Contributions for this issue were received from Simona Autolitano, Lorenzo Kamel, Paola Tessari.
Fall of the Sultanate : the Great War and the end of the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1922 / Ryan Gingeras. - Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2016. - x, 317 p. : ill. - (The greater war). - ISBN 978-0-19-967607-1
The centennial of the Sykes-Picot agreement and, more generally, the First World War, has stimulated the publication of a large number of academic articles and books.1 Fall of the Sultanate by Ryan Gingeras, historian at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, is one of the most recent and interesting works on the subject. The author looks into “the causes that eventually led so many to view the legacy of the Ottomans with loathing and resentment” (5), noticing that all the nations that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire share a sense of “loss and humiliation” (6).
Gingeras shows how the progressive disintegration of the Empire, which coincided with the centralization and Turkization policies adopted by the Young Turks starting in 1908, triggered a process of ethnocentric homogenization destined to change the entire region. Once the Ottoman’s domination of a large part of the Empire had receded, local demographics were found to be distorted. This was particularly true of the Balkans, from which hundreds of thousands of Muslims fled (to settle in Anatolia) in what has been identified as one of the largest mass migrations in the history of the Empire. Fall of the Sultanate depicts the fall of the Empire from their point of view, as well as that of a large number of other spectators who have mostly remained ‘invisible’. This bottom-up perspective contrasts with the top-down approaches of the administrations of the time (the “Sykes-Picot approach”) which, Gingeras points out, rarely take local opinions and points of view into consideration “in crafting a postwar political map of the region” (228).
1 The debate was ideally inaugurated by War and State Formation in Syria: Cemal Pasha's Governorate During World War I, 1914-1917 (London: Routledge, 2014), a book written by M. Talha Çiçek and largely based on local primary sources (in particular Ottoman and Arab) that allowed the historian from the Istanbul Medeniyet University to offer a decentralised (that is less Western-centric) perspective on the Great War. The Young Turks and the Ottoman Nationalities: Armenians, Greeks, Albanians, Jews, and Arabs, 1908-1918 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014), by Feroz Ahmad came out in the same months, as well as a volume by Frederick F. Anscombe, State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and post-Ottoman Lands (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) and The First World War in the Middle East (London: Hurst & Co., 2014). In the latter, possibly the most successful of the three, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, historian at Rice University, noted that the “signs of the First World War are everywhere and nowhere in the Middle East” (205), meaning that memories of the conflict were largely repressed but the scars associated with it are still evident in the region’s political geography. The author provides a broad and well documented (except for the absence of maps) military history encompassing Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine. Finally, there is the contribution of Francesco Pongiluppi in The First World War: Analysis and Interpretation, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), a book resulting from a conference held at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ in June 2014, edited by Antonello Biagini and Giovanna Motta. Pongiluppi convincingly analyses the energy factor (including the discovery of oil in Mosul at the end of the First World War), and considers it one of the causes of the implosion of the Ottoman Empire.
World War I and the end of the Ottomans : from the Balkan wars to the Armenian genocide / edited by Hans-Lukas Kieser, Kerem Öktem e Maurus Reinkowski. - London ; New York : I.B. Tauris, 2015. - xvi, 304 p. : ill. - (The library of Ottoman studies ; 53). - ISBN 978-1-78453-246-8
The contributions that make up World War I and the end of the Ottomans also focus on the Young Turks’ historical legacy and, more generally, on the episodes of ethnic cleansing and mass violence in the Balkans and Armenia in the decade between the Balkan wars (1912-13) and Turkey’s independence in 1922. Kieser et al. maintain that, while the Ottoman Empire officially imploded in 1922, the inclusiveness that had characterized a large part of its history had already diminished seven years earlier (1915), when the Young Turks regime intensified its ethnic depurations and massacres of Armenians in Asia Minor. In the Introduction, the three editors state that the Turkish authorities’ inability to take any kind of historical responsibility for what happened at that time can be traced back to the “centrality of the Armenian massacres for the formation of the Turkish nation-state” (5); it is something that could put “the very foundations of the Turkish nation-state at risk” (5). More broadly, the almost total annihilation of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian community in 1915 represented “a definitive break with the idea of a common and civic Ottoman future” (10). Its echoes can still be heard today.
The fall of the Ottomans : the Great War in the Middle East / Eugene Rogan. - New York : Basic Books, 2015. - xxvi, 485 p. : ill. - ISBN 978-0-465-02307-3
Like Gingeras, in The Fall of the Ottomans, Eugene Rogan, a historian from Oxford University, looks into the ordinary lives of Armenians, Arabs and Turks – in particular those of Dr. Ali-Riza Eta and a number of low-ranking Turkish soldiers – grappling with the tragic vicissitudes of the First World War. Rogan notes that the Eastern front was of little importance for European capitals. Yet, for those who called that part of the world ‘home’, it was the epicentre of catastrophic daily events: a past that many have tried to repress. This, Rogan claims, is particularly evident in the Arab world. While all modern Arab states were involved in World War I in one way or another, it is still often perceived as a historical event related to ‘others’. Arab cities have no memorials to the conflict, nor do they celebrate events that took place. In the Arab world, the only legacy of the Great War is the martyrs it left on the ground (such as those hung in the squares of Beirut and Damascus, later named Martyrs Square), never heroes. Rogan also prefers a bottom-up (and east to west) view and feels that in the course of time the Sykes-Picot agreement has unjustly been transformed into a kind of scapegoat, despite the fact that it was never implemented and that it was quickly replaced by other plans for conquest.
Lawrence of Arabia’s war : the Arabs, the British, and the remaking of the Middle East in WWI / Neil Faulkner. - New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, 2016. - xvii, 528 p.,  p. of plates : ill. - ISBN 978-0-300-19683-2
In this book, Neil Faulkner, a researcher at the University of Bristol, focuses on one of the most studied and famous figures of this historical moment: Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Faulkner’s objective is to show “how and why this Middle East was created” (6), and Lawrence of Arabia is the ‘instrument’ the author uses to achieve it. He points out that hundreds of books have been dedicated to Lawrence, many of which are apologetic and fictionalized.
Faulkner and many other recent authors – including Lawrence James, John Hulsman, Michael Korda, and Scott Anderson2 – believe that Lawrence’s ‘vision’, often identified with a figure that “fought for a far-sighted solution in the Middle East”,3 was betrayed above all by the leaders of the major European powers and that the Middle East is still paying the consequences. This is, however, in many ways a rather a-historical thesis which mixes up the ‘vision’ attributed to Lawrence, the ‘hero’, with the reality of his thought and actions. It is worth quoting Lawrence’s own considerations, set down in Seven Pillars of Wisdom: "The Semites [Lawrence is referring to those who speak Arabic] have no middle ground of seeing things […]. They don’t understand our metaphysical problems, our introspective questions. They only understand true and false, faith and no faith, without our hesitating result of subtle nuances […]. They were limited people [and] of limited vision, whose inert intellect remains arid in careless resignation. Their imaginations were vivid, but not creative. There was so little Arab art in Asia that one could almost say that there was no art whatsoever […]. They didn’t invent any philosophical system, no complex mythology."4 Overall, while offering some interesting suggestions and presenting many unpublished and/or little known photographs of the time, Lawrence of Arabia’s War does not add anything of significance to the existing literature on the subject and has one evident shortcoming: it concentrates exclusively on the policies implemented by the European powers between 1916 and 1921, neglecting the historical setting as well as the efforts, prospects and failures of the people in the territory itself. Hamid Dabashi has noted that postcolonialism “did not overcome the colonial; it exacerbated it by negation”.5 Faulkners’ book, like many others, seems to confirm this statement.
2 L. James, The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008; J.C. Hulsman, To Begin the World Over Again. Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009; M. Korda, Hero. The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. New York: Harper, 2010; S. Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia. War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Doubleday, 2013.
3 Author’s translation from the Italian. F. Rigatelli, “Lawrence d’Arabia, tutto per l’impero”, La Stampa, 15 August 2016.
4 T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Harmonsworth: Penguin, 1962: 36-7.
5 H. Dabashi, The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism. New York: Zed Books, 2012, xvii.
Minorities and the modern Arab world : new perspectives / edited by Laura Robson. - Syracuse : Syracuse University Press, 2016. - vii, 318 p. - (Middle East studies beyond dominant paradigms). - ISBN 978-0-8156-3433-1
While focused less closely on the First World War, this book is nevertheless very topical for some of the implications related to it. In the first chapter, entitled From Millet to Minority, Peter Sluglett writes that the “main difference between a millet and a ‘religious minority’ in the Arab world is that the first is a feature of the multiethnic Ottoman state that disappeared after the First World War, and the second is an often problematic component of the modern national state” (37). In the sixth chapter, Assyrians and the Iraqi Communist Party, Alda Benjamen emphasizes that the “genocidal campaigns of the First World War” (108) and the creation of new nation-states led to an identity crisis throughout the Middle East (and beyond). Apart from the individual contributions, as a whole the book is a valuable guide that sheds light on the process of “minoritization” that involved most of the populations present in the region in the last century. As already argued by Benjamin White in a book that drew the attention of the scientific community,6 this book edited by Laura Robson confirms that, by probing new sources and considerations, “the category of ‘minority’ became meaningful only with the rise of the modern nation-state” (2) and that the First World War and the peace agreements that followed played an absolutely crucial role in this process.
6 B. T. White, The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East. The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.
The Ottoman endgame : war, revolution, and the making of the modern Middle East, 1908-1923 / Sean McMeekin. - New York, NY : Penguin Press, 2015. - xx, 550 p. : ill. - ISBN 978-1-59420-532-3
This book adds further elements to the debate on minorities in the Middle East. Using Russian and Ottoman archive material, the historian from Bard College in New York analyses the dynamics that led many ethnic and religious groups (which had, under the Ottoman Empire, reached a level of coexistence that was comparatively superior to that in the rest of the world) into a spiral of growing radicalisation and reciprocal hostility. McMeekin quotes the memoires of a Turkish writer, Halidé Edib (1884-1964), who described the period leading up to the Great War as “a final embrace of love between the simple peoples of Turkey before they should be led to exterminate each other for the political advantage of foreign powers or their own leaders” (ch. 2). The importance of McMeekin’s book (and others published by the same author) extends beyond these aspects and is also the result of his successful attempt to reintroduce Russia into the political equation of the time (the author renames the Syke-Picot agreement the “Sazonov-Sykes-Picot agreement” to underline the pre-eminence of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergej Sazonov), suggesting some indirect parallels with the current situation in the Middle East and the role played by Russia.
From the First World War to the Arab Spring : what’s really going on in the Middle East? / M.E. McMillan. - Basingstoke ; New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. - x, 279 p. - (Middle East today). - ISBN 978-1-137-52201-6; 978-1-137-52204-7 (pbk)
Current events and the manoeuvres of the great powers in the context of the First World War are the two linchpins on which this book is based; a book which, in its style and breadth, brings to mind the famous writings of Barbara Tuchman. In spite of the title, the book actually retraces the evolution of Islam and European colonialism from the times of the Prophet Mohammed to today, trying to provide answers – somewhere between the academic and the journalistic – to a series of pressing questions: why is it that the Middle East is involved in so many conflicts? Why have Western powers claimed and continue to claim that they support the spread of democratic practices in the region when they are still backing numerous local dictators? What happened to the great expectations and hopes placed in the Arab Spring? In answering these questions, McMillan sheds light on the contradictory principles and interests of the policies of external and internal actors in the region. His ideal thread is the link between a past that never fully faded away and a present that, in many respects, seems to have no future.
Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Freiburg (FRIAS)
Cybersecurity in the European Union : resilience and adaptability in governance policy / George Christou. - Basingstoke and New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2016. - xiii, 222 p. : ill. - (New security challenges). - ISBN 978-1-137-40051-2
Cybersecurity has gradually acquired a strategically important role at the national and international level, and the European Union (EU) is no exception. In his book, George Christou, Associate Professor of European Politics at Warwick University, develops a systematic and comprehensive framework for conceptualising the growing EU governance in the field of cybersecurity.
First, he conceptualises the EU cybersecurity framework as an “ecosystem”, referring to the EU European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), which uses the language of natural ecosystems with reference to internet interconnection. Christou opens the book with a general overview of cybersecurity and related theories. He then sets out a new conceptual framework for understanding and assessing the Union’s efforts in building a solid cybersecurity strategy. In contrast to traditional approaches to cyberspace, where security is conceived of merely as “control”, the new conceptualisation sees “security as resilience”, where security refers to the ability to “rebound from a potentially catastrophic event” and resilience, as defined by ENISA, is “the ability to provide and maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of various faults and challenges to normal operation”. Starting from the literature, he identifies three possible models for achieving resilience in cyberspace. The first model is characterised by sovereignty, hierarchical governance, state control, and lack of flexibility. The second approach, although still hierarchical, centralised and not given to transformation, is much more flexible, as it includes fora for discussion. Finally, the third model, on which the EU has developed its cybersecurity strategy, is characterised by flexibility and adaptability, shared values, norms and common standards.
In the second half of the book, Christou explores the three-layered structure of EU’s cybersecurity policy: cybercrime, network and information security (which includes critical infrastructures protection – CIP – and critical information infrastructures protection – CIIP) and cyber defence. First, he presents cybercrime as one of the most advanced areas of EU governance in cyberspace. This is not surprising, as cybercrime is the first of these areas in which the EU passed legislation. The Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive, which imposed significant obligations on member states as well as the private sector, represents a good starting point for examining the ‘second layer’ of EU cybersecurity (CIP and CIIP). Cyber defence, on the other hand, introduced only in 2013 and the last dimension of EU cybersecurity policy discussed, remains rather underdeveloped in terms of “security as resilience”. For that reason, the EU cybersecurity framework is still very much a work in progress.
Finally, after an analysis of the EU’s cybersecurity ecosystem, Christou focuses briefly on current EU external relations in the field of cybersecurity. Interestingly, he maps the successful EU-US cooperation in the fight against cybercrime and identifies the main problems underlying transatlantic cooperation, including the cultural challenge posed by different understandings of human rights and the right to privacy.
To conclude, the volume provides an extensive overview of the development of the EU’s cybersecurity policy from a new perspective, that of “security as resilience”. Interestingly, the author underlines the importance for the EU of developing a strategy for the ‘third layer’ – namely, cyber defence – thus encouraging scholars to study this last dimension more in depth.
Generally, the book is well written and clear in its content and purposes. It is well suited for both academics and practitioners, including political and military personnel, presenting a clear overview of the development of the EU’s cybersecurity framework. Although sometimes quite descriptive, it makes a useful contribution to the academic debate on the global role of the EU as a security actor, as well as on the idea of a ‘civilian response’ to cyber threats.
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
Still the century of overkill? Strengthening the control of weapons of mass destruction / Paolo Foradori (ed.). - Baden-Baden : Nomos, 2014. - 226 p. - (Nonproliferation and disarmament studies ; 1). - ISBN 978-3-8487-1236-6; 978-3-8452-5351-0 (ebk)
The threat of nuclear weapons, and more in general of all weapons of mass destruction, did not end with the Cold War: indeed, they still pose a serious threat to global security. Based on this assumption, the book Still the century of overkill? Strengthening the control of weapons of mass destruction provides a comprehensive overview of the issues of non-proliferation and disarmament in the current international context.
The text is divided into three parts, each made up of contributions from established experts who address disarmament and non-proliferation from different perspectives. Part I, devoted to theories and concept, opens with an analysis of nuclear disarmament in the framework of the three theories of International Relations: realism, constructivism and liberalism. Following the three theories, the author of the first contribution explores three ideal-typical avenues to a nuclear weapon-free world. After an overview of the main definitions of “security governance”, the following contribution narrows down the analysis to nuclear governance. The author argues that nuclear governance should be conceived as going beyond the traditional state-centred approach on non-proliferation. This allows for a holistic analysis of nuclear politics, helpful for understanding them at the global level.
Part II comprises four contributions on some of the main legal instruments in disarmament and non-proliferation, in particular the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540/2004 and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). The first chapter of Part II problematizes the existing gaps in the prevention of access by non-state actors to WMD. The humanitarian principle of disarmament and its development is also dealt with in Part II, with an examination that ranges from the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to the more recent conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The third contribution, on the technical issue of nuclear sciences, helps the reader understand the basis of nuclear energy production and the link to the proliferation of weapon-grade material. The author advocates the need for alternative energy sources to replace nuclear energy fully, so as to avoid the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation.
Finally, Part III is dedicated to the main regional issues in disarmament and non-proliferation, namely: China, Syria, the Middle East and the European Union. While the first three contributions deal with problematic areas in which the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction is still a great concern, the last chapter on the EU asserts the latter’s growing relevance in combating the spread of WMD.
The many aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation are addressed and developed in an exhaustive and detailed manner. Moreover, each Chapter starts with an explanatory introduction facilitating understanding of each subject, even if the reader is not familiar with it. Also, the chapters are all stand-alone contributions: this makes it possible to read them separately and focus on select parts.
For these reasons, the book can be recommended both to professionals who wants to deepen their knowledge on specific aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation and to students who are just beginning to approach the subject.
Office for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs