Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East

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9780393061994: Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East

A brilliant narrative history tracing today's troubles back to grandiose imperial overreach of Great Britain and the United States.

Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel's godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA's Miles Copeland and the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. As a bonus, we meet the British Empire's power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today. 30; 2 maps

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About the Author:

Shareen Blair Brysac, formerly a prize-winning documentary producer at CBS News, is the author of Resisting Hitler and co-author of Tournament of Shadows and Kingmakers with Karl E. Meyer. The couple lives in New York and Weston, Connecticut.

Karl E. Meyer has written extensively on foreign affairs as a staff member of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Review:

[...] This is an important work. -- Jay Freeman

[...] A satisfying, uncluttered account that makes a welcome addition to the shelf of books on the Middle East.

[...] The authors have wrought a penetrating and authoritative look at the caprices of diplomacy and the outcomes of the law of unintended consequences. -- Ben McC. Moise "Colonial History Examined"

[...] The authors make the relevance of their study clear at the outset. 'History never repeats, but attitudes and arguments, dilemmas and excuses, cliches and delusions recur with the inevitability of a sun setting on successive empires.' They refer to their work as 'forgotten history.' But it is history that is well-chronicled, and the authors draw copiously on the scholarship that has come before theirs.... -- James Reston, Jr. "The Road Already Taken" (07/06/2008)

[...] The authors' greatest gift in their magisterial yet accessible narrative is their capacity to present context: in what framework did events happen? What were the motivations? They quote illuminatingly from primary sources: we learn what the principals said. A thoughtful epilogue summarizes pitfalls in policy-making; a map and chronology handily serve readers, while photographs illustrate the peerless paladins of yore. A most necessary and rewarding book, and a primer on what not to do in the Middle East. -- Peter Skinner

"The one truly transcendent law in the Middle East is that of unintended consequences," observe the authors early on--but that dry, weary tone will have a good many outings as the book proceeds. Even before the oil was discovered, this was not only a strategically vital region but a home to defiant traditionalism and religious fervour. The whole tenor of recent historical enquiry has been to play down the importance of 'Great Men'--the Alexanders, the Napoleons, the Churchills. Unfortunately, as Meyer and Brysac show, the Middle East has been made by Little Men--desk-driving mandarins, deal-doing statesmen in Westminster and Washington. Sobering in its implications, but fortunately anything but in its narrative style, Kingmakers is an absorbing, illuminating read. -- Michael Kerrigan (10/04/2008)

[...] Meyer and Brysac are perhaps too modest in their approach; they are content to tell the stories, framed by the cautionary lesson they want to impart, but without directly speaking to the issues of today. They are traditional historians, wary of drawing too many simple present-tense conclusions from a past that is complicated and messier. But if they pull their punches, they still manage to offer a panoply of stories with contemporary relevance and resonance. It would be wonderful if future generations of American leaders took some of this history to heart. But while we have been reconsidering the wisdom of U.S. actions in Iraq, it's not clear that we have begun to examine the limitations of power and the dangers of unrealistic visions of how the world could be. Balancing idealism with realism has never been easy, but it would be refreshing not to continue tilting with windmills in the deserts of the Middle East. -- Zachary Karabell

The years from the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 to the British debacle in the 1956 Suez crisis spanned what Elizabeth Monroe in her classic work called "Britain's moment in the Middle East." It was a period of imperial domination characterized not by outright colonial rule, as with the British Raj in India or British rule in the African colonies, but by a mix of treaties, mandates, and kingmaking. Meyer and Brysac use a dozen short biographies to tell the story of this era. Their list of characters includes, as would be expected, T.E. Lawrence, Lord Cromer, Gertrude Bell, Sir Mark Sykes, and Glubb Pasha. Among the others are Lord Lugard, Harry St. John Philby, and several other individuals involved in the United Kingdom's post--world War I initiatives in Iraq and Iran: Sir Arnold Wilson plus "the three Percys"--Cox, Sykes, and Loraine. The authors then, in an intriguing innovation, turn to three American "kingmakers" in the Middle East: two from the CIA--Kermit Roosevelt (leading the 1953 coup in Iran) and Miles Copeland, Jr. (championing clandestine activities during the 1950s)--plus Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (pushing for the United States' 2003 invasion of Iraq). It all adds up to a well-researched and readable account of first British and then U.S. efforts to manage the Middle East. -- L. Carl Brown

Eminent Imperialists might be a better title for this sprightly episodic history of Anglo-American meddling in the Middle East, from the 1882 British invasion of Egypt to the current Iraq War, told through profiles of the officials who spearheaded those policies. Journalists Meyer and Brysac (Tournament of Shadows) spotlight well-known, flamboyant figures like T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and British Arabist Gertrude Bell. But they focus on unsung toilers in the trenches of imperial rule like A.T. Wilson, the British colonial administrator whose idea it was to cobble Iraq together out of three fractious Ottoman provinces, and Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA agent who choreographed the 1953 ouster of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq. Policy continuities-securing the approaches to India and access to oil-sometimes get overshadowed by the authors' biographical approach, but in a sense that's the point. Their imperialism is marked by idiosyncrasy, improvisation, unforeseen circumstances and unintended-usually tragic-consequences. Policy was very much driven by the personalities who constructed it: their Orientalist enthusiasms, knee-jerk assumptions of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, arcane Straussian precepts and stubborn maverick streaks loom as large as cold geostrategic calculations. The result is a colorful study of empire as a very human endeavor.

In 1921 an Arab prince and two Englismen convened in Cairo to soothe the Arab's bruised pride. The prince, Abdullah, was a scion of the Hashemite clan; the Englishmen were the archaeologist-warrior T.E. Lawrence and the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill. Abdullah needed a country to reign over, so the British invented one. As Churchill later recalled, he "created Jordan with a stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon."

If that had been the only caprice the British ever allowed themselves in the Arab world, Karl Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac would have had sufficient reason to write their fine new Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East--for Abdullah got Jordan because the Brits had already granted his brother Faisal an arbitrary patch of desert called Iraq.

In fact, the history of British misadventure in the Middle East (with a late-innings appearance by some prominent American ringers) could have enabled Meyer and Brysac to fill a shelf stretching from Cairo to Tehran. But Kingmakers (W.W. Norton) manages to encapsulate a century's worth of misjudgment, overreach, and catastrophe in the most accessible of containers: a series of biographical portraits of true believers, artful game players, and a few heedless twits, all in feverish pursuit of glory, trade routes, and land (not to mention the ocean of viscous black stuff bubbling beneath it).

For instance: Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer, who earned the nickname "Over-Baring" even before he presided over Egypt so memorably that 80 years after his death, Egyptians in Britain sought out his grave so they could spit on it. Or Frederick Lugard, the colonialist who promulgated the theory of "indirect rule," aspotless euphemism for a massive bribery scheme that was "described as a 'rent a sheik, buy an emir' strategy." Or Glubb Pasha, a.k.a. Sir John Bagot Glubb, one of the Arabs' most devoted friends, who incidentally perfected the art of aerial bombing as a means of squeezing tax payments out of reluctant colonials.

Of course, thanks to Peter O'Toole, director David Lean, and his own promotional abilities, the best known of the kingmakers is Lawrence--"the Achilles of the Great War," write Meyer and Brysac, "the supporting actor who steals the show." But I'll salute him here for something the authors have exhumed for its contemporary resonance: "The people of England have been led into a trap in Mesopotamia from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour," Lawrence wrote in 1920. "They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information."

Mesopotamia, of course was the Arabist name for that piece of land where so much blood, treasure, and honor have been misspent in our own time. and this the authors acknowledge with a superb final biography--about this interesting fellow named Wolfowitz....

-- Daniel Okrent "Desert Sons" (08/18/2008)

'Intelligence was faulty.' 'Who could have foreseen?' 'Mistakes were made.' These were among the excuses given by British officials following General Gordon's disastrous foray into the Sudan against the Mahdi Army in 1884-85, which ended; as legend has it, with his simultaneous puncturing by the spears of four dervishes. According to Kingmakers: The Invention of the Middle East, 'those who forget the history of Western encounters with the Middle East really do seem doomed to repeat it.' This book is the follow-up to Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac's Tournament of Shadows, a swashbuckling account of the Great Game in Central Asia. Kingmakers' examines the similar phenomenon of Western meddling and imperialism in the Arabian lands of the Middle East and North Africa, through a series of biographical essays. The subjects range in time and nationality from the British consul-general Lord Cromer, who secured control of Egypt during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to the recent American deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and his adventures in Iraq. Meyer and Brysac have some captivating stories to tell. There is the 1921 coronation of the Hashemite prince Faisal as king of Iraq, crowned, according to one report, upon a throne hastily constructed from old Asahi beer crates. There is the very different ceremony that installed the former stablehand Reza Khan Pahlavi as shah of Iran in 1926, for which Vita Sackville-West delved wrist-deep in trays of emeralds and pearls from Persian jewel vaults to select his regalia. Above all, there is the career of T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, who rode around the Middle East derailing Ottoman supply trains, recruiting mercenariesto the British cause and bribing Arab leaders (occasionally by mistake: once, he was so careless as to send 25,000 pounds in gold to the wrong prince). Finally, Meyer and Brysac describe the modern successors to these interventionist Britons: interventionist Americans, whose eccentricities and failures have been neither less colorful nor less evident.... Meyer and Brysac provide some fascinating material on American relations with Ibn Saud and the exploitation of Saudi oil. The essay on how Wolfowitz convinced himself that what Iraq needed was the imposition of democracy is enlightening and commendably balanced. And the tale of C.I.A. involvement in the 1953 oil-prompted coup in Iran is marvelously told, down to the appealing detail of the operative Kermit Roosevelt listening to 'Luck Be a Lady Tonight' on his phonograph while he awaited the shah's agreement to to the American cause. . . Meyer and Brysac conclude that their kingmakers 'erred not through malice or ignorance but through excess of ambition.' similarly, their book is admirably fair-minded and well researched. Had it played more to its strengths of adding color and depth to the story of American involvement in the Middle East, it could have been accused neither of lacking ambition nor of error. -- Alex von Tunzelmann "Meddle East" (08/10/2008)

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Descrizione libro WW Norton Co, United States, 2008. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA s Miles Copeland and the Pentagon s Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. As a bonus, we meet the British Empire s power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today. Codice libro della libreria POW9780393061994

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Descrizione libro WW Norton Co, United States, 2008. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA s Miles Copeland and the Pentagon s Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. As a bonus, we meet the British Empire s power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today. Codice libro della libreria POW9780393061994

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Descrizione libro WW Norton Co, United States, 2008. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel s godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA s Miles Copeland and the Pentagon s Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. As a bonus, we meet the British Empire s power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780393061994

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Descrizione libro WW Norton & Co. Hardback. Condizione libro: new. BRAND NEW, Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East, Karl E. Meyer, Shareen Blair Brysac, Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel's godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA's Miles Copeland and the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention. As a bonus, we meet the British Empire's power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today. Codice libro della libreria B9780393061994

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Descrizione libro 2008. HRD. Condizione libro: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Codice libro della libreria KS-9780393061994

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