Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 140

parallel Americans at War include Lawrence Franks, the former U.S. Army lieutenant who deserted U.S. military service for the French Foreign Legion in 2009, or the scores of U.S. citizens estimated to be fighting the Islamic State in Kurdish Peshmerga formations. Perhaps most applicable, though, might be insight that readers can find in understanding the backgrounds of the Americans who flocked to Europe in the last century and comparing them to the ultimately human motivations of the foreign fighters that have battled against coalition forces in the Global War on Terrorism. Maj. Lance B. Brender, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas THE OTTOMAN ENDGAME: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908-1923 Sean McMeekin, Penguin Press, New York, 2015, 550 pages T he Ottoman Endgame by Sean McMeekin opens dramatically with the coronation of the last independent Ottoman emperor, Abdul Hamid, in 1876, and ends with the establishment of modern Turkey by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Between those two seminal events, McMeekin narrates a history of complex strategic decisions, momentous battles, and human tragedy. The story, in different forms, has been told before. The genius of McMeekin’s work, however, is how he highlights the importance of all actors—local, national, religious, political, and military—in shaping the outcome that led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Turkey. The simplistic belief that the troubles of the Middle East are solely the result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and greedy division of the Ottoman Empire by France and Great Britain is a great flaw of modern educated discourse. This book’s importance lies in its ability to explain the geopolitical decision making of the Entente powers (to include Russia, usually ignored), as well as that of the Ottomans, Imperial Germany, and local ethnic groups such as the Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Kurds. Readers will note the numerous and forgotten successes of the Ottomans in their final years. From 138 the Balkan wars in the early twentieth century to the final battles of World War I, the Ottoman forces showed a particular ability to regenerate and inflict grievous damage on their opponents. In fact, the book highlights that rather than solely being victims of Western imperialism, the Ottomans, and particularly the Young Turks, who ran the operations of the state following the revolution of 1911, were skilled at manipulating their opponents to prolong the existence of the empire. This is illustrated dramatically by the resurgence of Turkish forces under Mustapha Kamal after World War I that led to the creation of Turkey. Military officers will benefit from the analysis of the numerous battles that shaped these outcomes. Diplomats and geopolitical thinkers will achieve a greater understanding of the forces and complex negotiations at play in the Ottoman Empire’s final years. Those historians and military enthusiasts with knowledge of the era will gain a better perspective on the relative importance of such iconic events as the battle of Gallipoli and T.E. Lawrence’s support for the Arab revolts, in comparison with the lesser-known but equally important Russian and British battles in the Caucuses. The limits of McMeekin’s work lie in the breadth of the topic he addresses, which inhibits in-depth study of any single event, and the reliance of the author on his previous works as sources. The book will likely face criticism for its refusal to paint any group purely as victims, no matter how decimated during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. This detached and pithy analysis proves a respite from other politically charged historical narratives. The only chink in this detachment comes in McMeekin’s breathless coverage of the nationalist Turkish resurgence against the Greeks in 1922. The Ottoman Endgame will prove to be an important addition to the academic literature on the final years of the empire and the creation of the modern Middle East. It acts as a cautionary tale to any entity attempting to alter the geopolitical landscape of this region. McMeekin’s narrative has no innocent leaders, only actors skillfully seeking the best possible outcomes for their associated groups. Maj. Roland Minez, U.S. Army Reserve, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW