October, 2015 History

How Would Lawrence of Arabia Defeat the Islamic State?


Lessons from the early 20th century for the chaotic, modern Middle East.
A colleague of mine recently watched the Oscar-winning classic 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. His brief comment on its merits in regard to understanding the Middle East of today: a cynical shrug of his shoulders and the words “nothing has changed.”

DRK paramedics and a burned Sanitaetswagen, or ambulance, on the,DRK paramedics and a burned Sanitaetswagen, or ambulance, on the World War I battlefield, between 1914 and 1918.

How did that work out again?
By Fred Kaplan

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Barack Obama. In the background, German Red Cross paramedics and a burned Sanitaetswagen, or ambulance, on a World War I battlefield, between 1914 and 1918.


As a result of the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, over the next 15 years Iran will refrain from enriching or acquiring materials such as uranium or plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. In exchange, the United Nations Security Council, Europe and the United States will begin to lift the sanctions currently in place against Iran.

The Spoils of a Single-Minded Focus on War
By Philip T. Hoffman, 

Between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe, establishing colonies and spreading their influence across every inhabited continent. This was not inevitable. In fact, for decades, historians, social scientists, and biologists have wondered: Why and how did Europe rise to the top, even when societies in Asia and the Middle East were far more advanced?


By Greg Grandin

We’re still paying the price of Henry Kissinger’s “grand strategies.”
The only person Henry Kissinger flattered more than President Richard Nixon was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Iran. In the early 1970s, the shah, sitting atop an enormous reserve of increasingly expensive oil and a key figure in Nixon and Kissinger’s move into the Middle East, wanted to be dealt with as a serious person.

Before Syria descended into chaos in 2011, it had been forced to accommodate waves of refugees, writes McHugo [Getty Images]

John McHugo
The conflict in Syria is often described as the greatest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century. Half of Syria's population of 24 million has been displaced either internally or externally, and unprecedented numbers of refugees are frantically seeking safety in Europe. These include Muslims and Christians alike.


World War I didn’t begin in Europe. It started in Africa.
By the time the shooting erupted in 1914, in fact, a retrospective analysis of the conditions that led to war had lent credence to the conclusion that a great clash was almost inevitable.