Academic journal article Military Review

The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908-1923

Academic journal article Military Review

The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908-1923

Article excerpt

THE OTTOMAN ENDGAME: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908-1923

Sean McMeekin, Penguin Press, New York, 2015, 550 pages

The Ottoman Endgame by Sean McMeekin opens dramatically with the coronation of the last independent Ottoman emperor, Abdul Hamid, in 1876, and ends with the establishment of modern Turkey by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Between those two seminal events, McMeekin narrates a history of complex strategic decisions, momentous battles, and human tragedy.

The story, in different forms, has been told before. The genius of McMeekin's work, however, is how he highlights the importance of all actors--local, national, religious, political, and military--in shaping the outcome that led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Turkey.

The simplistic belief that the troubles of the Middle East are solely the result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and greedy division of the Ottoman Empire by France and Great Britain is a great flaw of modern educated discourse. This book's importance lies in its ability to explain the geopolitical decision making of the Entente powers (to include Russia, usually ignored), as well as that of the Ottomans, Imperial Germany, and local ethnic groups such as the Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Kurds.

Readers will note the numerous and forgotten successes of the Ottomans in their final years. From the Balkan wars in the early twentieth century to the final battles of World War I, the Ottoman forces showed a particular ability to regenerate and inflict grievous damage on their opponents. In fact, the book highlights that rather than solely being victims of Western imperialism, the Ottomans, and particularly the Young Turks, who ran the operations of the state following the revolution of 1911, were skilled at manipulating their opponents to prolong the existence of the empire. …

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