In less than two hours you can be brought up to date on the background of the Middle East therefore allowing you to have a much better understanding of why the place seems to be such a mess and why the Western powers, especially the U.S. these days, is so interested in it. Well you already knew the latter, oil. But why is the place such a mess and so hard to control or stabilize so the people who live there and the rest of the world who deals with it can live in peace and harmony?
What you do is watch a documentary: “Blood and Oil, the Middle East in World War I”. The running time is 1 hour 54 minutes. It was released in 2009 and was directed by Marty Callaghan (yeah I don’t know who he is either, but great job on the film).
If you just listen to some of the talking heads on current events/ political shows you probably know bits and pieces of the story or maybe not. But the thesis of the documentary is that all our troubles in the Middle East (sometimes referred to as the Near East) today are the result of Great Britain and France being interested in the resources there back in the time of World War I. For one thing, Great Britain had just switched its fuel for its naval vessels from coal to oil. When it realized that there was such an abundance of oil in the region, well it got highly interested. In addition, as part of the battle scene in World War I, Great Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire, headquartered in modern-day Turkey, but including a large part of the Middle East. France was interested too. So the two nations entered into a secret agreement to divide up the Middle East after the war. As it turns out — I think I am correct in saying — Great Britain wound up with most of it, but France did get Syria and Lebanon at least. But as still is the case today, much of that region was/is controlled more by tribal interests than central governments. The only thing that seems to have kept people from going after each other’s throats is strong men leaders (dictators), often or always propped up by the Western powers.
Iraq, which has caused us (the U.S.) so much woe, was really an artificial nation state designed and created by Great Britain. The people are of different religions or at least of different sects of Islam (primarily) and even different ethnicities. Not part of the film, but you can see what happens when you topple the dictator. Complete chaos. And by the way, look what’s happening in Libya today: complete chaos, the country’s present so-called leader was even kidnapped briefly a few weeks ago. Today in the news, tribal interests are cutting off part of the oil supply, disrupting exports (thereby endangering the nation’s own economy and that of the rest of the world, due to dependence on oil). All this after the West supported insurgents in toppling the late crazy Muammar Gaddafi.
The documentary also either enlightens you or reminds you that all of World War I did not take place along the border of France and Germany, or on the high seas of the North Atlantic (as in “Sink the Bismarck”).
Actually, the U.S. role in the Middle East is barely mentioned because it is a background report that centers on the time frame of World War I and maybe a decade after.
But if you are not already up on all of this, I urge you to watch the film. It is not completely objective (I don’t know if such things ever are or could be), but I think it is accurate in its presentation of history (if not all its conclusions).
If more of my fellow citizens were up on such things I think the U.S. would have not become so bogged down in the Middle East. We might have been engaged, but we would have at least had a better idea of what we are trying to accomplish or what even could be accomplished.
I see the film may be available simply by clicking YouTube. I watched it on my Kindle (paying a nominal price).
Well after writing all of the above, it occurred to me that I neglected to mention that Russia, the Soviet Union, and then again Russia (all the same thing in this context) has been highly interested and involved in the region too, having fought the Ottoman Empire in World War I and because of its historic desire for access to the Oceans in the area.
Yes I realize France has had colonies in North Africa (sometimes these days referred to as the Middle East), but I was not trying to present a history or political or geography lesson myself, just a review of a documentary.
CLARIFICATION: In my previous post I misidentified a military officer speaking to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I should have written Air Force Gen. Curtiss LeMay, but instead wrote Gen. Maxwell Taylor (both were involved in all of this, but I was referring to a sound recording of LeMay).