From The First World War To The Arab Spring


From The First World War To The Arab Spring –
What’s Really Going On In The Middle East?
By M. E. McMillan
Palgrave Macmillan – £21.00

One of the aspects of this book I found profoundly interesting, was its author’s propensity to tell it as it is; in a style of language and delivery that isn’t beset amid a horrible hybrid of opinionated-gunk-speak and mild assassination of where it’s fundamentally at.

Well that’s how it reads to a relative laymen in terms of the intrinsically complex, reactionary and loaded subject matter.

The second part of the title of this book – which in parts, could be considered an inflammatory traipse through deeply entrenched turmoil – ought to have perhaps been the actual title, period. As the question it asks is something a whole lot of people would really like to know. Myself included. Although From The First World War To The Arab Spring – What’s Really Going On In The Middle East?, suggests a premise that is both historical and overtly well considered.

But, is it?
Lucid and extremely informative it most definitely is.
Absolutely no argument there . According to Hamid Dabashi, the author of Being a Muslim in the World, has said: ”more critical informed studies like McMillan’s are much needed.” Again, no argument there.

In the twelfth chapter, ‘Where to Begin?’ for instance, M. E. McMillan clearly writes: ”In a region beset by wars, one war in the Middle East has lasted longer than any other: the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But when it comes to setting this long-running conflict in its historical context, where should one begin?”

Once again, like the title of the book itself, the sentence ends with another question mark. This suggests that we as readers or students of politics, are asked to find the answer(s) for ourselves amid an array of dense deliberation.

That said, it really is the crystal-clear approach of this book’s writing, that assertively controls the argument and accounts for these twenty-two chapters (excluding Notes on Conventions, Introduction – Lost in the Labyrinth: What’s Really Going On in the Middle East?, Epilogue – Untangling the Web: What Now?, Notes, Select Biography and Index), being an altogether comprehensive and up-to-date examination of the ”complex web of wars and proxy wars, revolution and counter-revolutions that are ripping the Middle East apart.”

Said examination is further brought to bear with a continuation of the aforementioned quote: ”Where you begin is important for a number of reasons, not least because your choice of starting point can be interpreted as endorsing one side’s position over the other. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is one of the most contentious issues in the world today. It is so contentious that it has become almost impossible to write about it without offending someone or without your comments being misinterpreted. Now that social media has made it so effortlessly easy to heap anonymous abuse on anyone who endorses one view over another; some historians and writers choose to save themselves the hassle and ignore the subject altogether. As for teaching the subject, that in itself has become so much of a challenge, how the subject is taught has become an object of study.”

This is hardly surprising. The mere thought of trying to teach those who’ll even take the time to actually listen, doesn’t even bear worth thinking about. Let alone undertaking.

All the more reason to read this important and rather exemplary book. From The First World War To The Arab Spring – What’s Really Going On In The Middle East?, does actually answer a few questions.

And in so doing, it manages to shed new and informative light.

David Marx


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