Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

When it comes to WWI history, most of what one hears about is the Western Front, the British and French vs the Germans and the eventual introduction of the US to the Allies in 1917.  Outside of "Lawrence of Arabia", one almost never hears about the conflict that occurred in the Middle East during that time (unless one is an intense student of history).  Even being relatively well read, that is an area that I've neglected as well.

Eugene Rogan's 'Fall of the Ottomans' covers from roughly the last years of the 19th century to the early 1920's.  Primarily a political history, it examines the causes of the various Balkan wars, the rise of the 'Young Turks', the 'Armenian Genocide, and the decision by the Ottoman Empire to join the war on the side of the Central powers.  From 1914 to their surrender in 1918, it details all of the major conflicts not only militarily but the difficulties all sides had in logistics, the Arab Revolt, the results of the Russian withdrawal from the war, and the various 'Great Powers' deciding from the beginning on how the Empire would be divided up between them.

An excellently written and researched book, it is also well balanced when it comes to politically charged topics, specifically the Armenians.  It discusses not only the Western view but also the controversy in the numbers of claimed dead by both sides.  This was especially interesting to me as the 100th anniversary of this event took place while I was reading it and I had several discussions with a Turkish co-worker of mine.  A map is very helpful while reading.  Most of the lower ratings on Amazon are due to the Kindle edition map not being very reader friendly.

What one can take away from learning about this aspect of WWI is that there were no 'Good Guys' and that everyone was treacherous, especially the British and French. One really doesn't blame the Ottomans for joining the Central powers.  Also that as far as military action went, most of the battles were won by the side that screwed up the least, and that only by marginal amounts.  Up until the very end, incompetence seemed to be the primary factor in choosing leaders and battle plans.

For those interested in WWI and/or military history, this is a definite read.

5/5 stars.

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1 comment:

Matthew said...

I recently read "World War 1: The African Front" for much the same reason. The author is an anti-colonialist so some subjectivity comes through (not that I'm pro-Colonialism). The travails of the various campaigns were staggeringly horrific.