The history of the twentieth century was a clash of ideologies: Communism, Fascism, and Capitalism. Will the 21st century be an ideological/civilizational clash as well? Capitalism? Secularism? Zionism? Whabbism? Salafism? And God knows what else?
Over the past year I’ve been trying to read up on the Middle East. History, literature, journalism, you name it. I really want to know every detail of how the U.S. got itself into Iraq, how the Middle East came into it’s present state, and what the future holds.
I just finished The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker. Published in 2006, the book traces the rise of Islamic fundamentalism from the mid-century writings of the intellectual Sayyid Qutb to 1970s Egyptian jails to Soviet occupied Afghanistan to Al Qaeda and 9/11 with a lot of stops in between. It’s a very informative read, it illuminates a lot of issues, and brings even more questions to the fore. Wright is a great story teller and really moves you through the book, no easy task given the subject matter.
Next up is Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski on the 1970s overthrow of the last Shah of Iran. In addition I’m planning to read Once Upon a Country by Sari Nuseibeh.
I am also itching to read War and Decision, Douglass Feith’s recently published memoir of his time in the Bush administration. Feith is the former Undersecretary of Defense -he worked for Rumsfeld- and has (in)famously been called “the stupidest fucking guy on the planet” by General Tommy Franks (ret). He was one of the driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq. It’ll be interesting to read his side of events, and his self-criticism – I’m assuming it’ll be there anyway. (But I’ll wait until the book comes out in paperback).