Christopher Catherwood, as constultant to the Blair cabinet's Strategy Unit, worked in the Admiralty building where Churchill was based (1939-40) as First Lord of the Admiralty. He teaches history at the universities of Cambridge and Richmond (Virginia), where he is annual Writer in Residence. His books include Why the Nations Rage: Killing in the Name of God, Britain's Balkan Dilemma in World War II and Christians, Muslims and Islamic Rage.
This compelling volume raises eerie echoes of present-day Iraq. In the aftermath of WWI, France and Britain competed for the Mideastern leftovers of the Ottoman Empire. The British grabbed Palestine, attempted to set up puppet monarchies in Arabia and in 1921 cobbled together hostile peoples-Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Arabs-into the artificial and unstable kingdom of Iraq, ruled by the imposed Hashemite king Faisal. Cambridge historian Catherwood asserts that this form of indirect rule was "empire lite" as fashioned by Churchill, then colonial minister. The British, drained economically by the world war, were greedy for spoils and wanted the benefits of empire on the cheap. The vastness of Iraq proved impossible to govern by a reduced garrison. Catherwood, a consultant to Tony Blair's cabinet, sees contemporary parallels in the unlearned lessons of "imperial overreach." Unwanted paternalistic protectorates have a way of imploding, Catherwood notes. Churchill conceded wryly that Britain was spending millions "for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having." In a readable historical essay stretched into a short book, Catherwood demonstrates yet again that one generation's pragmatism can be a later generation's tragedy. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.