War and Peace in the Middle East

Shlaim, Avi
Publisher:  Penguin Books
Year Published:  1995
Pages:  151pp   ISBN:  0-14-024564-2
  Dewey:  327.56-dc20
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX8652

Avi Shlaim locates various sources of conflict in the Middle East, from the presence of oil, competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

War and Peace in the Middle East explores how the Middle Eastern region has been an area of volatile rivalry amongst great powers over the course of history. Avi Shlaim locates various sources of conflict, ranging from the presence of oil, competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his discussion of these events, Shlaim analyses the interactions and dynamic between outside powers and local Middle Eastern forces such as governments, rulers, tribal chiefs and warlords. He assesses the impact of the interests and policies of the great powers in relation to the Middle East, however with a view that the regional powers have exercised much manipulation over international powers for strategic gains. This is in contrast to the conventional opinion that external powers have consistently exploited the locals in the Middle East to their advantage.

Shlaim divides his chapters into four distinct phases of external involvement in the Middle East. The first phase marks the rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, which is then followed by the second phase lasting from the end of World War One till the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, which Shlaim labels as the European phase. Shlaim describes the European phase as one during which Britain and France played lead roles in creating a new political and territorial order in the Middle East. The decline of their power ushered in the superpower phase, in which the United States exerts global dominance. Shlaim marks the beginning of the U.S super power phase as the invasion of Kuwait. The first display of America's unrivalled superpower status is described as the move to create a coalition to remove Iraq from Kuwait. The book dedicates considerable attention to the current phase of American dominance, and conducts a lengthy discussion on the weaknesses and inadequacies of the American approach to dealing with the Middle East.

[Abstract by Sara Jaffri]

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