Episode 35-the Russian Civil War: Turkestan and Bolshevim

The Jadids are chased out of Kokand, Khiva, and Bukhara and they are outnumbered and outmaneuvered by their enemies: the Russian settlers, the Ulama, and the Basmachi. Their best hope lies with the Bolsheviks who need Turkestan to spread communism into the rest of Asia and Turkestan’s resources. But can a Islamic, nationalist, modernizing movement find common ground with a Communist state?

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All 850 books Senator Krause from Texas wants to ban

Why we need to kill the filibuster

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Treaty of Versailles

Last week, I attended a fantastic given by Michael S. Neiberg at the Pritzker Military Museum and library about his latest book the Treaty of Versailles: a Concise History (which I also read) and I thought I’d write about the experience.

Mr. Neiberg modeled the structure of his lecture on the structure of his book, starting with a breakdown on how complicated of a situation the Big Three were facing when they drafted the treaty, America’s role in the treaty, and ending by focusing on an interesting, but often overlooked aspect of the Treaty: the case of Shandong. He wrapped his lecture up by quickly assessing the impact of the Treaty of Versailles immediately after it was written and the decades that followed.

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Book Review: Syria: An Outline History

Syria: An Outline History by John D. Granger


This is a well-written book about a large swath of land in what is now known as the Middle East. Even though there is a modern-day equivalent of Syria, it is a small portion of what had been Syria until roughly the 20th century. The borders of Syria have changed frequently through various waves of invasion and conquest. It seems that the borders have been contested so much over history, that Grainger felt the need to defend where he placed the borders and the complications that arose from that decision. Syria has never been united either politically, ethnically, or religiously, making it a potentially unwieldy and overwhelming topic to write on or study. Grainger shows himself to be a master historian by knowing exactly how much detail is needed without overwhelming anyone. He also knows how to take incredibly complicated scenarios and bring an amazing sense of clarity.

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Book Review: A Peace to End all Peace

A Peace to End All Peace: the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. Published by Owl Books 2001


This is one of those books that everyone reads for a foundational knowledge about the Middle Eastern policy during WWI. It is a well-researched and well written book that is an easy and quick read, packed with a ton of information. Like one of my other favorite books: Dreadnaught written by Robert K. Massie, this book focuses on the British war efforts. However, unlike Dreadnaught, this book only focuses on the British war effort. Fromkin writes in the preface, that that was intentional, and while it provides a focused narrative, it doesn’t capture all the nuisances of the Middle Eastern theater. It also obfuscates the role Russia played in shaping the war effort. It also doesn’t make much of an effort to explain the Turkish policy. This is a good book to start if one wants an entry point into the mess that is WWI’s Middle Eastern Front, but it needs to be read along with other books to provide a more holistic and in depth understanding of the war.

That being said, Fromkin does a fantastic job highlighting the inefficiency and stupidity behind the British war efforts. They entered the region without a clear plan on what they wanted from the region and once their forces were trapped in the Middle East, they had no idea how to win or what winning entailed. The War Office, under Kitchener, wanted to create a hands on empire while others wanted a loose confederacy of British states, ruled by locals, but modeled on British officers. Then there were others, like T. E Lawrence one could argue, who took advantage of a situation they were thrust into to their own benefit, altering a region in ways they couldn’t understand.

The British launched the Gallipoli campaign because they were terrified of Russia being pushed out of the war by the Turkish and because they underestimated the Turkish war effort. They thought it would be an easy victory that could distract from the disaster that was the western front. McMeekin, author of The Ottoman Endgame, does a fantastic job describing the true role Russia played in the Gallipoli campaign, while Fromkin only touched upon it. McMeekin also spend far more time explaining the role Russia played in constructing the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Read my review of The Ottoman Endgame here

Fromkin, however, provides the necessary analysis of the interpersonal politics of the British war effort. Like Massie, Fromkin understand people and psychology, and does an indepth analysis of the officers who surrounded Kitchener, the Indian Office, and the War Department as well as the mercurial nature of men like Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. Fromkin also does a decent job balancing the many countries involved in the war, dedicating times to small offenses such as Dunsterforce campaign in Central Asia while keeping the bigger picture in view. He even took time to briefly explain what was going on in the British home front to explain some of the policy decisions the British made.

To learn more about the Dunsterforce campaign, watch this Great War episode

Overall, while the book only focuses on the British perspective, it is a great and indepth overview, providing a good foundation to a very conflicting and confusing front. But it needs to be supplemented with other books.

Book Review: The Ottoman Endgame

The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Sean McMeekin. Published by Penguin Books, 2016


This is a well written, well researched study of the military situation of the Ottoman Empire before and during the First World War. It provides a refreshing perspective, focusing on the Ottomans themselves, as oppose to the powers that destroyed their empire. It takes the time to review the situation in the Balkans and highlighting the Ottoman’s desperation as the British cooled on them and Russia licked its lips, eying its territory. The only country willing to offer a friendly hand was Germany and thus the Ottoman’s fate was sealed. By siding with Germany, they turned themselves against those who had once protected their land (the British, in their everlasting Great Game against Russia).

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