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.