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Showing 1-10 of 299 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 433 reviews
on December 31, 2015
As a x2 Iraq vet, I was always troubled and interested in the modern history of the middle east. If you want a really gut wrenching account of how the west completely screwed up an entire region, look no further. The incompetence of civic leaders, their blatant arrogance and greed, their backdoor dealings and re-dealings, the political swings, the sheer luck of some incidents, and the silliness of so-called "intellectuals", comes to the fore in this great book. If you have dreams of quality international politics or agreements, this book will shatter them. Many of the accounts could easily have been written today and be believable.

The book is well divided into chapters, but requires careful reading to keep up with the people, places, and politics. A quick bio of key players right at the outset would have been quite beneficial.

Only giving it four stars because it really needs some full-page maps, particularly for the campaigns and showing national boundaries in the 1918s. Finding a quality map of the late Ottoman empire and modern middle east is essential if you're going to follow the campaigns, as the map is unfortunately devoid of any maps. GoogleEarth was a great help, and you can also get an idea for the key terrain (Hejaz for example)
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on August 9, 2016
As I read this wonderful book, I conjured a fantasy of a White House meeting held a couple of months before the Bush Administration’s fateful 2002 decision to invade Iraq. In attendance were the usual suspects: Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Rumsfeld, et al. But some sage attendee had also suggested the inclusion of Professor Fromkin who was asked to reflect on the notion of such an adventure in light of his study of the history of the Middle East. The professor went on for a couple of hours describing the events leading up to, and then following, the allied victory in World War One: the British change of heart about the essential integrity of the Ottoman Empire; the second and third thoughts about the Balfour Declaration; the ex parte division by the allies of the human and territorial spoils of war; the resultant festering resentment of foreign domination; the brutal machinations of the occupiers (especially the French in Algeria and elsewhere); the interwoven, ever-lasting, invariably brutal sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia…the list went on and on. The government officials sat in rapt fascination at the professor’s tale. They thanked him for his visit, and upon his departure, took just moments to conclude that any such invasion would be a historically tragic mistake.

Of course, such a conclave was never convened. Despite many attendees’ knowledge of the same history Professor would have recounted, the invasion decision was taken and its predictable (if someone were listening and thinking) consequences dog us and the rest of the world to this day.

We history buffs are especially enamored of Santayana’s observation that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But I guess governments don’t read history books, no less invite an authority on a particular region or period in for a coffee and a chat before a momentous and irreversible decision is made. More’s the pity. The upshot is this: if you believe your knowledge of the Middle East is not quite what it should be and you wonder from time to time why certain events happen and others do not in this perpetually troubled part of the world, just read this book. Then you will know what our Iraq invasion decision makers didn’t...or chose to forget.
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on April 19, 2016
take notes while reading, I'm just 100 pages in (have skimmed through for research years earlier) and I'm already utterly blown away by the seemingly impenetrable morass of confusion, misinformation, paranoia, anti-Semitism, Russo-phobia, political gambling, and a truly inexplicable belief in a cabal of "Gipsy-Jews" and "Jewish and Latin [Free]Masonry" (pg 42) somehow controlling the Young Turks, unfolding just between August and December 1914 that David Fromkin pries apart and lays out with a narrative ease so concise and informative that I had to re-read entire passages just to be clear that what I was reading was actually unfolding as plainly described, being used to general history texts and documentaries casually skimming over causes and events with a few sentences of "entity secretly engaged entity, failed, war were declared".

from earlier readings I also got a sense of just how amazingly tenuous the communications between British Cairo and Emir Hussein were that a single man, Muhammad al-Faruqi, could perfectly damage and disorient negotiations by meeting with the British and the Arabs and claiming to represent the opposite side. al-Faruqi "...drew and redrew the frontiers of countries and empires, in the course of exchanges among the British Residency, the Emir of Mecca, and Arab nationalist leaders, each of whom took al-Faruqi to be the emissary of one of the other parties" (pg 178).

even that is not even half-way through this book it's in no way shocking to see this book is rated #1 in Middle Eastern history.

also recommended is the documentary Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I which also features the author of this book David Fromkin in it.
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on January 14, 2015
David Fromkin's "A Peace to End All Peace" explains in great detail the events lending up to the Peace Treaties which governed the end of hostilities with the Allies and the Ottoman Empire. Fromkin focuses on British foreign policy before and after these treaties and the state of affairs in the Middle East at the end of 1922. Any serious student of foreign affairs in the Middle East must read this book. I cannot stress this enough. The political considerations of the dominant powers at the time figure greatly into the current state of affairs we see now and go some of the way of explaining the perspective of Arabs and Jews. The rise of Israel, the fragmentation of the Arabs, the rise of Ataturk, rise and fall of British Colonial Power; its all in here. Well worth the price and a seminal book in your journey towards understanding the Middle East.
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on March 20, 2014
We have lots of depressing books about the start of World War I,
and lots of depressing books about the actual operations of
World War I, and here is a depressing book about the aftermath.

The story of how countries like Lebanon and Syria got their
present borders is a story of bad faith, betrayal, over-reaching
greed, and abject stupidity. You know, politics.

Having said that, it is well written and well sourced.
If you are involved in Foreign Policy in any way, you need to
read this book, if only to learn what not to do.
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on March 13, 2015
The best thing I've seen on how World War I and its aftermath shaped the Middle East and ultimately created the seemingly constant turmoil that exists there. The so-called "Great Powers," who were really the winners of WWI, thought the people of the Mid East were just dying to be ruled by Europeans and they set out to do that. Nothing could have been further from the truth and attempts to control the region and its mercurial governments were a complete failure, particularly for Britain. From start to finish, Britain and other countries that intervened in the Mid East, seeing vital interests for themselves in the region, misread and mismanaged events. Perhaps worst of all, the Europeans drew artificial boundaries defining countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, which did not take account of political, social, religious, and tribal realities that many western countries still do not understand, resulting in more bungled efforts to intervene, none more misguided than the Bush administrations invasion of Iraq.
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on March 10, 2016
This is the story, from 1914 until 1922, of how the Allies, especially Britain, the United States, France, Italy, Greece, and Russia, tried to exert influence and control over the factious governments of the Middle East, who resented foreign intrusion. Here are some highlights from this exhaustively researched book.

Prior to WWI, ambitious new men such as Enver Pasha, Mehmed Talaat Bey, and Ahmed Djemal Pasha, also known as the Young Turk Party, took power in the Ottoman Empire, which had not kept up with European intellectual, industrial, and military progress, in the hope of bringing it into the 20th century. For example, the primary mode of Middle Eastern transportation was the caravan of camels, horses, mules, and animal-drawn carts. This could not compete against the foreign-held railroads and steamships. The Young Turk Party also resented when European powers intervened in defense of Christian minorities and Christian rights. Nevertheless, the young leaders sought a European ally who could provide money and military support so they could preserve and build their empire.

It was always mistakenly believed, even by the general public, that Winston Churchill had started the war between Turkey and the Allies by authorizing the seizure of the German battleships, the Goeben and Breslau. But it was Enver and Germany who had done so. In fact, it was not known until years later, that Enver had secretly executed a treaty of alliance with Germany PRIOR to Britain seizing these ships. Churchill was also blamed for the failed Dardanelles plan. This was the strategy of sending Allied ships and troops through the Dardanelles, up the Black Sea, and attacking Germany's southern border. This would then require thousands of German troops to be be pulled from the WWI trenches, possibly winning the war for the Allies. But the British admirals and generals did not listen to Churchill. Had they done so, the Dardanelles would have been an Allied victory incurring only a few hundred causalities rather than the actual 200,000 lost. The incompetent British Admiral Carden, charged with mine-sweeping the Dardanelles, lost his nerve when fired upon by small arms Turkish fire, even though he had lost no ships nor suffered any casualties! Also, Gallipoli was a strategic nightmare. The Allies, with overwhelming numerical superiority, because of confusion as to who was in command, chose to dig in on the beaches rather than to ascend the heights and destroy the small Turkish garrisons.

In early 1915, Enver claimed that the Armenian Christians, who lived in northeastern Anatolia, Turkey's northern border next to Russia, were openly supporting Russia against Turkey. There had been previous Turkish massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1909. Enver ordered the entire population of Armenians deported to locations outside of Anatolia. These deportations are remembered as the Armenian Massacres of 1915. Rape and beatings were commonplace. Those who were not immediately killed were driven through the mountains and deserts without food, drink, or shelter. Hundreds of thousands died. Armenian sources place the figure as high as 1.5 million. Turkish historians claim that Enver and other Ottoman rulers acted only after Armenia has risen against them. But German officers stationed there say that the area was quiet until the deportations began. What remains controversial today is whether or not there had been insurrection among the Armenians, and whether Russia had actually instigated it. But by July 1915, the German ambassador to Turkey, said there was no longer any doubt that the Turkish leadership was trying to "exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish empire."

In 1902, the American naval officer and historian, Alfred Thayer Mahan, invented the term "Middle East" to designate the area between Arabia and India.

President Woodrow Wilson was sincerely committed to keeping America out of WWI. It was the German submarine campaign, exacerbated by the notorious Zimmerman telegram, that pushed the United States toward war. German military leaders believed that the war could be won speedily through unrestricted submarine warfare. They believed in January 1917 that Britain could be forced into submission within 6 months, and that American intervention in the war would come too late. On March 17, 1917, German submarines sank 3 American merchant vessels. On April 2nd, Wilson went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war against the German Empire on the grounds that Germany had sunk 3 American merchant vessels and proposed to sink more. Acts of war were being committed against the United States, to which she had no honorable choice but to respond in kind.
The Zimmerman telegram was sent by the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmerman to his minister in Mexico, seeking an alliance with Mexico against the United States. Mexico was to be given Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The British government, having broken the German Enigma code, turned over an intercepted copy of Zimmerman's cable to President Wilson, who published it.

In the mid-17th century, English Puritans Joanna and Ebenezer Cartwright believed that the advent of the Messiah would occur once the people of Judea were restored to their native land. In the mid-19th century, the social reformer Anthony Cooper, who became Earl of Shaftesbury, inspired a powerful Evangelical movement within the Church of England that aimed at bringing the Jews back to Palestine, converting them to Christianity, and hastening the Second Coming of Christ. Shaftesbury also inspired Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, who believed that Britain was to be the chosen instrument of God to bring back the Jews to the Holy Land. Lloyd George, who had been brought up on the Bible, was the only man in government who wanted to acquire Palestine for Britain. The Zionist movement's roots were as old as Judea, whose independence had been crushed by Rome, and whose inhabitants had been driven into foreign lands in the second century A.D. While in exile, the Jews clung to their own religion, with its distinctive laws and customs, often resulting in inferior status, persecutions, frequent massacres, and repeated expulsions. This actually reinforced their separate identity. According to their teachings, God would bring them back to Zion, as they would say each year in their ritual Passover ceremony, "Next year in Jerusalem!"
Churchill avidly supported Zionism, writing "It is manifestly right that the scattered Jews should have a national centre and a national home to be re-united and where else but Palestine with which for 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews, good for the British Empire, but also good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine...they shall share in the benefits and progress of Zionism."

...was that the Middle East wanted to be governed by Britain, or with assistance. But Middle Eastern leaders wanted full and complete independence. On August 7, 1920, a leading article in The Times demanded to know "how much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavor to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for and do not want?" The Middle East was predominately a Moslem world which resented any foreign or Christian country attempting to impose its own rule.

Woodrow Wilson's Middle Eastern policy included support for Christianity, especially American missionary colleges and missionary activities. Wilson was the grandson of a pastor and the son of a Presbyterian minister. However, when church groups in the Middle East asked the U.S. Government to stop the massacre of Christians in Smyrna, President Harding said, " It is difficult for me to be consistently patient with our good friends of the Church who are properly and earnestly zealous in promoting peace until it comes to making warfare on someone of the contending religion." Harding's Secretary of State said, "While nothing can excuse in the slightest degree or palliate the barbaric cruelty of the Turks, no just appraisement can be made of the situation which fails to take account of the incursion of the Greek [Christian] army into Anatolia, of the war there waged, and of the terrible incidents of the retreat of that army, in the burning of towns, and general devastation and cruelties." In short, Harding's argument was that both sides had committed atrocities.

Wilson also wanted to ensure that the Middle Eastern countries should be ruled by governments of their own choosing. Harding limited his effort's only to American interests, which were primarily commercial oil interests.
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on June 16, 2016
A Peace to End All Peace is a masterful reconstruction of the seminal event in the evolution of the Arab Middle East from its position in the Ottoman Empire into a collection of states within borders fashioned to suit the colonial aims of France and Great Britain, Because those borders were neither natural nor did they take account of the composition of the populations within those borders, the peace explains much of the turmoil the region has experienced ever since. It's impossible to understand that part of our world, including its present wars, without knowing this history. This isn't the only book to read but none is better.
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on January 1, 2016
The answer is in this book. This book which the author claims started with Winston Churchill winds up explaining how the Allied Imperial desires of World War I destroyed the Ottoman Empire and left in its place chaos in the Middle East. Boundaries were drawn ignoring the driving forces within the Muslems of the Middle East. The Islam religion and its impacts on the region were essentially ignored.

Today, the chaos created in and after World War I continue to plague the Middle East. The author claims it took 1500 years for Europe to recover from the fall of Roman Empire. Will it take this long to recover from the fall of the Ottoman Empire?
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on August 6, 2013
Fromkin has created a brilliant history of the Middle East following WW1. With almost 600 pages, it is not a quick read, and with so many different countries, personalities, prejudices, and perfidies involved, it does get confusing at times and takes a lot of concentration to keep the various players separate (especially when they keep changing sides and opinions). With Britain, France, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Greece, India, Bulgaria and others, plus multiple sects of Arabs and Jews, all trying to protect their own interests, no wonder the Middle East was put in chaos then. It still is in chaos, and Fromkin thinks that it may take 1500 years to quiet region, as it took Europe after Rome fell. But, he knows very well that this region is comparable to none because of religious history. Until radical Islam changes, it's only going to get more bloody.

The author covers how boundaries of current Middle East were determined, Britain's struggles to keep their empire although the country was broke after WW1, Arabs determination to break free of British rule, Russian role in eliminating British influence in the area, French-British conflicts, and so much chaos created by so many different Moslem groups wanting independence.

This book makes sense of how the region got to be the tinderbox that it is currently. Although a quest for oil played a small part, colonialism, religion, and inter-sect conflicts and political power has caused most of the problems.
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