Understanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History, from Genghis Khan's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation

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9780060764692: Understanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History, from Genghis Khan's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation

The Dramatic History of Iraq in One Concise Volume

The destinies of Iraq and America will be tightly intertwined into the foreseeable future due to the U.S. incursion into this complex, perplexing desert nation -- the latest in a long history of violent outside interventions. A country sitting atop the world's largest supply of crude oil, Iraq will continue to play an essential role in global economics and in Middle Eastern politics for many decades to come. Therefore, it is more important than ever for Westerners to have a clear understanding of the volatile, enigmatic "Land of Two Rivers" -- its turbulent past and its looming possibilities. In this acutely penetrating and endlessly fascinating study, acknowledged Middle East authority William R. Polk presents a comprehensive history of the tumultuous events that shaped modern Iraq, while offering well-reasoned judgments on what we can expect there in the years to come.

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About the Author:

William R. Polk taught Middle Eastern history and politics and Arabic at Harvard until 1961, when he became a member of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State. In 1965, he became Professor of History at the University of Chicago, where he established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His many books include The Birth of America and Understanding Iraq.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. In this tightly crafted book, even the introductory note on words and spellings makes for a lesson in misunderstandings. Not only have occupying armies, officials and journalists not known the local language, Polk observes, but because Arabic is grounded in religious and historical texts, outsiders have missed the allusions that inform Iraqis' perceptions. Polk's history of ignorance reads like a portent. As the events in his history of Iraq from the Sumerians to the U.S. war of 2003 unfold in chronological order, they read like historical echoes of Iraq's present. The effect is haunting, and Polk's knack for understatement—he describes the recent American tactic of dismissing the Iraqi military but allowing them to keep their weapons as "maladroit"—only adds to the feeling of dread. But Polk, a scholar of the Middle East and former adviser to John F. Kennedy, stops just short of a fatalistic view of history. In one of the clearest prescriptions for success in Iraq yet to emerge, Polk calls for "American political courage" in allowing Iraqis to re-establish neighborhood associations to run social affairs and provide security. These associations not only inspire more genuine political participation than voting or constitutions, he says, but are a natural part of Iraqi tradition and culture. Unlike current American policy, which, he says, inadvertently invokes the post-WWI British occupation by focusing on rulers and symbols and neglecting the citizens, Polk calls attention to the reality of human relationships. With this war's death toll already at over 100,000 people, Polk notes that virtually every Iraqi has lost a parent, child, spouse, cousin, friend, colleague or neighbor. To achieve true peace in Iraq, the U.S., he argues, must acknowledge the brutalizing effect of those deaths and rebuild the trust that he thinks has been eroding for centuries. Agent, Sterling Lord Literistic.(On sale Apr. 10)
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