Wisdom on the Greater Middle East

I came across J. B. Kelly’s (left) magnificent book Arabia, the Gulf and the West (1980), when I was researching my book In Praise of Empires (2004). The essays and reviews collected in these three volumes by his son provide a compendium of his views on the failures of the imperial Western powers—first the British and then the Americans—to understand the Arabs and Islam, and their consequent failure in maintaining order in the Middle East. Today with the region in flames and millions fleeing the disorder in their dysfunctional homelands to the order and safety of Europe, the states system created after the fall of the Ottoman empire at the end of the First World War has more than fulfilled Field Marshal Earl Wavell’s prediction: “After ‘the war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘Peace to end Peace’.”

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