The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan - review by David Pryce-Jones

David Pryce-Jones

Blame Game

The Arabs: A History

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 553pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

All is not well with the Arabs. They have not found a place in the world that does them justice. The entire social and political order perpetuates an absolutism that is apparently immune to reform. In one Arab country after another, in one century after another right up to the present day, some strong man has seized power, killed whomever he feels he has to, and then defended himself against the next ambitious careerist trying in turn to wrest power for himself. 

The violence is as repetitive as it is destructive. In recent times, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan and Somalia have experienced mass murder. Currently Yemen seems destined to undergo yet another of the bloodstained tests of strength inherent in an absolute system. 

How have things come to this sad pass? Arabist is the general term for those – usually academics – who argue that responsibility for violence and failure does not lie with the Arabs themselves but with everybody else who has ever had anything to do with them. Those

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