Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly And The Making Of The Modern Middle East

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a review of Scott Anderson's Lawrence In Arabia: War, deceit, Imperial Folly And The Making of The Modern Middle East in the Washington Times.

For political scientists, and especially academics, intelligence is the dark angel of foreign affairs, eager to topple governments and betray other persons — including allies — through stealth and lies.

Oh, perhaps. The chronicles of spookdom certainly brim with case histories of chicanery. But in terms of flagrant international treachery, few episodes in diplomatic history surpass the sordid record of the allied powers — including the United States — in their dealings with Middle East nations during World War I, 1914-1918.

Much of what the average reader knows about intrigue during the period revolves around the British anthropologist-turned-intelligence-operative T.E. Lawrence, a covert agent for the Crown who strove to inspire the so-called “Revolt in the Desert,” an attempt to stir an Arabic uprising against Germany. Lawrence’s image benefited from his own books and from an adoring “biography” by Lowell Thomas, the famed radio commentator.

But Lawrence was far from being the only intelligence agent in the game. The United States, Germany, France, even stateless Israelis trying to form their own nation, vied for influence among the disparate tribes that occupied Arabia. The goal was to wean away Turkish support for Germany during the first years of the war so as to protect Britain’s routes to India.

Scott Anderson relates the story with vivid writing supported by a staggering amount of research — one of the more fascinating reads I have encountered in years. His cast of characters alone satisfies one’s appetite for how espionage really works in the field.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:


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