Imperial Designs: War, Humiliation and the Making of History by Deepak Tripathi, Potomac Books, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-1612346243, 208 pp., $26.96 (list), $15.07 (Amazon hardcover), $14.55 (Kindle).
As policymakers, scholars and citizens seek to understand the increasingly bitter and violent conflicts in the Middles East and the escalating anger and terrorist acts against the West (particularly the U.S.), Deepak Tripathi'sImperial Designsoffers important perspectives and insights. Tripathi's book is subtitled "War, Humiliation and the Making of History," and his theme is the role of humiliation in international politics. Specifically, he argues that the humiliation of a state or people by a more powerful state (or states) through political manipulation and military defeat profoundly influences the subsequent actions of the humiliated people, including their desire for revenge. His focus is on the Middle East and events of the 20th and 21st centuries up to the present.
Deepak Tripathi is well equipped to analyze events in Central Asia and the Middle East. A British historian and former journalist, he served as a correspondent, editor and commentator, primarily with the BBC. He set up the BBC's bureau in Kabul in the early 1990's and also reported from Syria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. His previous books were Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan and Breeding Ground: Afghanistan and the Origins of Islamist Terrorism.
Tripathi's intent in Imperial Designs is to support the premise that humiliation plays a major role in the subsequent actions of nations and peoples. He buttresses this argument with an excellent summary of developments in relations between western nations and the Middle East. He discusses the strategic rivalry--the "Great Game"--between Britain and Russia in Central Asia in the 19th century, noting that Western nations' efforts to gain influence and power in the Middle East increased with the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I and the discovery of oil in the region. The Sykes-Picot Agreement signed in 1916, as he notes, essentially divided the region into British and French spheres of influence.
Tripathi recounts how the United States began to play a more significant role in the Middle East after the end of World War II, when the region began to play a role in U.S.Soviet rivalry. He devotes significant attention to the Western and particularly the U.S. role in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and in the creation...