in the Middle East caused repercussions that are still being felt today. Their biggest failure, according to Viorst, is that they did not understand the power of the umma, the Muslim community, or the dynamics of a nascent Arab nationalism.

Viorst also spends some time analysing the often dichotomous nature of Arab unity. Often times we see a conflict between Pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism. The chapter spent on Nasser's efforts to create a United Arab Republic, which eventually led to tension with Syria and Jordan, document this scenario very well.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Middle East, this is a good primer. It covers some of the most important events in Middle East history, such as the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Peel Commission. What I liked about this book is that it is not one of these verbose encyclopedia-like volumes so full of jargon that the reader learns nothing. This is well-written and informative. It could have delved a bit deeper, but it provides the newcomer to Middle East Studies with a good base from which they can continue learning about this fascinating region of the world.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, January 9, 2007
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This compact well-written 177 page book is essential reading for those interested in the the Middle East and in particular Iraq. It outlines the history of Arab nationalism, fudamentalist Islam and the critical 19th and 20th century historical/political events that produced the Middle East as we find it today. If you are looking for one book to provide you with essential background, this is it. This work was first brought to my attention by individuals with life-long professional political involvement in the Middle East.

Frank A. Orban III

Executive V.P.

The Institute of World Politics

Washington, DC
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, January 23, 2008
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This review is from: Storm from the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West (Modern Library Chronicles) (Paperback)
I was not a fan of Milton Viorst. I had read his Sandcastles and Sands of Sorrows and was disappointed. I saw the book on my list and that President Jimmy Carter had endorsed it. I took a chance. I was surprised on how well Mr. Viorst presented the Arab perspective in such few pages. For a general reader, this book will provide a good introduction. For a the serious student, it provides a quick reference point. I have two observations that made this book a "Four Star" rather than a "Five Star." First, Mr. Viorst's handling of Israel. The complex role Israel has played in the Middle East is not simply relegated to the conflict over Palestine. Israel has played a far more active role. It interfered in Lebanon's politics; it had a policy of aggressive behavior on its borders as admitted by the late Moshe Dayan on the Syrian front; it has reached out to non-Arab players to threaten its Arab neighbors--successful in Turkey and in Iran until the fall of the Shah. Two, Mr. Viorst's analysis of Osma bin Laden was shallow. In the rush to turn this into a war of religions, the emphasis on the most radical and dangerous elements is appealing and gains headlines. For all the hype about bin Laden, his strian of Islam has not brought the community of believers any closer together than Pan-Arabism did. The Sunni-Shiite divide has not been bridged by bin Laden. Moreover, the nationalism of Arabs would go a long way to preventing a pan-Islamic movement. It dosen't take much to have Saudi Arabia fearful of Iran. And, how many Arab/Islamic countries have come to the aid of Syria as it faces the aggressive foregin policy of George Bush? With these two caveats, I do reccommend Mr. Viorst's book and look forward to buying his next writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storm from the East by Milton Viorest, January 9, 2007
A Kid's Review
Although this is a small book it is loaded with information about the Middle East beginning with the Prophet - It is somewhat didactic but has a wealth of information. I thought it was very helpful in presenting a well organized over view of not only the Muslisms but also some of the other players.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very clear overview, November 2, 2012
By 
Robert Harris (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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Viorst does an effective job taking the interested, non-specialist through the history of the middle east (mostly the Arab experience)framing the conversation around the Christian - Islamic fight for supremacy. While this technique may seem odd to those of us in North America I think it's an essential part of understanding the reasons that underlie certain decisions, or at least behaviours, in the Arab world. He makes a good case for the frustrations inherent in many countries as a result of imperialistic actions. He has a particularly strong opinion on British and French engagements and partitions. However, just when this starts to wear thin (what people, at some point in time, haven't found a justification for their current problems lying in some historic 'wrong'?) he begins to be more challenging around Arab political decision making -- from Nasser to disasterous take-it-or-leave-it decisions surrounding Palistine.

Well written -- and based on Viorst extensive experience across the Middle East -- I think any casual student of history will find this to be just the right level of detail.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable History, October 12, 2010
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This review is from: Storm from the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West (Modern Library Chronicles) (Paperback)
Storm from the East: The Struggle between the Arab World and the Christian West is a valuable and wrenching book.

It is valuable because it is never too late to learn that everything occurs in a context, and that knowledge of that context is a characteristic of better decision making. Milton Viorst is a credible narrator and does a very creditable job of putting America's actions in Iraq into a broader and deeper context of European and American policies and practices in the Middle East. He does so in a manner that is both objective and yet sensitive to the (understandable) Arab sense of injustice and persecution. He views things like the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration, and the several wars with Israel from the Arab nationalist perspective. That perspective is not new, just unfamiliar.

It is wrenching because it becomes evident that knowledge of that deeper historical context was excluded from the American war planning for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The genuinely aimless fiasco that resulted from such incomplete and uninformed planning could have been diminished at a minimum, perhaps more. Viorst demonstrates that American actions in Iraq are no more than the most recent of many short-sighted decisions by the United States vis-a-vis the Middle East.

Viorst writes with clarity and authority but he is, in my view, insufficiently detailed in his handling of 1400 years of Arab history. I admit, however, that his theses might have lost some of their force had they been saddled with detail to the level of my liking. I don't take issue with the historical patterns he identifies, but it is always an easier matter to find patterns when the modules are big and smooth than when they are small and irregular.

This is a worthwhile use of limited reading time. It is genuinely instructive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars must reading, February 8, 2008
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Viorst's book is must reading for anyone wishing to understand the mess in the Middle East and our role in it. Exporting Western values is difficult at best and Americans need to realize that we cannot save the world.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars so so, March 30, 2008
This review is from: Storm from the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West (Modern Library Chronicles) (Paperback)
This book is an easy read. I found it entertaining but I wouldn't call it a good scholarly book. there is an obvious bias against anything President Bush is involved with and the tint of this sort of ruins the scope of the book

I liked reading it but I couldn't take it that seriously.
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