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To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad Hardcover – September 29, 2009
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“The fate of empires seems inevitably linked to their persistent desire to impose their cultures and systems on foreign soil. Employing the endlessly fascinating story of T.E. Lawrence, John Hulsman colorfully argues from history that, if you set out to liberate other nations, it is best not to undertake to liberate them from themselves. If we learn his lesson, our Baghdad will not become Lawrence's Damascus.” ―Senator Gary Hart
“In To Begin the World Over Again, John Hulsman tells us that 'in reality Lawrence was far more important as a thinker' than a warrior-prince. If our purpose is to discover a better nation-building strategy, Hulsman is correct, for as a thinker T.E. Lawrence offers us just that. President Obama, General David Petraeus, and a host of other western leaders would do well to study that strategy. And concerned Americans, as well as others, would do well to read this book.” ―Lawrence Wilkerson, Visiting Professor of Government, the College of William and Mary and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“Hulsman at once tells a compelling story and identifies foundational principles for guiding U.S. foreign policy. By mining Lawrence's thinking and experiences, this timely book yields vital lessons for America's efforts at nation-building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.” ―Charles A. Kupchan, Professor of Government, Georgetown University and member of the Council on Foreign Relations
“Well written and engaging, this book provides a concise historical overview and much food for thought. The message is as urgent today as it was in Lawrence's era.” ―Library Journal Reviews
About the Author
John C. Hulsman holds a PhD in International Relations and received his MA (Hons) Degree in Modern History from St. Andrews University in Scotland. A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he is the President of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, an international relations consulting firm, where he writes for such outlets as the International Herald-Tribune, Harper's Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. To Begin the World Over Again is his fifth book. He lives in Berlin.
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John Hulsman uses Lawrence`s quotes and writings to help describe Lawrence`s problems and his victories from Aqaba to his entrance into Damascus; all amazing and in fine detail. He tells of the way Lawrence waged war with his Arab armies to the dividing up of the Middle East in the peace conferences after WWI. He includes the fame that followed Lawrence on so many fronts after WWI, including the world wide publicity brought about by Lowell Thomas - his show and his book `with Lawrence in Arabia'. Lawrence and his ally Churchill's crusade to change the methods of imperialism after the war are well explained.
The purpose of this book seems not so much to be a biography, although it is a rather good one, but to give a lesson in nation building. The idea is often repeated that to be successful in building or rebuilding a nation one must work with the existing cultural realities and not against them. The author also uses the supporting examples of Edmund Burke and Hans Morgenthau among others to preach against the `top down' approach - having natives learn and copy their conqueror's lifestyle rather than what suits their culture and geography.
Hulsman never says those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but the meaning is clear. It is amazing that all of this is included in an out of the ordinary biography, a fine description of the desert war and the politics of the Versailles Peace that continue to this day. It is a revealing account that anyone who wishes to understand the Middle East would be well advised to read.
Paternalistic rule from London and Paris eventually led to constant uprisings in other colonies and mandates across the colonial world as well as the Middle East. Hulsman alluded throughout the book that the blunders of this time period led to the problems that our current occupational force in Iraq are facing today. It is my opinion that we should heed the paraphrase of T.E. Lawrence statement that it would be better for the Arabs to rule themselves tolerably than for us to do it perfectly. The book is a quick read at 231 pages with a short endnote section and a brief bibliography and index. Let's hope that one can read this book to make sure that we can stop the cycle of history repeating itself.