Anderson s new book Lawrence In Arabia offers the benefit of introducing the cast of characters surrounding Lawrence s exploits, providing important context for the complexity of the era Unfortunately Anderson never mentions a person critical to the success of the British WWI efforts Gertrude Bell She traversed the harrowing Njed Desert as did Lawrence, only she did this years before him She learned the languages and tribal politics of the region, and her maps were used for all subsequent military and intelligence work by the Arab Bureau in Cairo, where Lawrence was also a member She transferred to Iraq and successfully navigated English colonial politics to ensure Faisal s installation as King and the British Empire s access to India By the end of her lifetime s service for the Foreign Office she concluded the region would inevitably be governed by tribal Arab loyalties rather than any superimposed western form of government In her diaries, she describes meeting Lawrence when he was new to archaeology on a dig in Syria, remarking that she wasn t sure he would come to much However they both contributed greatly to the intelligence work at the Arab Bureau in Cairo, and after WWI they both attended the Paris Peace talks and pushed for Faisal to lead the Arabs in Iraq I find it a great pity that her name is so often omitted as a key figure from histories of the period The Arabs themselves thought of her as an honorary man , for her leadership, language and mapping skills, and sheer courage I strongly believe she should have been included by Anderson as a peer of Lawrence, whose exploits were built on so much of what she had already accomplished in Arabia Her accomplishments are well documented in numerous scholarly books about her, and in her own writings and diaries Scott Anderson is a journalist, a professional writer, and someone who should have been aware of these published sources So I was dismayed to find his book s index has not a single entry for this significant figure of the time in Arabia.I write from the perspective of a 22 year career as an archaeologist and scientist in the eastern Mediterranean, with extensive travels in the region, and years of research on Gertrude Bell for a film project But perhaps I am most offended from the perspective of being a woman, and watching how invisible even great women remain. For those wanting to read about Lawrence of Arabia, STOP, read the title again flip the title about so it reads War, deceit, imperial folly the making of the modern middle East which features Lawrence IN Arabia Now don t be put off by that opening gambit, Just wanted to make it clear as to what the book is about as probably like many folk you would gravitate to this book at the mention of Colonel TE Lawrence AKA Lawrence of Arabia Yes TE Lawrence is the major player used subtly to sell the book which I have no problem with as he does feature heavily in the geopolitics of the time.Ok Still here Good as otherwise you would miss a most EXCELLANT tale of adventure, espionage, political intrigue warfare.Normally I read bios non fiction in piecemeal as can find them a touch heavy but this book reads akin to a fiction novel I did so in three, albeit protracted, readings of the main three chapters It s a worthy 4.5 stars, not quite the full 5 as perhaps the final parts of the third chapter descend into a complex battle of Arabia at war s end Lawrence becomes very, understandably, withdrawn from the events.I must admit I was attracted to this book at first at the mere mention of TE Lawrence as from childhood in particular the film Lawrence of Arabia I have been fascinated by the story, especially so as he lived post war just a few miles away from where I reside I still remember readily many a quote from the film as I m sure others do for one I ll be next reading TE Lawrence s own bio written post war called the Seven Pillars, which is referred to often.As to the context of the book, well.It s very insightful to the origins of the current state of the modern Middle east tales the story of all the players in the pre war years to the conclusion of The Great War through the eyes of the British, Germans, Ottoman Empire, French, Americans, The Zionist Jews lastly the Arabs whose land it was The crux of the story goes thus The British French are looking to carve up the Ottoman empire between themselves in the post war era, the Americans also want a piece when they finally join the war but so with an eye on the oil, the Ottomans are an empire in decline with enemies on all sides who are desperately trying to keep their borders intact at whatever cost, the Germans are looking to evoke a Jihadist rebellion against the allies but again later in the war look to align also with the Zionists, The Zionists are willing to align themselves with either the allies or the central powers offer up a spy network, basically whomever will aide them in carving out a nation state for themselves albeit as a protectorate to start with finally the Arabs who want to have the land for themselves be free firstly of Ottoman rule then of other imperial powers Ok that s just a paragraph this book goes FAR beyond this level of base reference, IT IS Immense I highly recommend anybody with a passing interest in the middle east of today to have a read. Lawrence was no ordinary man Brave, resolute, passionate, intelligent, reflective, quiet, cold, distant, stoic, conflicted, righteous, deceitful, independent, eccentric Anderson digs into the psychology of Lawrence and the constant mind games he was engaged in as much as his military exploits While Lawrence is the main story, Anderson weaves in and out of several others, these include Aron Aaronsohn A Jewish agronomist living in Syria turned spymaster to help the British in hopes of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine William Yale A Standard Oil of New York agent who secured oil concessions in Syria then becoming an American intelligence agent in Cairo Curt Pr fer A German intelligence agent Djemal Pasha The Ottoman governor of Syria With all these characters and many we learn about Ottoman rule of its Arab territories, the Armenian genocide, Turkish and Arab fighters and their harsh tactics, British controlled Cairo, the British bureaucracy, French diplomacy, horrendous British military tactics, the Jewish settlers, Standard Oil of New York, the Arabian desert and much True to the book s title, we see how the modern Middle East formed The book starts off slow as Anderson lays the groundwork and introduces the key figures, but with that work done the story takes off My notes below focus solely on Lawrence.Lawrence, born in 1888, grew up in a middle class family An exceptionally bright student he was admitted to Oxford where he was drawn to archeology Attracted to the Middle Ages and the Middle East, he spent the summer of 1909 in Syria studying the castles of the Crusaders He used his original research in his thesis earning coveted first class honors After graduation Lawrence returned to Syria where he worked on excavations and getting to know the land Unlike most Westerners, Lawrence eschewed luxuries He could walk miles through searing heat with a phenomenal capacity to endure the harshest conditions He ate simply and embraced the local people who responded in kind At that time Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire Lawrence resented the Turkish administrators and embraced the local Arab population When in January of 1914 Lawrence was asked to help the British military map the Sinai to prepare for possible attacks on the Suez Canal, Lawrence readily agreed He was now a recognized expert on the topography of much of Syria and Palestine After the breakout of war in august 1914 Lord Kitchener personally wrote Lawrence not to enlist, but to wait for assignment First Lawrence went to London preparing maps for the military and was commissioned a second Lieutenant After Turkey entered the war as a German ally he was transferred to British intelligence in Cairo Lawrence recognized that the weakness of the Ottoman Empire was the resentment of the non Turkish population including Christians and Jews In Cairo he hatched a plan to invade Alexandretta on the coast of Syria just south of Anatolia Weakly defended with a populace that hated the Turks, such an invasion could lead to widespread revolt and separate Turkey from its Arab empire Unfortunately the French objected not wanting British troops in its area of interest, Syria London instead decided to invade Gallipoli which proved disastrous Lawrence studied people like he studied topography, carefully and patiently After being sent into the Hejaz western Saudi Arabia to meet tribal leaders, Lawrence, determined that Faisal ibn Hussein had the necessary passion to lead an Arab uprising Aiding Lawrence was his fluent Arabic and experience in Arab cultures He also relied on his study of medieval European military tactics at Oxford to understand how these men were recruited and organized and how they would fight For these clansmen and tribal leaders were analogous to the knights and their legions in 14th century France Lawrence as usual would come up with a plan that went against the British decision making bureaucracy However as an intelligence agent with access to highly classified data, he knew well how this bureaucracy worked and how to manipulate it Lawrence embedded himself with the tribes learning how to talk to the Arab chieftains to win them over to his point of view.In December 1916 Lawrence became a valued aid to Faisal who convinced the British to assign Lawrence to him personally Lawrence was thrilled but soon disillusioned as he saw Faisal waiver when faced with actual combat But as Lawrence gained experience he became realistic about what the Arabs could accomplish and importantly which Arabs he could rely on Lawrence grew to identify with the Arab cause even than Britain s He was disillusioned with the duplicity of his own government s dealings although Lawrence also used deceit to achieve his aims Britain promised Faisal s father, Emir Hussein, in the McMahon Hussein Correspondence that if the Arab s revolted that the British would guarantee them independence for their new country That included Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq with the exception of small temporary enclaves Hussein believed the British and kept that letter in his pocket But the British also promised Syria and Lebanon to the French in the secret Sykes Picot agreement in 1916 British MP Mark Sykes also promised the Zionist community they could have Palestine for their help in the war Lawrence hated the French who he saw as even double dealing than the British and did not want them to get Syria Taking a step for which he could have been court martialed, Lawrence shared confidential information about the Anglo French agreement with Faisal to convince him to attack the Turks in Syria Lawrence was determined to see the Arabs take Syria from the Turks so that they and not the French could not have it once the Ottoman Empire was defeated.In March 1917 Lawrence led his first attack on a Turkish railway station at Aba el Naam The attack did much damage but failed to take out the locomotive as Lawrence saw many of his Arab allies retreat in the face of danger Lawrence started meeting with many tribes to assess how much they could and would help and how reliable they would be To further prepare for his campaign to take Syria Lawrence went on a dangerous solo trip from the Hejaz to the outskirts of Damascus, an effort that would earn him a nomination for the Victoria Cross, Britain s highest military honor He met with Syrian tribal leaders to glean how much support an Arab invasion would get Most were hesitant even though conditions under the Ottomans had deteriorated badly with food shortages, epidemics and masses of starving deported Armenians In June 1917 upon return to the Hejaz Lawrence organized an Arab force to attack Aqaba It would be a long journey through harsh land with blistering heat and withering sandstorms to come at the city from the backside which the Turks would not expect Lawrence also directed many small parties to venture into southern Syria and destroy bridges and other Turkish assets to divert attention from his main objective The journey was especially hard on Lawrence who suffered from recurring malaria and boils among other ailments But his endurance was legendary In route Lawrence and his accompanying tribal fighters, primarily the Howeitat, surprised and massacred a Turkish force of 550 at Aba el Lissan This was revenge for the Howeitat The Turks had cut the throats of everyone, mostly woman and children, in a Howeitat settlement while the men were away The Howeitat hatred of the Turks is why Lawrence saw them as reliable allies Approaching Aqaba from the mountains, Lawrence caught the Turks with no defensive positions They surrendered.In July 1917 having traveled some 1300 miles by camel in the last thirty days, Lawrence raced another 150 to reach Cairo and report to HQ which still didn t know Aqaba had been captured His uniform long gone he reported in tattered Arab robes His success brought him immediate fame and glory He parlayed that into a plan for a two prong attack with British forces under General Allenby The British would proceed to Palestine along the coast Lawrence and whatever Arab allies he could muster would proceed inland to Syria First he would conduct a raid from Aqaba on a bridge and crossing train near Mudowarra Exploding a mine on the bridge sent the locomotives into the underlying culvert Lawrence had Lewis machine guns and a Stokes mortar which decimated the Turkish soldiers The accompanying 100 Arab fighters finished the job looting the train which also carried civilians many of whom were also killed Similar raids were conducted while Lawrence waited for the British offensive in Palestine Some Arabs were motivated by hatred of the Turks but many were motivated by profit Throughout the ensuing campaigns revelations about the English commitments to French autonomy in Syria and a Jewish homeland in Palestine would make the Arab s question their allegiance to the British This resulted in Faisal with Lawrence concurrence initiating negotiations with the Turks which would be ongoing but not fruitful Lawrence knew the British would find out and wanted them to stop taking the Arabs for granted.In November 1917 with a 20,000 2.1 million today bounty on his head Lawrence led a dangerous raid to blow up a railroad bridge in Turkish controlled Syria The goal was to prevent Turkish reinforcements as General Allenby attacked the Turks in Palestine Much went wrong Lawrence had too little demolition cable resulting in his being wounded Worse one of his men was Turkish spy The Turks were alerted and the operation failed But Lawrence was determined to do something He found a Turkish troop train to blow up in Minifer as a consolation prize Then he decided to scout the Deraa train station in Syria Caught by the Turks he was tortured and probably raped Somehow he got away Lawrence offered several versions of what happened perhaps trying to hide his humiliation Lawrence found his way back to Aqaba and from there to Jerusalem to meet a victorious General Allenby In January 1918 Lawrence working with Faisal and the Arab Legion took the town of Tafileh in inland Syria But Lawrence after his ordeal at Deraa recruited his own personal guard of about 60 men who would be loyal only to him These were mostly outlaws and outcasts of the tribes so they would have no competing loyalty Many would die in the ensuing battles The Turks sent a thousand men to retake Tafileh Lawrence using a classic pincer attack destroyed this army for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order medal The battle also showed Lawrence had become hardened caring little while the Arabs finished off the Turks trapped in a gorge The battle at Tafileh was a success but the broader objectives were no longer feasible since Lawrence left control of 6,000 worth of gold in the hands of Hussein s 21 year old son, Zeid The gold was to pay the fighters who would join Lawrence in a new attack but Zeid used it to pay back wages mostly to uninvolved tribes Lawrence devastated went to report to General Allenby half expecting to be relieved But Allenby had bigger concerns planning a new attack This direct attack on the Turks and Germans in Palestine failed with heavy casualties Then he found out half his troops were being transferred to France Also the Imperial Camel Corps was to be eliminated Lawrence asked what about the camels Many camels had been killed in the war and were in heavy demand Few were available limiting how many Arabs could join the fight Allenby gave Lawrence 2,000 fine camels Lawrence was ecstatic as was Faisal In September 1918 Allenby, reinforced by British Arab Legion troops from Iraq and Indian troops, again attacked the Turkish army in Palestine, this time with innovative tactics Lawrence was to isolate the important Deraa rail station to block Turkish reinforcements In addition to the camels Lawrence took advantage of new technology, the Rolls Royce ard car, enabling him to speed around destroying railway tracks and bridges with great efficiency Lawrence s attacks with Arab fighters proved successful preventing Turkish reinforcements Allenby s attack sent the Turks and Germans reeling Lawrence was ready in ambush as they retreated His Arab forces killed many thousands They were spurred on by the brutality of the retreating Turks who were killing and raping all Arab civilians they could find including children Witnessing this civilian carnage Lawrence OK d that there would be no Turkish prisoners and the Arabs took out their revenge Soundly beaten the Turks abandoned Damascus retreating to the Anatolian border In October 1918 Lawrence and Faisal met with General Allenby who said Faisal would be in charge of Syria but that he would have to work through a French liaison officer in governing the country Lawrence and Faisal both were stunned as Britain had indicated the Sykes Picot agreement was dead and had promised the Arabs they would have an independent Syria But Britain had yielded to French pressure just a month earlier Lawrence refused to work with the French and demanded he be returned to England which he was allowed to do Summoned to Buckingham Palace by King George V, Lawrence thought the meeting would be about ongoing Middle East negotiations Entering the room facing the King he soon realized he was to be knighted which he declined turned around and walked away In December 1918 Lloyd George met with Clemenceau They divided the Middle East between them with France taking Syria including Lebanon and Britain taking Iraq and Palestine including Trans Jordan Still Lawrence tried to help the Arabs working as an advisor to Faisal at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to little avail and angering the British negotiators Britain soon found itself fighting off a revolt in Iraq with thousands dying In 1920 Lloyd George made Churchill Colonial Secretary Churchill turned to Lawrence who helped him make significant changes Faisal was crowned King of Iraq Faisal had been ousted from Syria in a battle with the French who inherited a colony filled with seething hatred Trans Jordan was separated from Palestine and Faisal s younger brother Abdullah crowned King Faisal s father Hussein was given the Hejaz allowing the Wahhabist backed ibn Saud to take the interior In 1924 ibn Saud attacked Mecca and took the Hejaz from Hussein who lived out his days in Jordan with his son With increased Jewish immigration and the prospect of a Jewish state, relations between Arab and Jew in Palestine went from bad to worse The Middle East we know today was taking shape.Lawrence felt he had betrayed the Arabs and felt responsible for the many grisly deaths he had witnessed, in his mind all for nothing Lawrence, never the most stable person, became insular and depressed Today we would say he suffered from PTSD He joined the air force as a private wanting no position with responsibility He avoided friends even King Faisal when he visited Britain He wrote his autobiographical account of his time in the Middle East, Seven Pillars, privately printing only a few copies He did write a very popular abbreviated version for general publication and donated the proceeds to charity He moved into a small cottage where he devoted his time to reading and even translating Homer s Odyssey He died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 at the age of 46 Churchill stated in his eulogy I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time I do not see his like elsewhere I fear whatever our need we shall never see his like again. Was Lawrence of Arabia the man you thought he was Some famous person probably urged us never to delve too deeply into the lives of our heroes since we re so likely to become cruelly disappointed In any case, if you ve cherished a vision of Lawrence of Arabia as one of the few genuine heroes of the 20th Century a vision probably nourished by David Lean s film masterpiece you can t read Scott Anderson s study of Lawrence in the context of the First World War in the Middle East and emerge with that image unscathed T E Lawrence archaeologist, author, diplomat, warrior was a piece of work In Anderson s expert telling, Lawrence was moody, arrogant, deceitful, possibly masochistic, and even, in one dramatic episode, traitorous Of course, he was also brilliant, courageous to the point of foolhardiness, and an extraordinary wartime leader of men.In Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson views the man through a wide angle lens Though his focus is squarely on Lawrence himself, he explores the life and work of his subject from the years before the war until his death in 1933 in tandem with three other remarkable figures in the unraveling of the Ottoman Empire, the awakening of Arab nationalism, and the emergence of the Jewish state in Palestine Curt Pruefer was, like Lawrence, an academic thrown into the chaos of the Middle East in the course of the war, he came to head German espionage activities in the region and was, effectively, Lawrence s counterpart William Yale, an American descended from the founder of the university that bore his name, was an operative for Standard Oil turned State Department intelligence operative Aaron Aaronsohn, an eminent Jewish agronomist who developed and ran Britain s largest spy network in the region, was so passionate an advocate for the establishment of a Jewish state that he openly sparred with the cautious Chaim Weizmann, the then leader of world Zionism and the beloved first president of Israel On Lawrence s meandering path through the region, he encountered both Yale and Aaronsohn, and in both cases the men took an instant dislike for one another, a disturbingly common circumstance in the Englishman s life.Don t think for a minute that Lawrence stands out for his sins in comparison with his contemporaries in the region Anderson s subtitle refers to war, deceit, and imperial folly, and for good reason Pruefer and Yale were deceitful to the point of treachery as well, and the British diplomats and military men surrounding Lawrence were, on the whole, so deceitful themselves and so patently incompetent that Lawrence s behavior could sometimes be easily understood In fact, the deplorable picture of war in the Middle East that emerges from Lawrence in Arabia is a worthy reflection of the senseless slaughter that characterized the war in Europe, with millions of young men needlessly dying from Gallipoli to the Somme as a result of the utter stupidity and stubbornness of the military leadership of the warring Great Powers.Lawrence in Arabia is as dense a work of history as any academic study and eminently readable to boot It casts a bright light on a frequently neglected aspect of World War One Lawrence called it a sideshow of a sideshow, which greatly underrates its historical importance and illuminates the forces that helped create the tragic state of the Middle East today.Scott Anderson is an American magazine journalist and author. Lawrence in Arabia is a well researched and well written book.The best review I read about this book is here are many other reviews which are also excellent, as well I agree with them, up to a point The avarice behind the Western powers superficial alliance with the tribes of the Middle East in fighting World War II against the Germans is supported by actual letters, documents and recollections from hundreds of sources, many listed in the book Without question, France and England planned to be in control of the Middle East, making this regional bit and that part which were soon to be countries as subservient puppets of their own empires The Western World wanted to defeat Germany and her allies, but they also wanted to sneak in some looting and theft from their Middle Eastern allies wherever possible Lawrence, to his credit, wanted the Arabs to be in charge of the Middle East once the War ended He was an amazing warrior on the right side of history charismatic, intelligent and courageous He helped knit the various tribes into cohesive troops, and in aiding the cause of wrestling the Near East from the Ottoman Empire and pushing the Turks back to Turkey, gave the Arabs self respect However, although Lawrence was heroic, he also was human The picture which emerges from this book, and many others, shows a complex man who got roughed up by the war as much as an ordinary soldier did Years later, he no longer had the strength to advocate for the Arabs He was deeply disturbed by the discriminatory and rapacious foreign policies he discovered that underlay the actions of the democracies and kingdoms of the West The book is a real door stopper, and I think a bit of pruning could have been done, but it truly is a very good book However, unlike the author and many reviewers, I do not think it includes enough Middle Eastern viewpoints, history and much analysis of the impact of Islam on the politics and rivalries pre existing before WWI It s a big book as it is, but a few paragraphs here and there would have given it of a nuanced tone, instead of one of only How the White Man Messed Up the Arabs, with the usual epilogue stapled in the back, They d Be Rich Democracies Just Like Us IF We Hadn t Been So Greedy and Racist The Arabs were already messed up and technologically primitive because of their ongoing regional wars and the religious domination of their culture long before the West discovered them The West, then and now, tends to take on ALL responsibility for locally caused regional problems, which is a kind of paternalism as well as demeaning to the locals, even if it is a well meant mea culpa The book describes some of the tribal chieftains indicating they would have preferred the United States to be their patron after the War, instead of the mean English and French, but as recent history has shown past history, too nation building is not possible, even if it s the less rapacious USA as overlords we only want their resources and their love, not the country, generally Afghanistan is seen by the West as culturally Neanderthaloid and laughable yet how many major powers have now been defeated by those backwoods ignoramuses of Afghanistan The Taliban is poised to take over Kabul as soon as the West leaves Yes, it s sad and bad, especially for the women, but I m sure Kabul will only miss all of those dollars pouring in without accountability But the Afghans have already survived first the English and then the Russian invasions previously, which occurred before the USA and NATO After all of us have left, not once have the Afghans assimilated anything or changed their customs, which have been solidly in place for centuries Apparently indoor plumbing, modern medicine and electricity aren t the inducement to modernize as the West expects of many cultures Edit July, 2017 Currently, the Chinese are attempting to become a patron of Afghanistan Muslim Africa, Asia and the Near East population majorities prefer, support, and vote for, when voting is allowed, theocratic dictators who take all of the countries wealth for themselves, and who modernize if and when they feel like it, even when our ambassadors CIA meddle and despite every attempt the West makes to force modern technology and financial partnerships on them.I could, and have, spoken 900 page tomes myself on how the West and all of its modern ways and secular education models are rejected by Muslim nations Muslims had universities long before the West, but today many of their Ph.D degrees that are awarded are based on an education primarily of Quran directed science, philosophy and history, despite the availability of religion free secular studies What many Muslim doctorate students learn in Middle Eastern colleges is equivalent to what our Evangelical Christian college doctorate students learn i.e., Christian doctorate students graduate with the ability to argue using bible based philosophy as science proofs and logic that earth is 6,000 years old and was created in 6 days by god a god for whose existence they also have learned certain philosophical based arguments all of which looks to me quite circular the world and physics is proof that a god exists because obviously a god made the world because a world and physics exists Muslim colleges use the Quran the same way as Christian colleges use the Bible as the guiding source and direction of all studies Muslim primary schools are segregrated by gender and they are often discriminatory against the many various Muslim sects and tribes Basic reading writing is often learned by copying the Quran over and over for 6 8 years in many many many Muslim countries Graduation occurs when a student is able to recite the entire Quran from memory often the only measure of qualification for leadership in local politics and business.They choose their culture as we do ours, despite the West s efforts to infiltrate or invade or trade.The Arabs are the Arabs are the Arabs unless they are Persians, which many Americans mistakenly mix up with India s Hindus and Sikhs as a single cohesive Arab Muslim group Muslim countries, or at least the founding Muslim tribes, have been Muslim for millennia 1,217 years, give or take some decades, using 800 CE as a baseline , and they ve experienced multiple local military defeats and invasions and conquests and civil wars long before the USA became a country America is only 241 years old WWI spilled over into their already blood soaked lands, and then WWII came, but the Arabs have mostly removed the West s influences except for what they wanted to keep Basically, Westerners kicked the overlord Turks out for them who all of the Arabs hated They use the West as a scapegoat, and we let them because most of us believe it, too However, I still recall my shock, for example, in discovering black Africans sold black Africans to the West for slaves A broad reading of multicultural and comparative history books can free you of many delusions I recommend Lawrence in Arabia , but reading is necessary to fully understand the historical Middle East. I found this a fascinating look at World War I in the Middle East Mr Anderson basically looks at the war through the experiences of four people They are a British Archeologist T.E Lawrence better known as Lawrence of Arabia, an American oil man William Yale, a minor German Diplomat Curt Prufer and finally a Jewish Palestinian agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn In telling the story of these four men, the author attempts to explain how World War I created the modern Middle East While Lawrence s story is the main storyline, the other three men s tale is also fascinating I found Prufer s story particularly fascinating A frustrated minor official Germany s Cairo Embassy during the war he rose to be Germany s chief intelligence office in Constantinople.The author tells Lawrence s story using his own writings mainly The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, recollections of his contemporaries and official reports They often don t agree When they don t Mr Anderson then gives the reader his best guess at what really happened The author does agree with Lawrence on how he became Lawrence of Arabia basically nobody cared, his efforts were in a sideshow of a sideshow.The author also looks at the Lawrence conflicted loyalties Even as the British were trying to encourage the Arabs to revolt by promising an independent Greater Syria after the war, they were cutting a deal with the French to divide up the Ottoman Empire, keeping the best parts for themselves As Lawrence became aware of this, the author believes he told the King Faisal about their plans, technically committing treason.In telling Aaronsohn s tale, Anderson looks at the conflict inside Zionism itself Aaronsohn was willing to work with either the Ottomans or the Allies, depending on the deal he was given on a Jewish homeland in Palestine after the war Eventually he came to believe the Allies were offering a better deal and gave them a fully formed spy network inside Palestine The story of how he made contact and he perseverance when the British in Cairo didn t seem too interested in his network is well told The story of the conflict between Aaronsohn and Chaim Weizmann, who became Israel s first President, is also well done.Carl Prufer s story is that of a man who is frustrated with the system and uses the war to advance farther in his career than possible in the prewar world Stuck at the chief translator at the Cairo Embassy and unable to advance further because of his birth, he becomes Germany s preeminent Arabist and spends most of the war trying to ignite a Jihad against the Allies One of his agents was Chaim Weizmann s sister.In telling William Yale s story, the author looks at how Oil shaped the map of the Middle East post war Yale is the son of an impoverished branch of the family that founded Yale University Upon graduating from college takes a job with SOCONY looking to lock up land in Palestine for future oil exploitation It is in this capacity he first encounters Lawrence He eventually becomes he US man in the Middle East after the US joins the war Much of his efforts are frustrated because the US Gov t disinterest in the region This allows Britain and France to do pretty much what they want at Versailles.Finally the author tells how the war affected Lawrence He returned to England a very disillusioned man He turned down both a knighthood and the Victoria Cross He eventually enlisted in the RAF as a common enlisted airman using a false name, and when he was discovered, he enlisted in the Royal Tank Corps, again using a false name, finally he returned to the RAF He died shortly after leaving the RAF.In summary this is an excellent look at the machinations that led to the modern Middle East and the role that Lawrence played in making that happen I would rate this 4.25 stars rounded down for good reads. A Thrilling And Revelatory Narrative Of One Of The Most Epic And Consequential Periods In Th Century History The Arab Revolt And The Secret Great Game To Control The Middle East The Arab Revolt Against The Turks In World War One Was, In The Words Of TE Lawrence, A Sideshow Of A Sideshow Amidst The Slaughter In European Trenches, The Western Combatants Paid Scant Attention To The Middle Eastern Theater As A Result, The Conflict Was Shaped To A Remarkable Degree By A Small Handful Of Adventurers And Low Level Officers Far Removed From The Corridors Of Power Curt Pr Fer Was An Effete Academic Attached To The German Embassy In Cairo, Whose Clandestine Role Was To Foment Islamic Jihad Against British Rule Aaron Aaronsohn Was A Renowned Agronomist And Committed Zionist Who Gained The Trust Of The Ottoman Governor Of Syria William Yale Was The Fallen Scion Of The American Aristocracy, Who Traveled The Ottoman Empire On Behalf Of Standard Oil, Dissembling To The Turks In Order Gain Valuable Oil Concessions At The Center Of It All Was Lawrence In Early He Was An Archaeologist Excavating Ruins In The Sands Of Syria By He Was The Most Romantic Figure Of World War One, Battling Both The Enemy And His Own Government To Bring About The Vision He Had For The Arab People The Intertwined Paths Of These Four Men The Schemes They Put In Place, The Battles They Fought, The Betrayals They Endured And Committed Mirror The Grandeur, Intrigue And Tragedy Of The War In The Desert Pr Fer Became Germany S Grand Spymaster In The Middle East Aaronsohn Constructed An Elaborate Jewish Spy Ring In Palestine, Only To Have The Anti Semitic And Bureaucratically Inept British First Ignore And Then Misuse His Organization, At Tragic Personal Cost Yale Would Become The Only American Intelligence Agent In The Entire Middle East While Still Secretly On The Payroll Of Standard Oil And The Enigmatic Lawrence Rode Into Legend At The Head Of An Arab Army, Even As He Waged Secret War Against His Own Nation S Imperial Ambitions Based On Years Of Intensive Primary Document Research, LAWRENCE IN ARABIA Definitively Overturns Received Wisdom On How The Modern Middle East Was Formed Sweeping In Its Action, Keen In Its Portraiture, Acid In Its Condemnation Of The Destruction Wrought By European Colonial Plots, This Is A Book That Brilliantly Captures The Way In Which The Folly Of The Past Creates The Anguish Of The Present This is a fascinating book, for the most part well written While the key character is T E Lawrence, the book is formally structured as an examination of the roles of and sometimes interaction among four characters T E Lawrence of Arabia , Curt Prufer umlaut over the u , Aaron Aaronson, and William Yale.A brief note about each Lawrence began World War I on an archaeological expedition and ended up as a celebrity Prufer was a German who worked for German interests in the Middle East Aaronsohn was a Zionist and an agronomist trying to enhance agriculture in Jewish areas He also developed a spy network as World War I broke out Yale was of the family after whom the college was named He was, at the outset of WW I, an official for Standard Oil of New York now Mobil seeking access to lands that might be rich in oil During the war, he became a representative of the United States foreign policy apparatus.The book provides considerable depth to each of these persons but Lawrence is at the center He is portrayed as somewhat enigmatic, someone who was almost a tragic character While he fought for Arab independence, he knew of nefarious schemes by the English and French to be dominant forces in the Middle East after the war s end He was a decent person who ended up tolerating acts of violence such as watching as prisoners were killed after surrendering The author suggests that, after a period of time at war, he became someone afflicted with Post traumatic stress disorder.Aaronsohn, too, was an important figure He tried to advance Zionist ideals and saw that working with Great Britain might be the best pathway He developed an espionage network in the Middle East, with his sister as a key player It took a great effort to get the British officials in the Middle East to pay attention The spy network suffered greatly for his vision The story also tells of the tension between Aaronsohn and a key leader among Zionists Chaim Weizmann.Other important actors are portrayed as well The Hussein family, whose father and sons became important leaders in the Middle East after the war, albeit compromised in many respects by the English and French Then, the ibn Saud family ultimately becoming the rulers of Saudi Arabia.The book does a very good job of outlining the complex interactions among countries, the cynicism of European powers in the Middle East, the negative results of this cynicism The development of the Middle East was perverted by European efforts at domination, as the end of the book attests.One final feature of note the discussion of the fates of the major characters in this drama.All in all, this is a fine volume, and one well worth looking at if one wishes to understand the roots of some current dysfunction in the region. As I write this review, the horrors of the civil war in Syria fill the headlines and the US is considering yet another disastrous intervention in the Middle East Scott Anderson, following the celebrated figure of TE Lawrence through the deserts of Arabia, has written an excellent history of how the debacle began Britain and France scrambling over the Great Loot of the collapsing Ottoman Empire their perfidy toward the Arabs they had encouraged to revolt, including the portentous Balfour Declaration that set the stage for Israel s disenfranchisement of Palestinians and the origin of the US tradition of fundamentally misreading the situation in the Middle East that the American intelligence community would rigorously maintain for the next ninety five years The story has been well told before, but Anderson s account is sharp, fresh and frequently entertaining Lawrence, the flawed hero at the heart of his book, deserves his celebrity The book begins with Lawrence refusing a knighthood apparently the first time that had happened and ends with the broken warrior writing a friend a week before his death, I imagine leaves must feel like this after they have fallen from their tree Yet Lawrence s exploits often brilliant, sometimes unconscionable provide a compelling vantage from which to survey the action of the first great cataclysm of the twentieth century. This book is not Lawrence of Arabia but instead concerns the activities of Lawrence in Arabia as well as those of several other major characters who were determined to create a Middle East that suited their purposes once the Great War was over.Britain and France had no intention of allowing their hold on the countries in the East to be broken for independence They also were determined to break up the faltering Ottoman Empire and so the Sykes Picot treaty came into being a semi secret document between those two countries dividing up the spoils of war However, they failed to tell those countries involved and kept up the masquerade of liberators rather than that of absentee landlords To add complications to the situation was the Zionist movement which was determined to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine Into the middle of this situation came T.E Lawrence, a low level army officer with an immense knowledge of the area and a speaker of Arabic in all its dialects His duty was to pull all the tribes of Arabic bedouins into a revolt against the Turkish with the promise of a country of their own And the mythical Lawrence of Arabia was born.Lawrence was a complex man who was disliked by many of his countrymen but generally loved by the Arabs The fact that he was living a lie regarding the outcome of the Arab rebellion and that Britain France had no intention of creating an Arab state, haunted him and eventually drove him into periods of deep depression.There is so much happening in this book that I could write pages about it but, although I only mentioned Lawrence, there are other very interesting characters abounding in these pages Read this book It is fascinating and very well researched and written And forget the Lawrence of Arabia that is in your mind s eye..the beautiful Peter O Toole with the unbelievably blue eyes charging the Turks on his racing camel with his white robes whipping in the wind.that was the Lawrence of legend He was a much different man and much interesting Highly recommended.