The Changing Patterns of the Middle East

The Changing Patterns of the Middle East

The Changing Patterns of the Middle East

The Changing Patterns of the Middle East

Excerpt

For forty years -- a classic span in the lands of the Bible -- the British prided themselves on paramountcy in the Middle East, and for thirty of those years the pride was justifiable. For instance, the rulers of the Arab states liked and trusted their British friends enough to refrain from embarrassing them on the outbreak of the second World War.

Force of habit is a powerful agent, and for the last of our four decades -- the years 1946 to 1956 -- most British statesmen and other observers of the scene continued to think in the habitual groove, and so underrated the developments in Arab thinking that were diminishing their one time primacy.

So far, few writers have stepped back and taken a look at those years. Colonel Rondot has now done this. He is of rare breed, for during the bitter years of Anglo-French rivalry in the Levant dispassionate French critics did not exist. But perspective is now available, and he has acquired and offers it from a non-English angle.

In the preface to his French edition, he tells of his introduction to the subject of which he is now a master. As a child, he loved maps, and was given a map of the Balkans and an outfit of coloured pins with which to mark the progress of the armies in the First Balkan war. Naturally, he was on the Christian side, and blue for the Greeks was his favourite. The very names stirred him -- Janina, Kirk Kilisse, Chataldja. Suddenly -- the date is July 1913 -- the quarrel over the spoils began and the pins became all mixed up. Grown-ups tried comfort: 'What do you expect? It's the Eastern Question. It's difficult to understand.' He dates from that moment his interest in the succession to the Ottoman empire.

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